Istanbul terror attacks empower Ankara scenarios

Istanbul terror attacks empower Ankara scenarios

There is a lobby in Ankara, let’s call it the Eurasian Lobby, in which a group of people with access to President Tayyip Erdoğan have been pressing to bring back the death penalty to Turkey since the bloody coup attempt of July 15 – something the Hürriyet Daily News wrote about on Dec. 8, two days before the deadly Istanbul bombings, seemingly by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), claimed at least 44 lives.

The lobby has been promoting the following strategy to Erdoğan, according to political and economic sources: 

- Bring back the death penalty, get rid of the restrictions of the European Union when the EU cuts all relations;

- If the stock exchange collapses, so be it. In that way, get rid of the pressure from big companies and foreign capital (which are not “from us” anyway);

- Meet the military needs of NATO in a bargain with “our own needs” to get rid of the excessive political pressure from the West;

- Press for and get the executive presidency, start to give back some rights according to “our needs” (including on the Kurdish issue, out of democratic generosity), and then witness the recovery of a more “native” economy.

Since that article, two major developments took place.

The first was the Dec. 10 submission to parliament of a draft for constitutional changes by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) that will result in a major shift to an executive presidential system following an agreement with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

The second was the Istanbul bombing the same day just hours later.

The attack triggered grief and anger across the country. People have been taking the street against terror despite bad December weather and asking the government to take action against it and stop terror.

It was only a few hours after the attack, even before the death toll was announced by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, that some pro-government columnists had taken to Twitter about the need for a stronger leadership to crush terrorists with an iron fist, as if the power of the police and the military had not already been extended under the state of emergency declared after the July 15 coup attempt.

As the public reaction started to spread in the wake of the bombings, the demands to bring back the death penalty started to spread on social media as well.

On Dec. 13, I joined a live show on the web page of Hürriyet to answer the questions of viewers on the matters of terror attacks and other current affairs. There was a considerable number of remarks sent live to the broadcasts that, word for word, all said the same thing: “The best way to fight terror is to shift to an executive presidency and bring back the death penalty.”

This is not only an individual example during an internet show. The message is heard as slogans shouted at funerals of fallen police officers and civilians and rallies to protest the attacks.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım is having a meeting today, Dec. 14, in Ankara with Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the social democratic opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the MHP, on the issue of how to settle on a national strategy to fight terror. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which focuses on the Kurdish problem and which has seen a number of its MPs, including co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, arrested, have been excluded by PM Yıldırım on the grounds that they failed to condemn the acts of terror by the PKK in an unequivocal manner.

It is not clear yet whether the death penalty issue will be among the outcomes of the meeting, if there are any, but it is obvious that the lobby to bring it back and further take Turkey away from the West have gained ground as a by-product of the terrorist attack.