By Oya Baydar
February 1, 2021
Turkey is evolving from authoritarianism to fascism under the tutelage of the far-right leader Devlet Bahçeli, to whom President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defers to stay in power. Turkish and international observers have until recently failed to take the full measure of Bahçeli’s importance, treating him as the “junior partner” of Erdoğan, overlooking that Bahçeli is the political front-figure of the state establishment and that he gives voice to the die-hard nationalist, militarist-expansionist mentality that is deeply entrenched in the Turkish state. Meanwhile, the opposition does not offer a democratic counter-force as it too remains wedded to statist nationalism. Yet, faced with the imminent threat of fascism, the parties of the Turkish opposition must sooner or later recognize that it will be their turn next and that the western parts of Turkey cannot and will not remain democratic when the eastern, Kurdish part of the country is under the rule of dictatorship.
Murat Belge in Birikim notes that Tayyip Erdoğan has made an alliance with the military, but he asks if this also means that there’s an agreement between the president and the generals. An agreement means that those who have made it decide to abandon defending at least some of the things they respectively believe in. It doesn’t mean that two sides have come to share the same views, only that they have created a basis that allows for them to co-exist side by side. I’m of the opinion that Tayyip Erdoğan believes that he has reached such an “agreement” with the Armed Forces, or more correctly with its current high command. At the same time, I’m of the opinion that this is not an “agreement.” Above all, Tayyip Erdoğan himself hasn’t changed his mind about anything. But there can still be “common goals,” as for instance the present Kurdish policy. On this point they have met. Moreover, the stance toward Europe also seems to present a potential point of convergence. If the stance of the military is still the same as it was during the 1990’s, then this means that the military is against the EU. And Tayyip Erdoğan has no sympathy toward the EU. To sum, my opinion is that there is no “agreement” between the Armed forces and Tayyip Erdoğan regarding certain principles, but that there is a “cease-fire.” Every cease-fire has the potential of evolve into an agreement, and that can very well happen. However, this is not going to be an agreement about respecting the principles of democracy and on paving the way for democratization. That much can be predicted today.
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.