Study by main opposition CHP argues Turkey is sliding toward ‘semi-totalitarian’ regime

Study by main opposition CHP argues Turkey is sliding toward ‘semi-totalitarian’ regime

Barçın Yinanç - ISTANBUL
Study by main opposition CHP argues Turkey is sliding toward ‘semi-totalitarian’ regime

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A new academic study by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) argues that the authoritarianism of Turkey’s ruling party has gone beyond the political sphere to include all of society, including the cultural and economic spheres. As a result, Turkey is sliding toward a “semi-totalitarian” regime.

Modern day authoritarianism does not rely on physical force, or violence, according to Professor Sencer Ayata, a deputy head of the CHP, who headed the team that prepared the study.  

“In name and form there is democracy in Turkey, but the problem is in the implementation,” Ayata said on May 29, speaking to a group of journalists in Istanbul. “The oppression, for instance, is hidden behind the law.” 

Turkey is under a “disguised, or masked, authoritarianism,” he added. But while other authoritarian regimes that restrict political freedoms refrain from interfering in personal freedoms and private lives, the AKP’s rule both limits political freedoms and stages multifaceted interventions in personal lifestyles.

“The Justice and Development Party’s [AKP] practices are abolishing the divide between the government and the state. There is an integration of a political party, the government, and the state,” Ayata said. The principle of the “will of the people” is taken as the basis of all rule by the AKP. This “national will” is understood as the majority in parliament. But while the power of the executive is being expanded, the legislative body - in other words, parliament - is seen as a sub-branch of the executive. 

With the increasing practice of passing multi-article omnibus laws, parliament is being treated as little more than the “ministry for enacting laws” and its “inspection authority” is being weakened, according to Ayata.

Steps have been taken to make the Court of Public Accounts (Sayıştay), whose main responsibility is to inspect state spending, dysfunctional. The Sayıştay’s decades-old practice of sending audit reports of public institutions for parliamentary inspection has been obstructed in recent years.

“Parliamentarians are just acting as deputies of the leader and officials of the party,” said Ayata. 

He also explained how justice is being instrumentalized: Both to keep the ruling elites outside of legal inspection and also to oppress dissidents. The book has been prepared by the CHP’s research, science and governance department, and includes several examples of how the law has been taken under control and used as a tool in the hands of the ruling class. The judiciary is now being used as a protection shield for supporters of the government, as in the case when the law was amended simply to grant a near legal immunity to the head of the National Intelligence Agency (MİT). It is also being used as an arbitrary punishment mechanism against opponents.

Ayata claimed that the AKP’s concept of leadership was approaching a “fascistic” one. “There is a leader who is not questioned. He is seen as a leader who on the one hand saves us and on the other hand fights all evil forces. He is also accepted as representing truth and righteousness just by himself,” he said.

The CHP’s study includes in depth analysis of how the AKP’s practices - from citizens’ private lives to the business environment, from personal liberties to the cultural sphere - aim to gradually build an authoritarian society. This regime, it claims, is now at the edge of semi-totalitarianism.