Erdoğan more Conservative than Democrat ahead of 2014 polls

Erdoğan more Conservative than Democrat ahead of 2014 polls

Unfortunately, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was far from convincing for his critics yesterday, when he said the recent legal amendment on restricting the use of alcohol did not represent “interference in lifestyles.” Neither was he when he advised that nobody should make this alcohol regulation a “matter of identity.”

In fact, it was he who made this issue a matter of identity and of ideology during his long and comprehensive address to his parliamentary group yesterday.

“When two drunkards make a law, you respect it. But when we make a law for something that faith orders, you reject it. Why? If religion orders something, will you object anyway?” he asked.

Furthermore, while trying to explain that the amendment did not aim to ban alcohol, his advice to the people that they can still drink at home was a clear reflection of a mindset shared by so many high-level Justice and Development Party (AKP) members. It was last week when one of them, Istanbul deputy Cevdet Erdöl, said: “I don’t want anyone to hit the bottle near my child. The comparison is not perfectly adequate, but [drinking alcohol] is like carrying a gun.”

Yesterday, the prime minister commanded: “Go and drink in your house. We are not against this.”

Apart from all the political aspects of these sorts of moves, one of the most disturbing aspects is the humiliating tone that government circles have been long using against those coming from different lifestyles. Dissident journalists, academics, artists and members of other political parties are considered to be ones who have not taken their share of moral and ethical values. When it comes to alcohol regulation, the critics are simply those who walk around always drunk and even alcoholic. It’s really hard to understand Erdoğan’s description of lawmakers as drunkards while trying to defend his own regulation.

The prime minister’s introduction of the issue and his way of explaining the regulation is also problematic with regard to secularism. It’s no secret that the AKP is unhappy of the current definition of strict secularism in Turkey, and has already vowed that it would seek to adopt a more flexible definition in a bid to expand religious freedom. But what Erdoğan said yesterday would mean a full abolition of any sort of definition of secularism, as he acknowledged that the alcohol regulation was in fact a “religious order.”

With less than a year until local elections that will set the most important test before crucial presidential elections, it seems that Erdoğan and his AKP are seeking to further boost the conservative nature of their political understanding. Within this framework, the support the AKP received from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) while passing the law on alcohol could be seen as encouraging for the AKP.

In need of at least 50 percent of the vote to be elected as president, it’s unfortunate that Erdoğan will strengthen his already religion-based rhetoric to attract votes, particularly from the MHP, at the expense of the further exploitation of religion.