Scandal-hit Turkey risks becoming another source of regional instability

Scandal-hit Turkey risks becoming another source of regional instability

One common point all veteran journalists and pundits agree on is Turkey has never found itself in such a weird and dangerous situation. The state and its key institutions have been divided into two different camps fighting against each other and sometimes by using some very nasty ways. 

Flared up by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government’s decision to close down prep schools, a matter of life or death for the Fethullah Gülen community or the Hizmet Movement, the political controversy has gained scandalous dimensions with the Hizmet-empowered judicial operation that unveiled a multimillion dollar graft and corruption organization with the involvement of four cabinet ministers. 

Both sides’ media are working hard to influence the public opinion by publishing confidential documents proving the other side’s illegal moves almost on a daily basis. With prospects that this fight will be a long-lasting one, rival sides are readying long-term strategies and getting them ready for a very hard fight. 

On Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s side, who spent his entire political career by fighting against the establishment and his political rivals, such confrontation against the Hizmet movement is not new, but something very much different. In this asymmetric confrontation, both sides are using the very means of the state –most of the time by remaining within the rule of law— both sides have strong media and more interestingly they have nearly the same social conservative roots. Both Erdoğan and Gülen are on the TV almost every day, sending their highly religiously motivated message to public opinion. 

In an effort to distract attention from huge bribery and corruption files, Erdoğan and his staff have begun to use their already wasted rhetoric of “external forces hand-in-hand with their local contractors behind the operation against a growing Turkey.” Their strategy is to create strong links between the Gezi Parkı protests and the current corruption operation, with hopes that public opinion will see the big plot against Erdoğan. Given that the AKP could maintain its votes and public popularity by this strategy during Gezi, the ruling party believes this fight against the movement will not hurt the AKP’s election targets. 

On the Gülen community side, things are little different. Of course, they have no election to run in three months’ time and they have no ambitions to be the government or the President but their struggle is an enduring and vital one that keeps its members geared up in this confrontation. Given the fact the same judicial and police cadres successfully conducted the Ergenekon, Balyoz and OdaTv probes; the Hizmet community is sufficiently confident of their victory out of this fight. 

Today’s picture is very much disturbing for everyone who does really believe in the potential of this country and that this kind of social polarization and division within key state institutions will not bring stability, prosperity, comfort and democracy to Turkey. 

Erdoğan should quit protecting his allegedly corrupt ministers and allow a full probe over the claims.
The Gülen community, on the other hand, should stop the smear campaign against the government and AKP officials and underline its respect to the elected government of this country. Last but not least, both sides’ media should stop further fueling the tension through irresponsible publications. 

Turkey’s objective is to become a fully democratic country where universal human rights and rule of law would prevail against all sorts of backward, authoritarian, one-man and one-party ruling systems. We have had enough with such systems that nourish “empires within empires” that spread only fear and pressure on the society. Before it’s too late, we should all behave in common sense and responsibly before Turkey becomes yet another source of regional instability like Syria, which threatens not only its own security but also the region.