The brotherhood and the dictator
Sharing power is not as easy as is said. Particularly for a political movement that came from the ashes to power, such a psychological condition - the euphoria of victory - develops that it might start thinking of itself as the “master of the universe.” Did you see the soap opera on the life of “the master” on Melih Gökçek’s son’s Beyaz TV station?
Since the apprentice of 2002 became the “foreman” in the 2007 vote, problems between the “foreman” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Fethullah Gülen Islamist brotherhood have started to pile up. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Erdoğan was no longer the small dissident group that parted ways with Necmettin Erbakan and his “National View.” With such strong electoral support, why should it continue sharing power with the brotherhood? Still, somehow the battle hatchets were pushed aside, if not buried, and continued cohabitation was preferred at a time when war against the former establishment, the secularist Kemalists, was to be escalated.
The 2011 elections produced an even stronger AKP, despite claims that the brotherhood was no longer eagerly supporting it. The “foreman” had become the “master”; consolidated his absolute rule; and indeed even managed to achieve a full transfer of power from the military-academia-judiciary residues of the old regime, establishing its own tutelage regime. As a government receiving the support of one in every two of Turks in “free and fair polls,” why would Erdoğan and his men share power with the Gülenists, at least in the 2002 conditions?
While the 2007-2011 fight between the brotherhood and the AKP was away from the public eye, the second campaign was in front of the public, in the media. Indeed, with a totally impotent political opposition to the AKP government, the Islamist brotherhood in a way became the real opposition force against the Islamist government. Of course, Gülenists reject that the brotherhood has become the den of opposition against the government, stressing they have only been trying to show the “right way,” and nothing else. Still, it is no secret that in the silenced society of this fear empire, the brotherhood has became more and more vociferous and has thus started serving as inspiration to political opponents, academics, and journalists.
The brotherhood becoming a vociferous opposition in the absence of credible opposition parties might be an element giving hope for the future of Turkey’s frail democracy. Indeed, the brotherhood has always stressed its commitment to democracy, as opposed to Erdoğan’s “democracy is a train we stay on until we reach our destination” mentality. However, the brotherhood is a “confederation of small businesses” and will be strong as long as it shares power with the government. That’s why Erdoğan has been trying to cleanse the bureaucracy, as well as politics, of Gülenists. That’s why there is a fight between the government and the Gülenists, particularly in the higher judiciary and police intelligence, where Gülenists have established almost absolute control.
Now Erdoğan is fuming about being branded as a dictator, saying that if he was a dictator no one would dare say it. He is right, but with no intention of comparing him with such awkward personalities, I remember many tyrants in this region making similar remarks. Did any of them accept they were dictators? Others cannot, of course, make such claims. If they do, their bosses will pay in tax fines and such methods of absolute discipline. The brotherhood, however, is such a loose confederation that deciding who to punish and how to punish them is not easy to decide, even for the man with absolute power.