Erdoğan’s two tough years

Erdoğan’s two tough years

Contrary to the public anticipation that was somehow created, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s very long speech at the Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Congress on Sunday, as all commentators agree, contained no new features and surprises politically.

As a matter of fact, on the Kurdish issue, he even fell short of his words in the past days when he made “non-negative” references to the “Oslo” and “İmralı” options.

For me, the most astounding incident about this congress was not during the event itself, but the one that happened the day before – the accreditation bans against oppositional media.

The accreditation applications of a total of six papers that are Kemalist, leftist or nationalist – Cumhuriyet, Aydınlık, Sözcü, Evrensel, BirGün and Yeniçağ – to cover the congress in situ were rejected by the AKP.

It is by far not an ordinary incident that the AKP leader and his party do not allow a segment of the media to their congress because they are not pleased with their ideology and publishing policies.

This, after all, is the congress of a party that has been ruling this country for 10 years. It is important from this aspect alone. The AKP leadership, by obstructing the in situ access to newspapers it does not like, also restricted the right of hundreds of thousands of these press organs’ readers to be informed. Press freedom in Turkey was restricted this time with accreditation bans.

If the esteemed prime minister, in his speech Sunday, had made unique and unprecedented commitments on rights and freedoms, what kind of plausibility would that have had? An extremely negative message about the AKP’s future vision was already demonstrated a day before the congress with these bans.

The accreditation bans from the General Staff during the days of military tutelage are giving way to the accreditation bans of the elected. Pluralism, inclusiveness and participation somehow have not become the prevailing political culture. The only change is the identity of the prohibiting authority. If it is a major difference that the former was appointed and the new one is elected, then we may as well take solace in this.

“When the ax came into the forest, the trees said, ‘The handle is one of us.’” It’s something like this…
This accreditation ban is a major mistake for the AKP and is quite upsetting.

Çankaya and the Kurdish issue
In Erdoğan’s AKP Congress speech, Islamism, an abundance of references to religious values and nationalism were quite predominant. The prime minister intertwined the three related tendencies. After all, it is a discourse that would sound nice to the ears of the conventional voters, around 60 percent of the electorate, who have become even more conservative now.

And it coincides with his political aims.

The prime minister gave the message that, in present-day conditions, he wants to ascend to the Çankaya Presidential Mansion in 2014. He implied it in the most clear and distinct way possible.

If he does not change his mind and abandon his ambition, then Prime Minister Erdoğan would want to be elected in the first round. For this, his aim is to receive votes from the entire conventional right base. The esteemed prime minister has set himself on the road to being elected with the additional votes of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

A leader who has to exceed his party’s vote rate and who has to gain votes from the extreme nationalist MHP cannot begin to approach a solution to the Kurdish issue with the two years left ahead of him. He can only try to gain time and muddle along, but the opportunities presented by these choices are also unprecedentedly restricted.

During these two years, which is a very long time for Turkey and politics, it cannot be foreseen which direction the Kurdish issue will take because the Kurdish issue is not a bilateral one anymore, having become a multilateral issue with some other powerful actors in the region also intervening.

In short: If the prime minister attempts to solve the Kurdish issue, he cannot ascend to Çankaya; if he leaves it unsolved, it is unclear what Turkey will become.

He may try to lessen the outside pressure on the Kurdish issue by compromising with Russia and Iran on Syria in line with the duo’s wishes.

It looks like it will be difficult to have an eye on Çankaya without a radical retreat in foreign policy.
Turkey is squeezed between the prime minister’s Çankaya ambitions and the Kurdish issue. The best is to give up and strengthen the parliamentarian system.

Kadri Gürsel is a columnist for daily Milliyet in which this piece was published on Oct 1. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.