Tense Times In Turkey

Dec 17 2013 @ 8:31am

Christopher de Bellaigue provides a pessimistic update on the country since the Gezi Park protests that made headlines last summer:

A vindictive authoritarianism is taking hold of Turkey. To the prime minister’s supporters this is regrettable but necessary; many I have spoken to think that the protest at Gezi Square was organized by foreign agitators, and that the protesters should have been crushed more harshly than they were. In a democracy, these people believe, the will of the majority is determined at the ballot box and then carried out. This, they say, is what had been happening quite successfully until the liberals, realizing they were too few to win an election, turned to seditious activities instead. The idea that the beliefs of liberal minorities should be legally protected and might actually have an influence on policymaking has not been accepted by the government, which claims to speak for the majority. …

Erdoğan has encouraged a species of conservatism that is now the dominant mode of life throughout Turkey. The culture is pietistic, implicitly anti-Alevi, and materialistic. This last factor is new, for until quite recently virtue was associated with austerity and self-reliance; now the faithful demand rewards in this world in the form of high-performance cars, iPads, and so forth—acquired using the family credit card.

But Claire Sadar sees Erdoğan’s iron fist slipping:

The AKP has been making some insane policy threats lately. These statements have (justifiably) caused an uproar from many Turks and Turkey watchers. However, I think we all need to take a step back and consider the possibility, or probability, that despite their current vice-like grip on Turkish politics, the neither Erdoğan nor the AKP in general have the power or mandate to carry through with many of these proposed “reforms.” It is too early to predict the long-term consequences, but Erdoğan’s antics seem to be backfiring and causing even some former supporters to question his leadership.

The first piece of good news is that Erdoğan is not going to get his wish to become the first American-style President of Turkey anytime soon. The commission tasked with reforming the current constitution, which was created by the generals in the wake of 1980 military coup, has fallen apart. The AKP had already agreed in August not to push for a presidential system to be included in the new constitution. Turkey still desperately needs a more liberal constitution but the AKP does not seem to be ready to make the concessions needed to make this happen.

Previous Dish on the situation in Turkey here, here, here and here.