I decided that “comparative politics” is the best way to avoid my hopelessness concerning Turkey’s politics. I think that, after all, there are many other countries in bad shape all over the world, and even the most advanced countries can be on the list nowadays. Take the United States and its two repulsive candidates for the presidential elections; take the United Kingdom post-Brexit, its two hopeless major parties and its peculiar foreign minister; or take France where Nicolas Sarkozy has returned to politics… Forgetting about the problems of the rise of the far right, immigration and the like, compared to these so-called “advanced democracies” and the most powerful countries, Turkey may not seem as bad as we used to think.
Then, there are all those relatively significant countries which are being governed by populist dictators like India and Poland, to say nothing of our neighboring countries which are either at war or being ruled by fundamentalist sheikhs, emirs, monarchs or military dictators like Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt. Still, I have chosen the Philippines for comparison in order to find some more consolation.
I think the Philippines under its new elected leader, Rodrigo Duterte, is a brilliant case with which to make comparison and feel good. First of all, the fact that Duterte was democratically elected by the majority even though he denounced democracy, democratic values and the order of law in his election campaign, tells a lot about the new form of democracy which has been reduced to elections and majoritarianism. Thank God, the majority in my country chose those who, at least, pretend to value democracy and the rule of law. Well, Turkey has slid toward authoritarianism in recent years under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and after the coup attempt of July 15, the government introduced a state of emergency and is now ruling by decree rather than any parliamentary process, but at least there is much praise for the “victory of democracy” by the people who poured onto to the streets to hinder the coup attempt.
But the scope of the purge against pro-Gülenists and supporters of “Kurdish terrorism” is getting ever wider every day, so much so that tens of thousands are being fired from their jobs and arrested, while many have lost their property due to so-called “decrees with the power of law.” Some are old friends and acquaintances who have nothing to do with coups or terrorism, I believe, as they are accused. Still, thank God, nobody has lost his/her life due to an “order to kill criminals extra-judicially” as Duterte in the Philippines has encouraged, leading to the killing of thousands of petty criminals. Well, we have anti-Westernism and xenophobia on the rise in Turkey but, thank God, nobody has even considered calling Pope Francis “a son of whore” or declaring that he wanted to “participate in the gang rape of an Australian missionary” as the Philippine leader did before his election.
Well, government politicians have accused the U.S. of staging the last coup against Turkey, and rising anti-Americanism has created problems with our major ally, but after all, none of our politicians, let alone our president, have used embarrassing remarks for the U.S. president and created a political scandal like Duterte did during the latest Asia Summit.
Last but not the least, we failed to change the constitution that the military regime imposed more than 30 years ago, but nobody in the government or opposition ever considers moving the body of our military dictator from the 1980s to the heroes’ cemetery as Duterte has chosen to do for Ferdinand Marcos.
As children, we are told by our parents to look down to be happy and not to look up to be unhappy.
Nowadays, I have decided to take their advice to be happy in my country during these current difficult times. Nevertheless, they also advised us not to surrender to circumstances but encouraged us to adopt high standards to go forward. I always follow that advice, too, and refuse to give up fighting for democracy and freedoms under all circumstances.