Turkish Trumpists

Turkish Trumpists

Who would you expect Turkish conservatives to support in the current U.S. presidential race? Considering the anti-Islam rhetoric used by Republican candidate Donald Trump, one might assume they would favor Hillary Clinton. That assumption might be wrong.

Pro-government journalists apparently identify Trump with defying the status quo. They seem to find a resemblance between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Although not favored by the mainstream, both are supported by crowds on the street. 

A Haber is the news station branch of the Sabah-ATV network group. The group was once owned by Çalık Holding, which also has big investments in energy. Çalık Holding then in 2013 handed its share in Sabah-ATV to Zirve Holding, which is mainly a construction firm. Both the Bakırköy Courthouse and the ongoing Taksim project have been undertaken by Zirve Holding. 

A Haber was established as an alternative to “mainstream” news channels such as NTV and CNN Türk. Journalists supporting President Erdoğan came together under the network. Alongside news, the channel mostly airs little more than pro-government rhetoric and debates. A Haber’s ratings are not bad at all, and in some months it becomes the most watched news channel.

A few hours before the recent presidential debate between Trump and his Democrat rival Hillary Clinton, talking heads on A Haber were evaluating the U.S. presidential race. One of them claimed that Clinton supported Fethullah Gülen. Gülen, the notorious Turkish cleric who is accused of being behind the failed July 15 coup attempt, is still resident in the U.S and Turkey has asked for his extradition. 

The same person claimed that if Trump is elected, Gülen and his enclave will immediately flee the U.S., because Trump will not provide the support that Clinton would. On Sept. 6 he tweeted: “In the U.S., the Clintons represent the existing dirty status quo. That is why the entire media and all institutions are attacking Trump.” He also claimed that a Trump presidency would be better for Turkish-American relations.

That journalist is not the only one in Turkey going after Hillary Clinton. Back in January, A Haber aired a story claiming that Gülen had made donations to Clinton’s campaign. Translating a story from a local U.S. newspaper the Daily Caller, it reported that the head of a Gülen-linked cultural center, Recep Özkan, had donated $1 million to the Clinton campaign. 

Apparently Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) elites believe that the U.S. was somehow behind the failed coup attempt. They probably believe that Washington is still holding Fethullah Gülen in the U.S. as a stick against Erdoğan and is not eager to hand him back to Turkey. At this point, Trump as an anti-status quo figure perhaps represents some kind of hope for the AKP. If Trump gets elected, the balance of power within Washington would change and the new system may prefer to hand Gülen back to Turkey. That explains the pro-Trump rhetoric currently circulating on Turkey’s pro-government media.