How would Egypt’s coup become a democracy test for Turkey?
Troubled by recent political woes posing risks to its regional inspirations cemented via Islamist allies, the Turkish government has turned the military takeover in Egypt into food for a domestic drive after being a vocal supporter of the ousted regime against the army in the global arena since the first day of the coup.
Still defiant in hammering the Western world for their reluctant reactions to the massacre by the army during protests in Egypt, the Turkish prime minister said late this past week that if the West further fails to take sincere steps, then the idea of democracy will be questioned in other countries, including Turkey. While criticizing the West for its failure in a democracy test over Egypt, Premier Erdoğan has in fact taken on what he sees as the “default troubles” of Western-styled democratic values, such as freedom of expression or a right to take to the streets to show public discontent.
Senior Turkish officials, including the prime minister, have rigorously been resisting admitting even vague comparisons or similarities between the anti-coup protests in Egypt and now ebbed anti-government rallies in Turkey in early summer. The turnout for the protests and the Egyptian military’s unacceptably fierce crackdown on the protesters supporting the ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi cannot be tarred with the same brush that has been used in Turkey considering the high death toll and ferocity of the Egyptian generals. That being said, the “normalized” practice of harsh force by the security forces on the anti-government protesters in Turkey was not something that can be easily belittled. Just like in Cairo, the streets of Istanbul, particularly those narrow ones off İstiklal – the heart of the city – witnessed scenes as if it was a police state.
Besides, the starting point for a comparison here is the motivation behind the public fury against their rulers no matter what the cost is. The main argument for the Egyptian military to overthrow Morsi was that it heard the deeds of those protesting a new “pharaoh” coming after another ousted one. (By the way, the historic ironic reference to successive pharaohs with different political and religious backgrounds and desires in Egypt has even become kitsch now that the military has widely been accused of being the new pharaoh.)
Then the millions poured into the Egyptian streets against the coup led by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, filling the gap created after the absence of anti-Morsi camp in main squares. As the showdown continued and reached its peak last week, the Turkish government moved its campaign for Egypt in the domestic agenda from insistence on not accepting any linkage with the anti-government protesters in Turkey to an excuse for trimming the “troubles” of the Western democracy.
The West’s silence led by the United States is outrageous; however, it would be interesting to have a guessing game on what the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government would do if it was not Islamists who were ousted, put behind bars or being killed but, let’s say, secular or liberal movements, which were also on the front with the brotherhood in Tahrir against Hosni Mubarak. Would the decibel of the criticism be higher or lesser, if the military was on the brotherhood’s side like it seemed to be during the first days of the Islamists rule? The game would not last long as these are questions easy to answer.
Having an ambitious agenda of making Turkey an Islamist but still democratic model country in its regional policy drive on the heels of the Arab Spring, the road taken by the Turkish government would hardly see Ankara in the spot it wants to be in. Lecturing others on democracy and its troubles requires having a “clean house” in the first place and from where we are, the home is not that clean after all.
How could Egypt’s coup be a democracy test for Turkey?