The blueprint for the ‘New Turkey’
The blueprint for the New Turkey desired by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his followers is taking shape, and the picture is not pretty.
What is certain is that this Turkey will be led by a leader who relies on the ballot box for his legitimacy, rather on constitutional legitimacy – at least until he can fashion a constitution for his personal needs – and no respect for pluralism. Such a leader will obviously not bother about the interests of those who do not vote for him, even if his ballot box majority is a slim one.
His Turkey, on the other hand, will not rely on contemporary secular values for its moral bearings, but on religious ones that belong to a different age. The administration of the New Turkey will not only have the right to act in the public domain, according to these values, but also in the private domain, even dictating rules as to how families should be formed.
Meanwhile, the public will be under constant police surveillance to protect the interests of the ruling elite, and strict measures will be taken against any opponent of the leader based on arbitrary on-the-spot assessments by members of his security forces and judiciary.
What we will also see is a Turkey where the media has been co-opted in order to serve the leader’s interests and to promote his outlook on just about everything. It goes without saying that freedom of expression will be snuffed out based on subjective accusations of inciting terrorism, violence and general public disorder.
The judiciary in the new Turkey will, of course, be under the control of the executive with no room left for independent court rulings. Penalties for “offenders,” will be correspondingly draconian.
In addition to all of this, we will have a Turkey that is mostly isolated and friendless in the world, with hardly any potential to influence anything in its neighborhood. The economy of the New Turkey will also be subject to the whims of the leader, who will disregard objective economic rules, and dictate what interest rates, exchange rates, ratings for the country and so on should be.
This picture points to an Orwellian nightmare of course. What we have, however, is still a blueprint, even if aspects of it have started to be implemented. There is also little doubt that if Erdoğan had the ability to do so, he would go the whole way.
He has a major problem though.
Turkey, with a population nearing the 80 million, and with significant social, religious, ethnic, and regional diversity, is not a country that can be put into one person’s straightjacket. History proves that you can only keep the pressure up in this country to a point before the cooker explodes.
The blueprint for the New Turkey is therefore not one that will bring Turkey the stability, development, international influence and universal acclaim its supporters claim. It is unsustainable and ultimately an invitation for social unrest in a heterogeneous country such as Turkey.
There are also those within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) who see this. Former President Abdullah Gül’s recent remarks – and he is a founding AKP member – show this. He may have been removed from the scene politically for the time being, but his recent criticism of the new internal security law, for example, which is currently being hammered out in parliament, is unlikely to have pleased Erdoğan.
It will nevertheless take time for reality to dawn on those who are now wittingly or unwittingly preparing the groundwork for Erdoğan to realize his dream of a New Turkey. But reality has a habit of dawning in the end. Won’t that be too late, many will no doubt be asking?
Turkey has proven in the past that it has the capacity for rebirth, even after the worst moments of its history. Given the way the lines are drawn at the moment, however, it will take time and much social unrest to get there. That much is true. It’s the old story of “two steps forward one step back.”