Why is the premier so aggressive?
The ruling Justice and development Party (AKP) of Turkey is perhaps the one and only in the world over the past decade to succeed in giving an “aggrieved” image, although it has been in power and is thus a potential aggressor.
It was the headscarf ban, or the down-looking attitude of the secularist elite, the military, academia… You continue the list. Now, there is no headscarf ban; the doors of schools are wide open to girls wearing veils or even those who cover their bodies head to toe. The secularist elite is perfectly domesticated, sidelined, or rendered ineffective. Silivri has been filled with academics, journalists, businessmen and of course retired officers and generals – including force commanders and a former chief of general staff – while hundreds of active officers and generals have been confined to Hasdal military prison.
The AKP that came to power back in 2002 as the “party of the aggrieved conservative and pious” sections of the Turkish society has over the years become a machine determined to create a nation of its own liking. That’s indeed the fundamental cause behind the current social explosion, rather than a couple of trees in Taksim’s Gezi Park, or the just enacted law expanding the alcohol ban.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is perhaps the sole political leader who has been attaching great importance to public opinion polls. Several companies are very frequently conducting polls for the AKP. Indeed, that’s why throughout the past decade Erdoğan knew almost precisely the poll result, days before every election. Nowadays, there are claims that his party’s popularity has dipped to as low as the mid 40 percents, while Erdoğan has been dreaming of becoming president with some 60 percent or higher in popular support. The drop in the AKP’s popularity might be a natural result of being tired in governance, or a probable confusion of nationalist voters because of the Kurdish opening, or simply a lack of enthusiasm in the now over-confident pious electorate.
What might be the easiest way for the AKP to win electoral support? If only 10 months are left to the local polls, and if those polls are of crucial importance for the prime minister, he obviously needs to somehow create an aggrieved perception. How? Rehashing old grievances must be considered the easiest way out. The Gezi Park incident could have been restricted to just a small environmentalist demonstration, but the police, under the orders of the interior minister, dealt with it using horrendous brute force, triggering a national uproar. Under normal circumstances in a country where there is a massive uprising in almost all 81 cities (only in four cities was there no noteworthy upheaval), the government would do something to soothe the tension or go to early polls and ask people to renew its mandate. However, Erdoğan first preferred to escalate the tension with provocative statements, then after seeing “sufficient polarization” and “consolidation” of his electoral support, he opened the way to negotiations with the “çapullers.”
Could there be a compromise path out of the current impasse? Probably not. As the government displayed yesterday with attacks on Taksim once again, compromise is not the style of Erdoğan. Most probably he will further escalate the “controlled tension” and force the “çapullers” to step back.
Can he manage that? This is a sui-generis uprising and it is a test for Erdoğan as well.