By Gareth H. Jenkins
February 1st, 2016, The Turkey Analyst
The sustained clashes in urban areas that have wracked southeast Turkey in recent months mark a new stage in the decades-old insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and threaten to escalate into a full-blown civil war. Although it is still not too late to pull the country back from the brink, neither the Turkish government nor its Western allies appear aware of the extent of the danger that it is facing.
Etyen Mahçupyan in Akşam writes that a new form of modern religiosity emerged in the 1990’s, and that the AKP’s rule has given the new, modern conservative identity a great impetus. The socioeconomic base of this identity is the greater prosperity, urbanization and the growth of the middle class. The nuclear families are becoming standard among the segment of population that has Islamic sensitivities, tending to the needs of children and nourishing their capabilities is increasingly given priority in these families, and new patterns of consumption affect everything from health to leisure activities. This globalization of consumption patterns creates a new world in which the bonds of the traditional religious fraternities wither, where individualism becomes the norm, and where personal interests and relations widen to include different socio-cultural constructions… This new wave of change has a critical impact on the political level. Even though the “new” modern conservatives are still not dominant numerically, they are nonetheless qualitatively absolutely essential… That is so because without their support, AKP cannot keep power, and they are the Islamic segment that reacts to the stances of the party more quickly than any other segment. Furthermore, this is a segment that is growing very rapidly… They are perhaps the only democratic group in terms of what modern democracy needs… For this reason, one can probably predict that this segment is where democracy is going to become entrenched and mature.
Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet writes that Turkey is not making headway in the Middle East, which means that AKP’s strategy to swallow MHP is endangered. Turkey’s “arrows” are not only missing their targets, they are also provoking a backlash. The Sunni Turcoman areas in Syria are now under the control of the forces of Assad. The military incursion into the Mosul region backfired. The downing of the Russian plane has backfired even more dramatically, with Russia deploying strong military, economic and political pressures in response. And now, after Putin has deployed S-300 and S-400 missile defenses in Syria, Turkey cannot even send up an airplane against Syria. Ankara is left without a single political card to play in the Middle East. It is left alone at the chess table. The political meaning of the command of the U.S. to Turkey to leave Mosul is “You are not going to have any influence on the drawing of new maps in the Middle East.” Thus, it is becoming impossible to achieve the kind of results in the Middle East that would satisfy the Turkish nationalism of the MHP voters. Nonetheless, the single most important internal political tool that will help AKP detach voters from MHP is the operation against PKK.
Kadri Gürsel on Diken news site writes that Erdoğan’s big aim is to change the constitution and formally introduce a presidential system. This is aim is going to be accomplished by political cannibalism, by AKP swallowing MHP. The Sunni conservative and nationalist bases of these two parties are more or less identical. The relentless fight against PKK that the Erdoğan regime has started has satisfied the Turkish nationalist base, while at the same time depriving MHP of an important asset, and has significantly weakened the opposition base against AKP. When it becomes clear that MHP is going to fall below the threshold to parliament in the next election, it will become possible to attract around twenty or so MPs from MHP, which Erdoğan’s goal requires. Then, AKP’s constitution will be approved in parliament, and subsequently also in a referendum with over fifty percent of the votes as the AKP base will have been extended with the absorption of the MHP base. If on the other hand the necessary MPs from MHP don’t join AKP, a snap election will be called in an appropriate moment and MHP will be pushed under the threshold to parliament… Of course, the precondition for the execution of these scenarios of political cannibalism is that the crises in Syria and Iraq evolve according to Erdoğan’s wishes.
Ergun Babahan in Özgür Düşünce writes that the southeast of Turkey is awash in blood. In areas near the border, the state is only able to demonstrate its power with tanks and armored vehicles. Those who look at Cizre or Diyarbakır are reminded of Iraq during the American occupation. The risks are extremely great. There is a possibility that the fighting is going to spread to the Kurdish area in Syria. The AKP is taking steps that are going to raise tensions further, and remove the possibility of finding political solutions. The atmosphere of fighting is likely going to enable Erdogan to pursue his repressive policies and help him win a probable referendum on the introduction of a presidential system, as the fighting ensures that he will get the support of MHP voters. Yet the government should recognize that it is not facing a group of armed youth. It is facing a movement that has a strong popular support. Turkey is racing toward a big fire.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.