The explosion at the Soma coal mine that claimed the lives of three hundred workers has led some to critical comments against the neo-liberal economic regime in Turkey. Hasan Cemal, a liberal commentator, argues that it’s time to revisit long-forgotten notions like social justice and he questions the wisdom of totally expelling the state from the economy. The rising tensions in Turkish society are of great concern for many commentators. Oral Çalışlar, a liberal, warns that Turkey is drifting toward chaos. And although he does not hold Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan solely responsible for this dangerous drift, he nonetheless argues that Erdoğan’s reactions exacerbate the polarization and he urges him to take steps that ease the tensions. Yüksel Taşkın, a social democratic academic and columnist, accuses the AKP government of having intentionally alienated the Alevis and he warns that especially the Alevi youth has become a powder keg that is ready to blow up.
Prime Minister Erdoğan’s leadership style is the subject of many comments. Eyüp Can in Radikal claims that Erdoğan wants to become Turkey’s second founding father after Atatürk. He observes that Turkey does not need another “father” who would rule with an iron fist, and that the country is too diverse for such an attempt to succeed. Murat Belge in Taraf, meanwhile, points to the societal foundations of Erdoğan’s ambitions. He suggests that the lack of democratic culture among the rural bourgeoisie that is the main force behind AKP sustains the drive to impose a majoritarian system. Meanwhile, Yüksel Taşkın in Taraf sees hope emerging that the urban bourgeoisie – the Kemalists – is going to promote democratic values, as this would conform to its class interests.
The speech that Haşim Kılıç, the president of the Turkish Constitutional Court, gave at the 52th anniversary of the founding of the court, sharply criticizing the government for the purges in the judiciary, has been widely castigated by pro-government commentators. Kılıç, a religious conservative, is condemned as a “traitor” to the cause of the Islamic conservatives. More cautious commentators observe that Kılıç has pointed to a real problem, but nonetheless make the case that Kılıç and the court needs to dispel the impression that it is taking sides in the power struggle between the government and the supporters of Fethullah Gülen.
The March 30 municipal elections in Turkey are generally viewed as a resounding victory for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as a consequential defeat for the movement of Fethullah Gülen and for the opposition that was tacitly allied with the movement. Still, commentators who are opposed to Erdogan point out that his party sustained a sizeable loss compared to the general elections in 2011 that cannot be ignored. They also ask if he is going to be able to govern a country that is as fractured and highly polarized as Turkey has become. The observation is made that every election since 2002 has demonstrated the existence of three, culturally distinct Turkeys, and that the March 30 elections showed that these differences have hardened to a point where the question becomes if the people of Turkey still has the will to live together.
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.