Right to question

Right to question

Should Twitter and YouTube be banned? Why is the chief judge of the Constitutional Court so worried about growing authoritarianism? Why did a government that has just renewed its electoral mandate engage in a vengeful campaign against an Islamist brotherhood? Why intervene in the judiciary when you have so much power after an important electoral victory? Can such attitudes really help strengthen democracy?

These were not exactly verbatim, but indeed a translation of what German President Joachim Gauck asked during his public appearances in Ankara. With those questions, he became the voice of indeed many Turkish intellectuals who are far more worried of the advancing authoritarianism and absence of checks and balances against it in this country.

There are two more important elections ahead of this country. Only months are left to the August presidential election, for the first time through direct vote of the people. Many people might hate to even consider such a possibility, but the strongest potential candidate for the presidential vote is Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Should he decide to run, most probably he will be elected. At least the local election results show that with some support of the Kurdish spectrum of Turkish politics, Erdoğan might easily be elected in the first vote. The opposition might have a chance in the presidential vote if there is a second vote and if they manage to unite behind a candidate who will contest against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate. Parliamentary elections, on the other hand, are scheduled for July next year. Yet, because of the three term limitation for deputies in the AKP’s statute, Erdoğan’s possible candidacy for Çankaya and uncertainty as regards who will replace him as premier and party leader are pouring fuel into the political fire of Ankara.

With two important elections on the horizon, they are obviously the fundamental reasons why Erdoğan has been continuing his vengeful, revengeful, angry rhetoric. He needed that “tool,” as dangerous as it might be, to consolidate his electoral support and ensure victory. It is a fact that polarization is an element used by Erdoğan as a tool to consolidate and advance the AKP’s strength in elections. It might be considered dangerous, but the polarization tactic was repeatedly successfully used by the premier in the past many elections. Of course, the failure of opposition parties to come up with hope and fresh ideas offering remedies to the problems of the country, but instead preferring to play second fiddle to Erdoğan, was a factor that contributed to the AKP’s past consecutive electoral victories.

The macho style of leadership might be criticized by the intellectuals, but the past many elections showed clearly that the power-worshipping masses love to see a determined, bold and bossy leader.

Obviously under the past decade of Erdoğan’s rule, Turkey has developed a lot, not only economy-wise, but also as regards in dealing with thorny subjects like the Kurdish issue, the Armenian problem or the Cyprus quagmire. Erdoğan, with some qualifications but still, for the first time ever publicly sharing the grief of Armenians over the 1915 events was definitely a landmark. The lull in separatist terrorism related violence – the price of which worries many people – is as well a grand success for Erdoğan.

Yet, can we comfortably say Turkey is advancing in democracy? If people are scared of talking; if critics are silenced with police truncheons, water cannons, gas canisters and pluralism is being replaced with a gross majoritarianism, should we not ask whether we have plain, advanced or any sort of democracy?