Back to AKP normalcy
Was it possible to replace the culture of confrontation with one that seeks reconciliation? Could the Justice and Development Party (AKP) put to the side its methods of polarization and prioritize policies aimed at boosting national unity? Could the AKP or its absolute master, the tall, bold, bald, ever angry – and now scared – man who aspires to be a super president, abandon the discrimination of “all others” and instead of trying to rule the country with those who have engaged in a system of allegiance, agree to power sharing and the distribution of powers as required by democratic governance?
After the foiled but nightmarish July 15 takeover, thanks to the courageous defiance of the people against the armored might of the rebel soldiers, politics was compelled to reflect for some time the atmosphere of unity. If the master of politics, the people, could abandon differences, join hands for the defense of the fatherland and Turkish democracy, why couldn’t the representatives of the national will walk the same road? Or, could they walk a different road? The meeting of the opposition leaders with the president and the prime minister, the participation of the president and the leaders of the three biggest political parties at a “national unity and democracy rally” were great achievements in the quest for cohesive and consensus-seeking politics rather than the former polarization and confrontation strategies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP.
The declaration of the state of emergency and the subsequent decrees issued in cabinet meetings chaired by Erdoğan left no room for doubt, however, that the ego of the president and his political clan had survived the coup attempt intact. The overhaul of the military command structure, hasty expulsions from the military and the bureaucracy, pogroms staged against the business world on the grounds that it was a hunt for Gülenists and worst, the decision to recruit thousands of new policemen without an examination, were all unwelcome developments indicative of the “unchanged nature” of Erdoğan and the AKP.
During and after the July 15 takeover attempt, social media was not interrupted. President Erdoğan himself was thankful that his cell phone had the capacity to run FaceTime because his message asking the nation to pour out onto the streets would not have reached anyone further than his hotel room that was under attack. It was not just social media, the president learned the hard way about the importance of free media that night. He appeared on three other channels but his appeal to people through CNN Türk was the most effective one, thanks to its reputation as a “respected and free news channel.” That night the rebels trying to stage a coup attempting to silence the media, cut social media and the Internet and kill all the news channels of the people while Erdoğan and his men were attempting to keep communication channels open.
What has changed since then? Why has the government failed to learn to respect the constitutional right of the people to “get informed” of the developments in the country? Right, before the coup attempt they might have had some problems in conceding the role of free media, unsure of the democratic sensitivities of the people. Did they not learn that it was not the guns and thousands of men in military uniform but the democratic resolve of ordinary people that succeeded in saving a government challenged by some criminal thugs, power-hungry Islamist zealots or opportunistic politicians?
Yesterday, Erdoğan and his men were under attack, unsure of their safety, taking refuge in the democratic resolve of the nation. Today, they are the powerful, sovereign master of the country once again and thus do not need to satisfy the democratic expectations of the people. At least that’s the impression the latest decision of the Gaziantep First Penal Court of Peace gave in clamping down on freedom of press and the constitutional right of the people to get informed of developments. The Gaziantep court ruled moments after a deadly blast at a wedding ceremony that killed scores of people that writing, commenting or criticizing anything about the attack was banned.
The application by the AKP government was nothing different than the 1980s state security courts or the courts of serious crimes with special powers in the early 1990s. These special courts, very much appreciated by the political power, were the real impediments to both democracy and the notion of justice in this country.
For a brief period, some people lived the fantasy that the AKP and Erdoğan had changed and the country could perhaps move toward a working democracy now. Though very briefly, this writer was one of those sharing that absurd fantasy. If nothing else, the Gaziantep news ban, difficulties in access as well as the slowed speed of Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets, the decision to recruit thousands of policemen of their own choice and attempts to make military commanders the AKP’s service boys must have woken up everyone from that fantasy…
Welcome back to the AKP reality.