Turkish politics remains immune to growing bloodshed

Turkish politics remains immune to growing bloodshed

The country awoke on the morning of May 13 and saw a written statement by the Turkish Armed Forces, informing them about the killing of eight soldiers in an ambush by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Çukurca district of Hakkari province on the Iraqi border. 

This sad news came just hours after four people were killed and 17 were wounded in a bomb attack near Diyarbakır late on May 12. Earlier on the same day, an attack in a suburb of Istanbul hit a military personnel bus, fortunately leaving no serious casualties behind. All this took place over less than 16 hours. 

Let’s take a more holistic look at the security conditions across Turkey, which is currently engaged in an intense fight against two very dangerous terrorist organizations: The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). 

The PKK has been carrying out its attacks in multiple forms. It has continued its urban warfare in a number of provinces since late last year. During the clearing of these provinces from the PKK and the restoring of public order, Turkey’s not-so-well-prepared security apparatus has resulted in a high number of casualties.

The PKK has also carried out car bomb attacks in big Western cities, mainly in Ankara and Istanbul, in a bid to spread fear among civilians and put more pressure on the government. As predicted, the PKK has stepped up its attacks against military outposts in rural and mountainous parts of southeast Anatolia with the coming of spring. 

ISIL, on the other hand, has been targeting touristic spots in big western cities, killing foreign tourists, in Istanbul and Bursa. There are concerns that it will turn its attention to targeting Turkey’s tourist resorts along the Mediterranean coast. Meanwhile, ISIL has also been firing rockets at Kilis and other residential areas in Turkey from across the border in Syria, killing 21 local people so far in a bid to provoke the Turkish army.      

Overall, Turkey has been suffering from all kinds of terrorist acts since last July and there is no light at the end of tunnel that this violence will fall in the near future. 

In a normal democracy, such grave security conditions would be enough to make political leaders put their differences aside and address the problems in unity. In Turkey, however, the rise in violence is just a normal part of routine political discussions, with all sides accusing each other of fueling this deadly atmosphere. 

Anyway, the country’s political parties are all dealing with much more important things. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) will go to an extraordinary convention to elect a new chairman and prime minister, following pressure imposed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is apparently running out of patience for his desired executive presidency system. It was very interesting to observe Erdoğan stepping up his campaign for the system change just a day after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced that he was stepping down. 

Senior AKP officials and government members are now engaged in an open race to demonstrate their loyalty to the president, proposing administrative models to best suit Erdoğan’s ambitions. It is saddening during this process to not hear any ideas from these people on how to stop current violence in the country. 

Meanwhile, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is involved in a legal controversy on whether an extraordinary convention can be held to challenge the leadership of Devlet Bahçeli, who has recently started flirting with the AKP in a bid to protect his seat. Bahçeli has expressed his openness to evaluating any kind of honest and decent proposal from the ruling party, with the condition of continuity in the fight against terrorism. Meral Akşener, a veteran female MHP member, has long posed a great danger to Bahçeli’s leadership and it is obvious that she will represent a new political center in the coming era. 

As for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), it is thought to be losing public support - especially from social democrats and liberals in western Turkey – because of its inability to distance itself from the PKK. The upcoming vote on the immunities of HDP deputies will turn this problem into nothing less than chaos if the necessary constitutional amendment is approved at parliament next week. 

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its leader, meanwhile, are trying to show tough opposition to the AKP and Erdoğan, but their influence is not very promising.  

So looking at the situation from a bird’s eye view, it may well be said that Turkish politics has already gained a kind of “immunity” over terrorist attacks and is inviting the Turkish public to do the same. Under these circumstances, the cycle of violence will unfortunately be much more destructive and bloody.