A Turkish Syriza cannot even be a bad joke

A Turkish Syriza cannot even be a bad joke

Lunacy appears to be contagious. Seeing the Syriza victory in nearby Greece, Turkey’s leftists and nationalists have started talking about the possibility of attaining a similar success in the Turkish elections against the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP and its leadership have been in a rather awkward superiority complex, not believing there ever could be an alternative. Of course, that is an illness as well.

Turkey is neither an Indonesia, nor an Iran, nor an Egypt. Nor can it be a Greece. Even if the two countries' peoples have many things in common, every country has its own peculiarities, advantages, disadvantages, obsessions and treasures. An atheist may climb the ladders to power in a nearby country, while a Mullah may overthrow a powerful shah in another neighbor. Turkish political Islam may stay in power for 13 years or more, but in another Muslim land a similar ideology, aspiring for nearly the same goals, could not stay in power for more than a year, landing its country on the verge of a civil war.

Greece is Greece. It has gone through serious problems throughout history including occupation, civil war, colonels’ dictatorship, an economic and financial collapse, and Angela Merkel’s humiliating “savior dictate.” But in a way, Syriza’s victory was very much like the 2002 overwhelming triumph of the Turkish Islamists in the votes. In 2002, the newly-established and untested AKP scored a landslide victory because Turks were frustrated with whatever was present before. They were fed up with all of the parties and their empty rhetoric. Turkey was just coming out of a massive economic crisis that had devastated whatever was left from the industrial heartland of the country after the killer 1999 earthquake, as well as the economic austerity measures of the 1990s and the repeated fiasco of all coalition governments. Turks wanted change and went to an untested choice, as all of the previously tested options had proven to be losers. Why should the country continue losing with them? Instead, Turks decided to test the new choice: Islamists who had defected from Necmettin Erbakan Hodja’s Islamist party.

Up to that point, there is indeed an astounding similarity in Greece with Turkey, even though Syriza was nothing new but rather a coalition of radical left-wing parties that on their own could only be a small nuance in Greek politics. Standing together, however, they could grasp the opportunity to send the atheist Alexis Tsipras to the powerful Prime Ministry seat.

Greece is no Turkey and Greek politics are not at all comparable with those of Turkey. First of all, in Greece there is an electoral law that is compatible with the notion of democracy, unlike the Turkish one that serves only tyranny within parties. Important as well is the existence of an election law that allows minority views to be represented in parliament. That is, rather than stability in governance being prized – parties must achieve this by either working harder, or winning a sufficient majority, or by forging coalitions, as Greek election law allows justice in representation. These are all important, but there is another factor that is fast becoming foreign for Turks: Organized society. What is the percentage of Turks with a job who are labor union members? Less than 9 percent. To give a more vivid example from the Turkish media, excluding a small private news agency and some private newspapers, unfortunately Turkish journalists en masse are without a labor union, so do not have job security. They have essentially become paid slaves.

It has become a habit to talk about the need to write a new constitution. Everyone wants a new constitution. But this is a very bad joke. Everyone wants a new constitution because everyone knows that it just will not happen. It is pure hypocrisy, fooling nobody but ourselves. Amending the electoral and political party laws, allowing democracy within parties, and allowing justice in parliamentary representation do not require a qualified majority. Such an amendment in the relevant laws might be undertaken overnight, while the constitutional stipulation necessitating the 10 percent election threshold could be scrapped easily if the parties are sincere; such a high level threshold is a democratic anomaly.

Syriza and its Tsipras came to power selling people hope – something that perhaps Turkish social democrats must see, remembering that selling hope is better than selling fear. But will Syriza be able to deliver its election pledge of saving Greece from the Troika? Can the austerity package be wiped off? Like Turkey’s political Islamists, Tsipras could consolidate power if he can build on Greece's frustration with the old guard. But unlike Turkey in 2002, the international climate is not so suitable and Greece is in no good position for easy borrowing.

Can the Syriza example be contagious, and can it be repeated in Turkey? What were the pillars of Syriza's election platform? What role did nationalism play in Greeks rising against the Germany-dictated austerity measures? Was it just a frustrated, depressive “Germany is controlling the money in our pockets” mood that carried Syriza to government, or was it because of a search for the proud Greek spirit? Does Turkey have such feelings? Do those aspiring to become the Syriza of Turkey have anything like the Syriza spirit? Are they proud of Turkey, or do they have an agenda to carve something out of this land and country?

No, a Turkish Syriza cannot even be a bad joke.