Turkey’s palace politics

Turkey’s palace politics

It is risky to write before “the big event” of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Congress, but I have to, since it will be too late for publication if I wait until the congress is over. Besides, I am not expecting major policy shifts after the congress.

It is true that the congress may contain a lot of hints concerning the process of succession of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but it will be more about the “palace politics” that Turkey has ended up with.

Some assume that because of Erdoğan’s obsession with becoming the next president, the AKP has drifted from the path of democratization and turned toward nationalist and non-democratic politics. Many perceive the politics of the presidency as though Erdoğan’s obsession with the presidency or a presidential system is unrelated to his political orientations and as though his understanding of politics as total power and a “one-man show” is not an aspect of his authoritarianism and nationalistic politics.
In fact, the prime minister is more coherent and clear than most of his democratic observers. Erdoğan believes in the importance of leadership, power and unity and dislikes dissent, criticism and even democratic decision-making since he thinks they are signs of a reduction in power as well as weakness. Therefore, we cannot expect him and his party to return to their earlier politics of democratization.

It was not because the AKP and its leader were hypocritical that they made us think they were keen on democracy. Erdoğan and his party have always thought that the politics of democracy is “the politics of the weak;” that is why they were keen on democracy when they were still weak. But it is not as simple as saying they abused the discourse of democracy to deceive others and consolidate their power to the point of total control. The conservatives and Islamists have always thought that it is not a democratic deficit which left them excluded in Turkey, but rather that the previous status quo was the rule of a minority and, as such, was unjust.

From their point of view, their consolidation of power is “the just restoration of power” in that the majority, who are the true sons of the country by being Sunni Muslim Turks, have now received what is rightly theirs. Under the circumstances, they think democratic politics is all about supporting this “fair restoration” of political power. In their view, they were the dissidents of the previous status quo because it was unjust, and they used the discourse of the democracy because they were weak. With justice now done, there is no more need for the politics of democracy since the weak are minorities, marginal groups or malicious people. It is no coincidence that the AKP and Erdoğan have not even bothered to mention democracy for a while; instead, they underline unity, development and strength. Indeed, it is the true meaning of the title of the party: “justice and development.” Since the mission has now been fulfilled, nothing more is needed – the rest is either a nuisance or just palace politics!