With fears of an end, Turkish PM takes blunter steps
The embattled prime minister of Turkey fears, and eventually will admit, that his over a decade-long era is nearing its end, thus, he has been taking blunter steps and tightening the screw on the country day by day. His latest salvo was handing over micro-blogging website Twitter, which was Premier Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s long-time foe.
Just like many other authoritarian leaders in the neighborhood, the Turkish prime minister has never been content with social media due to its uncontrollable character in a country, which is ruled by the absolute hand of one man: Erdoğan himself. His outburst for a vendetta on Twitter was not new. During the heights of the anti-government Gezi protests, the premier called the network “a trouble” amid the widespread use of Twitter and other social media tools by Gezi demonstrators.
The trouble was apparently at a “tolerable” level for the prime minister in those days or he did not think the trouble would be one of the final strokes against him in his fight for political survival.
Scandalous secretly-recorded tapes have been released by clandestine Twitter accounts in the last couple of months, featuring voices that are said to belong to the prime minister, many other cabinet members, senior officials and their family members. Daily-basis releases have cemented the idea that the premier and his inner circle were heavily involved in a corruption scandal unleashed by Erdoğan’s ally-turned-foe Hizmet (Service) Movement and its U.S.-based leader Fethullah Gülen.
The premier has girded on his sword against Twitter and vowed, actually ordered, to rout out the network. The message was clear; therefore, prosecutors even from the now-defunct Specially Authorized Courts rushed to find a reason for the closure. It was not a difficult task and some old files have resurfaced and the absolute authority on the Internet - thanks to a recently approved censorship law - Turkey’s top communication watchdog arranged the blackout.
But is that it? Is pulling the plug of a social network website, which has over 12 million users in Turkey, that simple in the times of a growing tech era? The answer was given by Turkish Twitter users, including the deputy prime minister and even the president, who first thing in the morning found alternatives routes to reach the website.
So, what is the prime minister’s motivation for a nonsense ban? Did he think he would be able to silence his critics and cover up the mounting corruption case? He is obviously not tech-savvy, but his bully and infamous cyber team, a.k.a “AK trolls,” must have known and warned him that pulling the plug would not be enough.
Nevertheless, the prime minister did not care about Twitter with his ban order. Actually, it was a show of force for him that he is still mighty enough to shut down the website in spite of the local and international outrage and criticism over freedom of speech, which has not bothered him at all since coming to power. His arrogance was crystalized by himself at an election rally hours before the Twitter ban, “I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic’s state.”
In fact, it was not the state’s, but the limits of his power that the prime minister wanted to show to everyone in and abroad Turkey, as his unquestionable control in the country and the unbeaten myth of his party has been shaking recently in the wake of the massive corruption scandal. On the other hand, it is also a signal that the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight for those who have heavily suffered under his rule, since the prime minister is taking steps that would have both local and global backlashes. Even if Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) is the first party in the upcoming March 30 elections, he lost ground and turning tides upside down will be much more difficult, since the attacks on him would be harsher amid his ongoing calls for a vendetta, which would see worse actions than the Twitter ban.