By Halil Karaveli

December 7th, 2015, The Turkey Analyst

The interplay of Western interests and internal Turkish dynamics has more often boosted authoritarianism than democracy in Turkey. Turkey’s strategic value as a “sentinel” during the Cold War gave Turkish governments a tacit license to suppress freedoms and democratic rights. The historical pattern is now being repeated. It is reassuring for the authoritarian Turkish regime that Turkey has once again become indispensable as a guard-post for its Western partners.

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Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet observes that HDP representatives are now hoping that Erdoğan is going to resume the peace process and that he will make concessions to the Kurds if they back the presidential system that he insists on introducing. But is Erdoğan going to bargain with HDP in the parliament while he is fighting the PKK ferociously on the ground? It’s less likely for the time being. At most, they might consider making minimal concessions to HDP that don’t threaten the unitary state, when they think that they are close to “finishing off the matter.” And this is because of the alliance between Erdoğan/AKP and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). The greatest ally of the AKP in the country is the TSK. One reason why Erdoğan is able to pursue his authoritarianism so brazenly is the “alliance” he has entered into with TSK. They have reached an agreement with TSK on the war against PKK, on the unitary integrity etc. Erdoğan cannot step outside these limits, until a new situation. That means it’s probably not on the agenda to seek endorsement from HDP in order to get an amended constitution accepted in parliament.

Hasan Cemal on the t24 news site writes that the military and Erdoğan have converged on three points, and that there does not seem to be any disagreement at all between them. The three points are the Kurdish problem, the fight against PKK and northern Syria…  I wonder if not a fourth point could be added to these three, and that is about democracy. Democracy and the rule of law no longer figure on Tayyip Erdoğan’s agenda. There is an Erdoğan on the stage that has turned his back on the West and who dislikes the EU…  Erdoğan is facing east. He has his gaze on Russia, Central Asia, China, and of course on the Islamic world. This eastern orientation was quite strong among the military during especially the 1990’s and during the first years of the 2000’s. The big pashas used to say “The European Union means first class democracy. Turkey is not ready for such a democracy; it would lead to our breakup. Let’s make an opening to the East, to Russia, China; that would be much better for Turkey…”  Could it be that Erdoğan and the military have met at the same point – that is in a common “antipathy toward democracy” – or perhaps more accurately in a shared “fear of democracy,” as Turkey is swinging from “military tutelage” to “civilian despotism?” Yes, I’d say that’s possible. Would not Erdoğan’s civilian despotism be strengthened when he sort of designates the military to deputize him? If this is indeed the case, it most certainly would strengthen his despotism.

Metin Münir on the t24 news site writes that no European country is as divided as Turkey is, with rival masses that hate each other to the death. Why is that the case in Turkey? It is so because in Turkey the population consists of people of different ethnicities, religions and fraternities and these have not been able to reach an agreement on how to live side by side in harmony and happiness. The absence of such an agreement makes Turkey an unfinished state, one without established democratic rules, without equality and justice, with religion and the state intermingled, an authoritarian entity where crony capitalism reigns supreme. Atatürk and his friends pushed religion to the background. Erdoğan and his friends are imposing Sunni Islam. Atatürk did not succeed. Erdoğan is not going to succeed either.

Mahmut Bozarslan on Bertaraf Haber writes that the PKK engaged the state in a ferocious fight without allowing the HDP the chance to do politics. And this time it did it by bringing the fighting into the middle of city centers… Even though the west of Turkey holds HDP responsible for the fighting, the Kurds knew very well who the responsible was. The declarations of self-rule in many Kurdish populated cities and the armed resistance on the streets, started to annoy the Kurds. The Kurds could not make sense of why there was suddenly a resumption of violence just as peace was within reach. The Kurdish voters stood up against PKK’s preference for violence. The HDP was made to pay for the violence that did not cease despite all calls from civil society. Yes, the state started the violence, but the PKK continued with it. The PKK could very well have declared that it was not going to take action and then withdrawn across the border. Not only did it choose not to withdraw, it turned the cities into war zones. And poor HDP had to pay the price. Yet despite everything negative, if one victor of the election is the AKP, so HDP is the second one. It is a major accomplishment to manage to get 59 parliamentarians elected despite all pressure and despite having been squashed under the tension that all the fighting has caused. The loser is the strategy of Kandil [the PKK], and the tactics of urban guerilla. As the saying goes, “War for the people in spite of the people” does not work.

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Joint Center Publications

Op-ed Halil M. Karaveli "Assasination in Ankara"Foreign Affairs, January 3, 2017

Essay Halil M. Karaveli "Erdogan's Journey"Foreign Affairs, October 19, 2016

Op-ed Halil M. Karaveli "Turkey's Fractured State", The New York Times, August 1, 2016

Op-ed Svante E. Cornell "A botched coup and Turkey’s descent into madness", Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies, July 19, 2016

Article Halil M. Karaveli , "Turkey's Decline", Foreign Affairs, March 2, 2016.

Article Halil M. Karaveli , "La Turquie, est-elle destinée à durer?", Centre for International Policy Studies, January 27, 2016.

Monograph Eric Edelman, Svante Cornell, Aaron Lobel, Halil Karaveli, "Turkey Transformed: The Origins and Evolution of Authoritarianism and Islamization under the AKP", Bipartisan Policy Center, October 2015.

Article Svante E. Cornell and M.K. Kaya, "The Naqshbandi-Khalidi Order and Political Islam in Turkey", Current Trends in Islamist Ideology, September 2015.

Article Svante E. Cornell, "Understanding Turkey's Tilt", Journal of International Security Affairs, no. 27, Winter 2014.

Monograph Eric S. Edelman, Svante E. Cornell, Aaron Lobel, Michael Makovsky, The Roots of Turkish Conduct: Understanding the Evolution of Turkish Policy in the Middle East, Washington: Bipartisan Policy Center, December 2013.

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.

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