Can Erdoğan and the AKP change?

Can Erdoğan and the AKP change?

There’s a Turkish saying that a person does not change much, and that in your 70th year you are almost the same as in your 7th year. If throughout the past 14 years a political leader and his party have ruled the country through the politics of tension, confrontation and dangerous polarization, is it possible to believe they could change because of a dreadful trauma? Could they really become people who are respectful of differences, giving importance to reconciliation, consensus politics, national unity and harmony?

The last time President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former President Abdullah Gül – as well as former deputy prime ministers Bülent Arınç and Abdüllatif Şener – declared that they had changed, “taking off the shirt of the ‘National View’” of the Necmettin Erbakan-led Islamist politics, few people believed them. Those who did not believe them were proven wrong after it later became clear that Erdoğan and his friends had indeed taken off the Turkish political Islamic shirt - and put on the Muslim Brotherhood shirt. The difference? The Hamas of Palestine, which was a clandestine terrorist gang in Erbakan’s Turkey, became a legitimate political representative of the Palestinian people - or at least Gaza - in Erdoğan’s Turkey. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which was a threat to Islam in Erbakan’s time, became such a valuable friend of Erdoğan that Turkey went to the extreme of almost severing ties with Egypt when the Muslim Brotherhood’s President Mohamed Morsi was toppled in a military coup. 

So it can be said that when he declared he had changed, Erdoğan indeed underwent a transformation 14 years ago. Or was Erdoğan just the same all the time, a Muslim Brotherhood fan Turkish politician, who managed to hide his true colors for a long time? Was Erdoğan sincere when he vowed to raise “religious” new generations? Was he sincere when he said “we can no longer act as we did before July 15. None of us can, including me as the president … The AK Party, which has been governing Turkey for the past 14 years, also cannot act as it used to”?

President Erdoğan has probably realized what a big mistake it was to insist on a Sunni-based sectarian governance understanding and foreign policy perspective based on constant tension. Whoever was advising the president that by polarizing the nation he was consolidating the conservative-Islamist base of the party basically paved the road to the July 15 failed coup. Was it not great to recently hear from Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş that from now on, recruitments and promotions in the public sector would be carried out on the basis of competence and qualifications, irrespective of whether or not candidates are pious? Were not Kurtulmuş’s words at the same time a confession that during the past 14 years the AKP has discriminated against secularists, non-practicing Muslims and non-Muslims, in favor of placing its pious supporters in public jobs, including jobs at local municipalities? Should we rejoice that the non-pious will now be able to have the opportunity of public employment?

It was great to hear those words coming out of the mouth of the president. But was he sincere? If he has really become a democratic personality wishing to embrace the entire nation, why do we have such a high number of journalists, businessmen and academics behind bars? Kurtulmuş, as well as Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, have proudly declared that there is not a single journalist in Turkish prisons who was imprisoned for their journalistic activities? Should we be realistic for one second? What was the non-journalistic activity of, for example, columnist Lale Kemal (Sarıibrahimoğlu) or Hürriyet reporter Arda Akın? Was not Akın the journalist who first reported the attempt by a prosecutor to interrogate National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan on Feb. 7, 2012, in connection to the now-collapsed Kurdish opening? The government must explain in detail the crimes that prosecutors are alleging, or the crimes of the 76 journalists already in prison, particularly the 46 journalists sent to prison since the failed coup? How many of them have been sentenced?

This government has made some changes to the Penal Code and introduced the clause of “reasonable doubt” to justify making detentions or arrests. For years journalists’ organizations and a few democratic personalities in this country have been stressing that not only should such dreadful and ambiguous clauses be lifted from the legislation, but the anti-democratic elements of all laws, particularly Article 5 of the anti-terror law under which most journalists have been arrested, must urgently be lifted.

Has Erdoğan changed? Has the AKP’s governance become more democratic? Will discrimination of the “others” of Turkish society be ended? If Erdoğan and the AKP are sincere, why don’t they act on the anti-terror law?

Well, they will not. They have even accepted sending down the visa deal with Europe down the drain simply to preserve that totally disgusting piece of legislation.