Monday, 24 June 2013

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

Several leading Turkish commentators warn that the confrontational response of the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the protests in Istanbul and elsewhere in Turkey has set the country on an extremely dangerous course. Columnists like Cengiz Çandar and Hasan Cemal, who have until recently been ardent supporters of Erdoğan, are voicing serious concern and are sharply critical of the prime minister. So are several prominent commentators in the media outlets of the vastly influential Fethullah Gülen movement. Hüseyin Gülerce in Zaman calls for the restitution of the broad coalition for democratization that had brought the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power. İhsan Dağı in Zaman has in a series of articles observed that Erdoğan has moved away from the center and that he is in danger of marginalizing himself politically. 



Can Dündar in Milliyet wonders if the prime minister is content with the images of Turkey that he sees on television. Doesn’t he see that Turkey is giving the impression of having turned into a police state? Looking at Taksim, does he feel proud of having cleansed the place by “gassing them all”? Isn’t he afraid of the consequences of his polarizing stance, when he sets his supporters against his opponents, when he pours gasoline on the fire? Is he unable to calculate that violence will breed more violence, and that after a while even the police will not be able to restore order and calm? He says that everything is a “scheme”; but doesn’t he himself play the main cast if that supposed scheme by escalating the violence? Isn’t he jeopardizing everything – his own presidency, the new constitution, the peace process, societal peace, the support of the international community and economic stability?


Hüseyin Gülerce in Zaman writes that although the Gezi protests started with innocent and justified demands, what then followed was the result of a grand scheme. This scheme does not target the prime minister or the AK Party primarily. It is Turkey, its ambitions that is the target of the scheme. The goal is to foil Turkey’s ambitions. Seen in this perspective, we need to do two things: first of all, those who scheme exploit our differences, our weaknesses.  What is being provoked is a sectarian fight, a civil war. The plan, the project, is based on exploiting, on exacerbating the Turkish-Kurdish, Sunni-Alevi and secular-religious divides. Unfortunately, the Gezi Park events have turned best friends into antagonists. We need to overcome these divides. Secondly, democratization must not be halted. The democratic front must be strengthened, and we have to come together in a spirit of tolerance and reconciliation.


İhsan Dağı in Zaman refers to a recent survey by KONDA and Metropoll that demonstrates that the Gezi protests in fact have found a profound echo among the majority of the population of Turkey. 50 percent of the population thinks that the AK Party government has become more authoritarian. 27 percent of the voters of the AK Party hold the same view. 54 percent of the population believes that the government interferes in their private lives; 33 percent of the AK Party voters think the same. This is a reminder that there also “secular” voters among the base of the AK Party. We can call these center right voters. This means that an AK Party that moves to an Islamist position in its rhetoric and policies is going to lose the center where it had positioned itself originally. The Gezi protesters may be a small group, but they have set in motion a political dynamic that needs to be properly understood. The Gezi Park incidents are not going to strengthen marginal groups, as is commonly assumed; they are on the contrary going to bolster the centrist movements that defend dialogue, participation and tolerance in politics.



Hasan Cemal on the T24 news site sounds the alarm bell in an impassioned column. Cemal writes that Prime Minister Erdoğan has set Turkey on an extremely dangerous course. And this is only because of you, Mr. Prime Minister. You should know that the problem is you, Mr. Prime Minister, and nothing else! You are the only one to blame. It is your inability, unwillingness to tolerate dissent and your determination to punish those who disagree with you that has set the country on its present dangerous course. Mr. Prime Minister, your speeches in Ankara and Istanbul during the last weekend were full of denigrating remarks and threats abounded. Your rhetoric is polarizing, and it is dividing Turkey into hostile camps for every passing day. You are provoking the police, the supporters of the CHP, and worst of all, the pious! This is deepening the crisis and what you are doing is so very harmful to Turkey, to peace and democracy.


Cengiz Çandar in Radikal notes that 4 people have been killed, 7 822 injured, 11 lost an eye, that 6 people are in intensive care and that almost a thousand have been detained during the violent police repression of the Gezi protests. And add to this that the disturbed psychology of the country, and the fact that a significant part of the population has lost its trust in the government, something that is not likely to be restored. Turkey’s international image has also suffered severely. As President Abdullah Gül aptly put it, “you may work hard to create an image in ten years, and then you destroy it in ten days.” To whom was he in fact referring when he said these words? We understand it as he meant the prime minister. But perhaps that’s a misunderstanding on our part. If the president makes a clarification, we’ll understand better. The saying is that everything is going to change in politics after Gezi; Turkey is indeed at a crossroads. We are either headed towards fascism or toward a freer Turkey.

Read 6384 times Last modified on Friday, 05 July 2013

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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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