The political atmosphere in Turkey is increasingly starting to resemble a soap opera, with the undisputed protagonist Erdogan.
Within days Turkey becomes ERDOGANIA, the empire of the Erdogan family clan.
- Recep Tayyip Erdogan controls everything as president, the party, the government, the media, the police and so on. A one-man-show. If you do not support and say anything against him, you support “terrorism” and get jailed.
- Maybe his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, since June 2015, and Minister of Energy and Natural Resources since November 2015, will become prime minister and his successor.
- His son Bilal is now being investigated in Italy over claims of money-laundering and bringing millions of dollars in cash into the country without authorisation. Prosecutors in Bologna have opened an investigation, where he studies for a doctorate at the Johns Hopkins University. He is the business center of the Erdogan-family clan. If you need the support of the president, contact him.
Turkey became the only dictatorship in a NATO country.
A democracy only on paper now, but with almost no substance left.
Three particular political developments occurred in Turkey this week and although they may appear unrelated at first, they all point to the same trend of undoing the democratic institutions, secularism and freedom of expression which have been the foundations of Turkey’s post-Ottoman political identity.
1. The first event was the unexpected declaration of intention to resign from Turkey’s prime minister Ahmet Davutouglu. Davutoglou made no secret of the fact that this decision was a result of a fall out with president Erdogan.
- The bookish academic-turned-politician was installed in his position after Erdogan exhausted his last constitutional mandate as prime minister and took on the more ceremonial role of president of the republic. To make sure that his bidding was still done, he used his position at the head of the ruling AKP party to appoint Davutoglou, who he thought would be pliant and quiescent.
- As it turned out, Davutoglou, who previously served as foreign minister, was not always willing to blindly follow Erdogan. More importantly Davutoglou was not supporting the shift to a presidential republic system, which would entail huge transfers of power away from the government to the office of the president.
- Although his resignation is a direct result of Erodgan’s pressure, Davutoglou declared that “Erdoğan’s honour is my honour and I will not accept any speculation concerning my relationship with President Erdoğan. We have always stood shoulder to shoulder.”
- The outgoing prime minister joins others whose concerns have led to them being sidelined or sacked, including President Erdogan’s predecessor Abdullah Gul and former Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc.
- Erdogan is rumoured to be trying to appoint his son-in-law and current Energy minister, Berat Albayrak, as the new premier. Government spokesman Numan Kurtulmus and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, both Erdogan loyalists, are other potential candidates to replace Davutoglu.
2. The second event was a ridiculous argument in the Turkish Parliament on Thursday. Strangely enough, the argument was not sparked by Davutoglu’s resignation or any disagreement on matters of security or policy, but by an attempted citation of Oscar Wilde by a member of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP). An AKP member, unhappy that the quote was neither from a muslim nor from a Turkish man, interrupted him shouting: “Do you not have any examples from this culture, this civilisation?” The fight continued, amid confusion and hilarity, and the HDP deputy was eventually cut off and his Oscar Wilde quote was never heard. This strange act of what seems to have become a political soap opera in Turkey, follows last week’s violent and ugly brawl, where an Armenian member of the Parliament, Garo Paylan, was assaulted physically and through hate speech by members of the AKP. He told journalists at a press conference: “During the attack, AKP members pointed at me and yelled ‘Come, Garo is there,’ and stressed my Armenian heritage, yelling hateful slurs directed at me,” and added that “the fascists are scared, and will attack insidiously only in groups.” Both these incidents in the Turkish Parliament bear testimony to the process turning Turkey into an increasingly monolithic society, where if one is not Turkish or Muslim, one is hindered from expressing their opinions openly or fully participating in the democratic process.
3. The third event of the week was President Erdogan’s toughening of his position vis-a-vis the European Union.
- “We’ll go our way, you go yours” Erdogan said to the European Commission, after this institution recommended Turkey to harmonise its anti-terrorism laws with those of the EU if it were to be granted visa-free travel in the Schengen Area of the European Union. Erdogan went on to accuse EU officials of letting “terrorists build tents and provide them with opportunities in the name of democracy.” He was referring to the supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) who have erected tents outside the European Parliament in Brussels in opposition to the latest EU-Turkey deal on the management of the refugee crisis.
- These statements are in line with the recent escalation of Erdogan’s rhetoric, referring to any critics ranging from non-supportive journalists to political dissidents as terrorists or terrorist supporters. This language allows Erdogan to instill fear among the population and appear as the only tough leader that the country needs, rendering himself indispensable in the eyes of the public and thus concentrating even more power.
- The toughening of the EU line is a clear message to the European Union that it should start getting used to negotiate with him, although it is within the prime minister’s purview to do so. Davutoglou was the main negotiator of the Turkey-EU deal, thus going against the deal is tantamount to undoing his work, delegitimising his position and that of the office of the prime minister of Turkey. Perhaps this is the most aggressive act in an attempt to assert the supremacy of the office of the president over that of the prime minister in Turkey.
(You can read more about the EU-Turkey Refugee deal here: What you have to know about the EU-Turkey Refugee Deal)
As Globalo has reported over the last few months, Turkey is sliding ever more to dictatorial and authoritarian tendencies. On average, every four days someone is being sued in Turkey for insulting Erdogan – almost 2,000 people since he became president. Among them are artists, journalists, cartoonists, academics, even students for Facebook comments. Newspaper editors critical of him have been convicted to 5 years imprisonment.
But he is also presiding over a deep general crisis on all fronts. The conflict with the Kurdish PKK is making Turkey an increasingly unsafe place to live, with seven suicide bombs in a year blamed on the PKK and the Islamic State. In terms of economic indicators, Turkey is also experiencing a nosedive with double-digit unemployment and there is an expected tourism drop of about 40% this year. These are all indicators that AKP’s policies are failing on all fronts and a breath of liberal democracy needs to blow in the shores of Turkey if it is to prosper again.