Turkey is paying a high price for Erdoğan’s ambitions

Turkey is paying a high price for Erdoğan’s ambitions

Turkey has entered a tailspin. The longer the current bloody standoff between the security forces and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) continues, the harder it is going to be to get back to any semblance of peace and normality. Government officials insist they are not against the Kurds and that their only concern is to combat PKK terrorism. But one has to wonder about this, given the way the present cycle of violence was allowed to spiral out of control.  

Of course, a country must respond to terrorism. There is universal agreement on that. But the first priority of responsible politicians should always be to douse a fire that has potentially deep social consequences, rather than to pour fuel on it. One therefore has to wonder whether the Justice and Development Party (AKP), egged on by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, really wants peace. 

Many argue that it does not, hoping that the present turmoil will serve its political interests. Not only does it not want peace, according to this widespread belief, but it also wants to reactivate the sensitive Turkish-Kurdish fault-line by demonizing the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which received the support of a majority of Kurdish voters in the last elections.

According to a Turkish saying, “wolves like misty weather.” This is also the impression that Erdoğan and the AKP are giving. It was, after all, Erdoğan himself who said on July 28 that it was “impossible” to continue with the Kurdish peace process. “I think it is impossible to continue the settlement process with those who target our national unity and brotherhood,” he said as he was departing on a visit to China. 

This is a far cry from the days when the AKP, under Erdoğan, accused ultra-nationalists over their attitude toward Kurds and initiated the now all but dead peace process, which included the bold step of talking to the PKK’s imprisoned leader Abdullah Öcalan. Erdoğan has now become what he was criticizing then. It seems that he was “play acting” then, for political reasons, and is today revealing his real self.

But the death and destruction of the past three weeks will most likely rebound on him, if he expects this turmoil to drive people to hanker in desperation for a savior, namely himself. For all the vilification of the HDP by him and the AKP, it is unlikely that this party will lose the Kurdish vote it took from the AKP on June 7. It is also likely that the liberals who voted for the HDP will stick with their choice in the event of early elections, which Erdoğan wants. 

It is also unlikely that the present turmoil will drive CHP voters to the AKP, as the latest surveys show. 
Put another way, if the country is being driven to chaos for the sake of Erdoğan’s political ambitions, as many claim, this is a big shame. Despite the fact that it is more or less clear now that the future does not hold for him what he wants, he appears determined to have his shot in the dark, no matter what the cost. 

There are claims that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sees all this and actually wants a coalition with the CHP that will be reformist, and work to reinstate stability, but is being prevented by Erdoğan. One has to give some benefit of the doubt to these claims, while keeping a pinch of salt close at hand, seeing as there is no smoke without fire.

The bottom line, however, is that Erdoğan and his hardline supporters in the AKP are proving to be sore losers. Rather than accept the message that came out of the June 7 elections, they appear desperate to turn the clock back in order to gain the upper ground again so that they can go back to promoting their ideological agenda. 

However, they are bound to realize in the end that the reins of unencumbered power are now out of their hands, and they have no choice other than to democratically share power with others. It seems that Turkey is going to have to bear the cost until this realization finally dawns on them.