Is the March 30 referendum in danger?

İhsan Yılmaz
İhsan Yılmaz


Date posted: February 5, 2014

İHSAN YILMAZ

Yes, I know that Turkey will have local elections on March 30, 2014, but Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has already turned it into a referendum in which the public will make a decision about the corruption allegations against him and his friends.

Duriing a TV debate program on Samanyolu Haber TV in which I took part last week, my last sentence was that the forthcoming elections would be a kind of referendum and if Mr. Erdoğan’s party receives more than 40 percent of the vote, we must brace ourselves for an autocracy. Unsurprisingly, my analysis of his behavior was confirmed by him on Tuesday. When in Germany, during a press conference together with Angela Merkel, he openly declared that if his party becomes the top party in the elections, this will mean that the people have decided that his party is clean.

First and foremost, we must note that he longer believes that he can get 50 percent of the vote. This was their claim up until a few months ago yet the corruption evidence is so strong that he had to sacrifice four of his ministers and had to remove 200 prosecutors and 7,000 police officers from their posts. Obviously, people are aware of what is going on and some polls suggest that his party’s votes have already shrunk to 36 percent. Thus, instead of boasting that he will receive 50 percent, he very humbly talks only about being the top party. This means that he may be talking about a mere 30 percent since the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will have difficulty receiving more that 30 percent of the vote. Yet, he is ready to abuse this 30 percent to explain away the corruption allegations and whitewash them without any serious or credible judicial processes.

In the past, he complained about the independent judiciary, implying that his party cannot do whatever it wants. Then, his party proposed to Parliament a constitutional referendum package on a presidential system without much checks and balances. According to this proposal, President Erdoğan together with his majority in Parliament would appoint two-thirds of all the judges in all the supreme courts, meaning that the executive would control the judiciary. This very proposal also included an item that gave him legislative powers as well. When Parliament is not in session, he could enact laws on issues if there weren’t clear and specific laws on these issues. This proposal is telling enough in that he wants to combine powers and has a distaste for the separation of powers. This distaste includes other major powers such the fourth estate, the media, and the most important one, civil society.

It has become very evident that some businessmen who benefitted illegally in major state tenders acquired independent media, a person very close to Erdoğan was appointed as the editor-in-chief and that this media organ became a mouthpiece of Erdoğan. Independent civil society groups such as the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD) and the Hizmet movement are constantly depicted as traitors and the puppets of international dark forces by Erdoğan.

Academics are threatened as well. Last week, the Justice and Development Party (AKP)-controlled Higher Education Board (YÖK) passed a decree to silence the academia. From now on academic are only allowed to talk about their area of expertise. A columnist, Mr. Cem Küçük of the Yeni Şafak daily, who is a staunch advocate of Erdoğan, wrote that academics such as myself and Savaş Genç are part of a coup against the Erdoğan government and that these academics deserve the fate of a colonel, Talat Aydemir, who failed in a coup attempt in the early 1960s and was hanged. His only evidence is our defense of the Hizmet movements on TV programs on the basis of the supremacy of law, democracy and human rights. Even though we did not say anything against democracy or law, he fabricated a lie saying that we defended the alleged illegal activities of some bureaucrats. What we said was that there are crimes and instead of gossiping about these during election meetings, Erdoğan must present concrete evidence to the judiciary and to the media.

These are the people who lied about the Gezi protesters, alleging that there was CCTV footage of youths consuming alcohol and doing illicit things (i.e., having sex) in a mosque. I am afraid and very concerned that their ethical and moral standards will allow them to rig the local elections since this is an existential referendum for them. The opposition must consider all sorts of probabilities and take precautions.

Source: Todays Zaman , February 5, 2014


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