Erdoğan proves Gauck concerns

Erdoğan proves Gauck concerns

German President Joachim Gauck’s thorough criticism of the state of Turkish democracy in the hands of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came only three days after Haşim Kılıç, the head of the Constitutional Court, severely slammed the government on the same issues. Two high-level critics are too much to handle for the government, and in return Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan bombarded the visiting president at his parliamentary group meeting yesterday.

“I admit that these developments terrify me. Especially because freedom of speech and freedom of the press are being limited,” Gauck said at his conference at the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) on April 29. The developments he was referring to were the amendment on the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Law, legal and political moves undermining the core principles of rule of law and separation of powers. He was also critical on the rights of the Alevi communities in Turkey and argued that Alevis in Germany had more rights than those in their homeland.

He made his case very open at his joint press conference with President Abdullah Gül with his questions: “Why intervene in the judiciary when you have so much power after an important electoral victory? Will this really strengthen democracy?”

Browsing pro-government newspapers yesterday morning, it was quite obvious how Erdoğan was going to publicly respond to Gauck. One pro-government newspaper described Gauck as an opposition leader - just like they did with Kılıç a few days before - while another one mocked him, saying, “He ‘Gaucked’ and went.” Many pro-government media outlets preferred not to report his critical remarks and his questions, while one of them chose to write about his praise regarding Turkish aid to Syrian refugees, without even mentioning the political talks.

To be frank, Erdoğan’s media is far behind Erdoğan’s imagination and creativity. After harshly criticizing the German president, Erdoğan said the following: “That’s why he should act the way statesmen do. He probably thinks he is still a pastor. These are ugly matters.”

As a politician frequently exploiting religion and people’s faiths, it was interesting for Erdoğan to criticize Gauck for thinking he is still a pastor. Using words like “ugly matters,” “keep your advice to yourself,” and many others is far from being polite toward a high-level guest. It also came just two days after that they were bashing Constitutional Court Head Kılıç for his “inappropriate manners” toward his guests at the Court.

Well, though I don’t look for politeness or consistency on Erdoğan’s side, I still believe it would rather be good to see respect for a visiting statesmen. I am also afraid Erdoğan will also amend all protocol rules if he happens to be elected as the next president of Turkey.  Gauck is right to be terrified.