Project New Turkey

Project New Turkey

Turkey’s presidential election is going to be a choice between “problematic old Turkey” and “problematic new Turkey.” I am almost sure that “Erdoğan’s new Turkey” will win, not only because Erdogan’s rivals are weak but also because he and his party have no luxury to lose. The bill, which was recently presented to Parliament to legalize the Kurdish negotiation process at the last minute before the Parliament closes, is part of the compulsory winning game. I am sure Abdullah Öcalan would prefer to keep his bargaining power longer by nominating a strong presidential candidate from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in the first round. However, he must have been pressurized by the government not to do so, in order to ensure Erdoğan’s first round victory.

No matter whose plan works better, it seems clear that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Kurdish alliance will win. Under the present circumstances, Erdoğan or his party’s presidency will ensure the finalization of the “New Turkey” project. I wish that everything new could be good, or at least better than the old, but this is not the case - neither in politics nor in any other field of life. It is a fact that, despite that the new always being more attractive in the beginning, it may be that your new partner proves to be as bad or worse than the old done. In fact, this has turned out to be the case with the AKP in Turkey, as “the lovers of democracy” thought that they found the “right one” in the beginning but were dramatically disappointed by the end of the affair. Unfortunately, the AKP and the New Turkey project has not only betrayed its lovers and failed to achieve more democratization, but it has also led to a serious catastrophe.   

It is not to say that the old Turkey was in a better shape, in fact it is a bad comparison, since we cannot console ourselves that the old one was also a bad experience. The truth about the new Turkey is that it promises more authoritarian politics, more one man rule, more social tension and polarization, more conservative curb on freedoms and more shaky foreign relations. The AKP’s authoritarian sway has been the outcome of its ideological backlash from moderate conservatism to a missionary nationalism/Islamism and there is no sign that it will change in better direction. That is why Prime Minister Erdoğan often underlines his party’s politics as “the great cause” (“büyük dava”) of centuries. He and his supporters are firmly convinced that Turkey’s rise under Erdoğan’s rule was not an ordinary “political success,” but indeed marked “the return of the great days of Turks who always served to the glory of Islam.” That is why Erdoğan greets Palestine, Egypt, Bosnia, Myanmar and other Islamic countries in the world in most of his speeches and reminds us that Turkey’s success under his party is not only the concern of those who live in Turkey, but it is a matter of life for all Muslims or even for humanity as a whole.

In the view of Erdoğan and his supporters, AKP rule under Erdoğan’s leadership is not only a “political success” but it marks the return of the glorious past after a century of disruption. They believe this is why the new Turkey has many more enemies than before since Turkey is posing a threat to many countries by standing up first and foremost to Western Powers, who use to exploit the Muslim world by using “divide and rule” tactics. From Gezi protest last year to U.S.-Iran rapprochement, all domestic and foreign developments are part of the attacks against the new Turkey.

All, who live in Turkey, are required to believe in this narrative and to act accordingly, not to play to the hands of the internal and external enemies. This is the scary truth about the new Turkey project which is going to be sealed under even tighter one man rule after Erdoğan wins the Presidential Election. Moreover, the Kurdish peace process is also being integrated into this project, not only through Öcalan’s political alliance with the Turkish government/state under dire circumstances, but also in terms of political understanding concerning shared skepticism towards the West and Western values. Erdoğan denounces Western values as “alien” (as the whole of modernity), whereas Öcalan denounces them as a curse of “the capitalist modernity.”

Alas, this is the end story of a great dream of democratization and Kurdish peace in Turkey. If Turkey is surrendered by all sorts of enemies as AKP supporters believe, they may have every reason to celebrate the new Turkey project, since it will lead Turkey to unprecedented decay very soon.