Wednesday, 09 October 2013

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

The democratization package that Prime Minister Erdoğan unveiled on September 30 was welcomed as a “revolution” by conservative and liberal supporters of the government. Commentators who are critical took the opposing view, decrying the package as totally unsatisfying, and warning that reforms that only cater to the conservative base of the ruling party, leaving the grievances of others – Kurds, Alevis and urban secularists – unaddressed, are invariably going to create new tensions. There were also many commentators who took the middle position; these agreed that the package is indeed flawed, but defended that it nonetheless represents a step in the right direction. The point was made that the lack of a strong, democratic opposition leaves all democratization initiatives to the discretion of the Justice and Development Part (AKP). 

KOPTAŞ: THE DEMOCRATIZATION PACKAGE IS POSITIVE, BUT MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE

Rober Koptaş in Agos writes that everyone who is not a fanatic agrees that the contents of the democratization package are without doubt all positive, but that more needs to be done in order to remedy the shortcomings of Turkish democracy. The contents of the package are all things that need to be supported. We know how terribly arduous Turkey’s democratization process is, so therefore we need to scrupulously protect every step that holds the promise of freeing us from the tyranny and harshness of a state that has been addicted to enforcing homogeneity. The package reflects the established strategy of the AK Party, which is to offer as little as possible in return for as much as possible. Undoubtedly, this creates a problem for the development of democracy. Yet the lack of a democratic opposition force in the country ultimately leaves democratization to the discretion of the AK Party. Unlike previous packages, this one is the result not of the pressures of the EU, but of the internal dynamics of Turkey. This a success that we owe not least to the efforts of the Kurdish movement, but what has also played a role is the fact that the different parts of society in Turkey have come to embrace a more open, pluralistic worldview. Except for a few fanatics, society had already solved the headscarf problem; there is no real divergence of opinions regarding alcohol. The use of Kurdish as the education language no longer inspires as much fear among the Turks as it used to do.

 

BABAHAN: A PACKAGE THAT DOES NOT ADDRESS THE DEMANDS OF THE GEZI PROTESTERS, THE ALEVIS AND THE KURDS

Ergun Babahan on the t24 news site writes that the democratization package has created a huge disappointment. The reason why the package was prepared in the first place was to restore some of the respect that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had lost internally and internationally after the events in Istanbul in June, and in order to make sure that the PKK does not take up arms again, by demonstrating that some concrete steps are being taken to satisfy the Kurds. Meanwhile, there is not a single attempt in the package to address the concerns of  the Gezi Park demonstrators, who have been declared terrorists by the AK Party. As Amnesty International stated in its recent report on the events, these demonstrators were in fact victims of gross human rights abuses. But the package does not include anything that would discourage the police from deploying lethal violence against peaceful demonstrators. We are faced with an arrangement that is deeply flawed and that has disappointed the opposition in society, Kurds, Alevis. The only ones who have reason to be pleased are the conservatives, as the headscarf prohibition in the public sector has been lifted. A democratization package that only brings democracy to its own base is pregnant with new tensions and strife.

 

BAĞDAT: WHOSE “SENSIBILITIES” ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?

Hayko Bağdat in Taraf notes that Prime Minister Erdoğan defended the democratization package by implying that more could not be done under present circumstances, since the sensibilities of society, as he said, had had to be taken into account. Whose sensibilities are we talking about? Who would be hurt by steps taken in the name of universal rights, justice and equality? If there is anyone who feels discomfort today, is that not that the Kurds whose mother tongue is suppressed?  Are not the Armenians, Greeks, Syriacs – the ancient peoples of these lands that now is one of the Muslim countries where there are least Christians – more uneasy than the Muslims are? Are the sensibilities of this society still Turkish, Muslim, Sunni and male?

 

İNSEL: THE DEMOCRATIZATION PACKAGE IS NOT A REVOLUTION, BUT NEITHER IS IT EMPTY

Ahmet İnsel in Radikal writes that the democratization package has a wider embrace compared with the four preceding packages, but that it is more cautious when it comes to proposing short terms solutions to urgent problems. The package is neither a revolution nor can it be discarded as empty. No, the package does not address violations of fundamental rights and liberties that need to be remedied urgently. To be satisfied with little may be a virtue in the private life, but to have to be satisfied with little is definitely not a virtue for a democracy.

 

DAĞI: THE LIFTING OF THE HEADSCARF BAN IS A REVOLUTION

İhsan Dağı in Zaman writes that the content of the democratization package is of course important, but that its most significant aspect is that the “democratization demand” of society has been understood by the government. It shows that the government has gotten the message, that it has observed the need for democratization. There are of course things that are missing in the package, but their absence must not let us overlook what is present. The lifting of the headscarf ban is a revolution. To allow education in different languages in private schools is a typical step in the right direction which is not enough. To object that “what, will only those who have money be able to enjoy this right, which is denied the poor” is justified, but the objection is nonetheless out of place. It is evident what the next step is going to be. After this point, the right to education in the mother tongue can no longer be denied. One can only regret that the chance to introduce the system in the public schools was missed in this package; that would have offered valuable experience for what will follow.

Read 4530 times Last modified on Wednesday, 09 October 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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