Wednesday, 26 February 2014

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

The Turkish parliament’s adoption of a law that subordinates the judiciary to the government is sharply criticized by many columnists. Many are also expressing disappointment over the fact that President Abdullah Gül did not return the internet law to parliament. Mehmet Altan, a former supporter of the AKP, writes that Gül has forfeited his chances to be re-elected by rallying to Prime Minister Erdoğan. Orhan Bursalı in the secularist daily Cumhuriyet meanwhile interprets Gül’s non-veto as a sign that he and Erdoğan have reached an agreement. He notes that the authoritarian laws that are now passed strengthen the prime minister, which he sees as a sign that Erdoğan intends to remain in that position and let Gül keep the presidency. The general expectation outside the pro-government dailies is nonetheless that the end is nearing for the AKP regime. Ergun Babahan, formerly a pro-AKP commentator, warns Erdoğan that what has happened in Ukraine can also take place in Turkey.


Taha Akyol in Hürriyet writes that the changes that are taking place within the Turkish judiciary are unprecedented, that changes of this scope did not even happen after military coups. When it comes to the independence of the judiciary, the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors is the crucial instance; because it is the Council that appoints and inspects the judges and the prosecutors. With the law that was passed in parliament this authority – the mechanism of appointment and inspection – is transferred to the Justice Minister. It is obvious that the law has been enacted in order to assure the control of the executive over the judiciary. The government has committed a grave mistake by dealing a serious blow to the independence of the judiciary by passing this law.



Mümtaz’er Türköne in Zaman writes that the reorganization of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors provides sufficient answer to the question “who controls the state now”. Now that the judiciary has been subordinated to the executive, the state with all its powers has passed under the control of the AK Party government. The very raison d’être of the Council is that it ensured that the executive and the legislative branches could not poke their noses into the disciplinary matters of the judges and prosecutors. The transfer of the inspections of the judges to the Justice Minister means that the Council no longer has any function to fulfill. But is everything this simple? Can the AK Party succeed (in taking full charge of the state) at a time when it is weaker than ever, being crushed under the weight of the graft cases? The aim of the rearrangement of the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors is not restricted to stop the graft probes; it is a critical step in taking over the state. But something very important is lacking. In their decades’ long quest to conquer the state they forfeited a crucial vehicle: their ideology. The ideology of political Islam was a power project; when realized, it crumbled. What we have before us now is not an ideology, but the coalition of interests of an elite group which is increasingly contracting. They conquered the state, but a state whose legitimacy they have consumed no longer has the strength left to offer them power. The state is going to reclaim its legitimacy; by getting rid of the burden on its back.



Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet asks, why is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan passing law after law that will turn the coutry into the dictatorship of one man? What Erdoğan is saying is: you are not giving me the presidential system that I craved; then, I will take this presidency in all but name. All these laws – the internet law, the law regarding the Supreme Council of the Judges and Prosecutors and of course the National Intelligence Agency law – accord dictatorial powers not to the president but to the prime minister. Why do that six months before the presidential election? That means that he is not going to be a candidate for the presidency. He is going to leave the presidency to Gül. But he is going to rule the country as an iron-fisted prime minister. Doesn’t he already do that, you may ask. Yes he does, but not legally, not in accordance with the law. He tramples the constitution, the laws. With these new laws, Erdoğan is going to make his police state rule look legal. Yes, legal, but the spirit of the constitution will have been violated. We are living in a time when the constitution is being suspended.



Mehmet Altan on the t24 news site writes about what he calls the tragic change of President Abdullah Gül. Those who until recently were thinking that an AKP without Erdoğan was possible and those who hoped that the candidate of the AKP was going to prevail in the presidential election should revise their calculations. Gül has become the accomplice of Erdoğan since he seems bent on approving all his illegalities in order not to forfeit the support of the AKP base. Gül was seen as perhaps the only assurance that the AKP was going to win the presidential election; the fact that Gül has become part of the same political laundry makes it impossible for the AKP to win. The AKP’s only chance of political survival is that the party dissociates itself from Erdoğan’s oppressive policies, but it seems that they are not going to be able to do this.That Gül has joined the forces of “oppression” shows that the AKP has not much chance of being saved, I think.



Ergun Babahan on the t24 news site draws a parallell to what has happened in Ukraine, which he writes is an illustration of what is in store for every authoritarian, totalitarian leader who refuses to listen to the anger of the people, who enriches himself and suspends the rule of law. Turkey’s illiberal democracy is fast moving toward full-fledged authoritarianism. And just like Ukraine, Turkey faces another problem: the risk of partition. The increasing lawlessness, the suppression of all freedom of expression and the state’s equipment with fascist  attributes is a serious threat against the Kurds as well. This is a state that is increasingly becoming an edifice which the Kurds are not going to want to be included in. Our trajectory is disquieting. It should be remembered that the moment you think you are all-powerful is in fact the moment when you are weakest. But the prize is not going to be paid by yourself alone, but by a whole country. If this geography is ever going to become a happy place where Sunnis, Alevis, Turks and Kurds, homosexuals can live together in freedom, the solution is to build a liberal democracy, not turning into a Putin.



Mücahit Bilici in Taraf criticizes the Gülen movement, which he exhorts to abandon its statism and Turkish nationalism. Instead of sanctifying the state and trying to gain possession of it, defend what is right and fair against the state, and empower society. Elect to side with the oppressed instead of siding with a state that easily turns its owners into monsters. Make peace with the reality of Kurdistan. There is nowhere left for the Turks to go with the train of nationalism. The future belongs to a liberal and democratic religiosity. Discard the conservative dogmas of the past. Even though you acted with the best of intentions, you did a lot of bad things. Just as the prime minister has established a regime of oppression over above all media with the help of the intelligence agency, so your congregation implemented a similar oppression when its police and media resources were strong. The examples of this abound in the world of publication. You should recognize that as a congregation you rivalled the prime minister in your intolerance of criticism.

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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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