Wednesday, 26 March 2014

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

A clear sense of uneasiness over where Turkey is headed pervades most of the comments in the country’s media. The commentaries in the daily Zaman, the flagship of the Gülenist media, however, express the expectation that Erdogan’s rule is soon going to be over. “Don’t bother about Erdoğan anymore”, writes Mümtaz’er Türköne in Zaman. Others are much more concerned, and observe that the liberalization that Turkey was assumed to have gone through during the last decade is proving to have been an illusion. Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak notes that Turkey still remains deeply resistant to change, because society is sharply polarized; the hard core identity of the separate parts is marked by deep hostility to the others. However, unlikely, albeit transactional, alliances are also struck in the midst of the current upheaval. Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet notes that Erdoğan has turned to the military as an ally in his bid to stamp out the Gülenists.

GÜRSEL:  ERDOĞAN IS OUT OF TOUCH WITH REALITY

Kadri Gürsel in Milliyet writes that Erdoğan is unable to appreciate the meaning and importance that Twitter has for people. He must also be unaware of the technologies that have been developed in our age against Internet bans, since he could speak of “eradicating” Twitter. The futility of that attempt was demonstrated during the first day of the ban when there were record-many tweets posted in Turkey. Even President Gül did finally bring himself to side with freedoms when he defied the ban and tweeted. Erdoğan says that he does not care what the rest of the world thinks. It may not interest Erdoğan that Turkey with this ban ended up in the same league as authoritarian countries like North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia that are hostile to the Internet, but the economic cost that Turkey is going to incur as a result will most certainly be of concern for him. If as Erdoğan says the state is indeed very powerful, then why is that power not deployed instead to ensure that people are able to fully exercise their constitutional right to freedom of expression and communication? To block access to Twitter is only something that a government that is losing its self confidence and might would consider.

TÜRKÖNE: FORGET ABOUT ERDOGAN, HE’S DONE FOR

What are you expecting, asks Mümtaz’er Türköne in Zaman; does anyone really think that a Turkey where first social media, and then newspapers and television channels that don’t obey the orders of the government have been eradicated and replaced with those who say and write according to the directives of the government is possible? As I see it, there is no reason to be upset; the prime minister may scream and condemn as much as he cares. Do not take him seriously anymore. Allegedly, there is going to be a vast operation, with arrests after the elections. You should ask yourself “why?” Why wait until after the elections if he really has the proofs and could strengthen his position in the election by presenting them before the elections, proving his theses? Or is on the contrary his intention to pressure people to vote the way he wants by brandishing these threats? In any case, the behavior of the prime minister can no longer be subject to political analysis; his fit of panic attacks call for the expertise of psychologists. The prime minister is bereft of any strategy; he only acts on his raw instincts.

KARAGÜL: TURKEY NEEDS TO BEWARE – LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO UKRAINE

İbrahim Karagül in Yeni Safak warns that the Black Sea could become another Persian Gulf. Our north can become a zone of very serious instability. Especially the eastern European littoral countries can erupt in flames. I don’t understand how Ukraine could fall into this trap. How can a country, particularly one that has Russia nearby, surrender to the United States’ and to Europe’s cheap campaigns? How could it, knowing that it is going to be partitioned, embark on such an adventure? But when I look at Turkey, I see how easy it is to mobilize the masses and certain political circles, how a powerful network of intelligence operators can incite the public in a way that engenders the future of countries. My worry is that we are unable to comprehend the severity of the East-West stand-off that has begun over Crimea. We may rest assured that someone is going to take stock of the actions of those who – out of fraternity or environmental sensibilities – have made Turkey pay dearly the last three months. Whatever you do, please be on your guard toward the intelligence operations of the kind that destroyed Ukraine. Take note that the troubles that Turkey faces today could also have a similar dimension, with foreign involvement.

BURSALI: THE ERDOGAN-MILITARY ALLIANCE

Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet writes that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s new policies require new alliances. Without doubt, the armed forces are the main ally. It is not possible for him to enact this turnaround without securing the support of the military. And the military is ready. There is a great national awakening among the officers who have been tried in the Sledgehammer and Ergenekon trials; take a look at the books they are publishing. They know that the Americans were behind the conspiracy against them. It is interesting to note that the Turkish armed forces are no longer going to send the top graduates of the Kuleli military college to the famous West Point in the United States, but to South Korea and China! One of the requirements of the big joining of hands of Erdoğan and the military is that the authors of the framing of the military are identified. As I have pointed out several times, the conspiracy to frame the military is going to be the principal evidence in the pending legal cases against the “cemaat” [the Gülenists]. The Sledgehammer case is going to fall apart after certain legal irregularities have been brought to attention. In this process, the change of the composition of the High Appeals Court (especially of ninth directorate) that is the hand of the “cemaat” is going to be crucial.

BAYRAMOĞLU: A DIVIDED TURKEY HAS STILL A LONG WAY TO TRAVEL BEFORE IT HAS COME TO PEACE WITH ITSELF

Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak writes that the fact that the fabric of society in Turkey is sharply divided represents the country’s fundamental sociological reality and gravest political problem. There is no integrated structure, only a series of un-integrated structures that stand side by side. The pious, the seculars, the Kurds, the Alevis, the left, the nationalist groups, the minorities – are all self-enclosed and exist within value systems that are closed to the “others.” They share precious little common ground. Of course, in sociological terms, a lot has changed during the past decade; the identities have undergone internal changes in a more democratic direction. Yet we observe that the basic pattern, the hard core of mentality, is very resistant and that there is still quite a distance left to travel. Turkey of today has become hostage to political polarization. CHP has reached the point of accusing Erdogan of preparing to flee the country; the opposition treats the government as illegitimate, hoping for a hard crash. Meanwhile, the government calculates that it is going to emerge victorious in the March elections, and thinks that it will be able to silence the opposition and continue along its road as if nothing had happened. How is Turkey to break free from this vicious circle? The reorganization of the judiciary and the police, the reestablishment of the proper distance between politics and autonomous realms, bringing clarity to the allegations of corruption and taking new steps in the Kurdish issue should all be the priorities of all political parties, starting with the AKP.

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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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