Nigerian daily: Turkey at risk of becoming polarised because of Erdogan


Date posted: March 17, 2015

The political climate in Turkey is getting more complicated with top government officials adopting hate messages to attempt shutting out the opposition, an action that is in no little measure polarizing the country.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been accused by top Turkish politicians of using harsh divisive rhetoric against opposition, a development that has further blown up the social standings in the country.

According to Turkish newspaper Sunday Zaman, Ertuğrul Günay, a deputy who resigned from the ruling party at the end of 2013 because of AK Party’s dismissive discourse and authoritarian ways, was quoted as saying: “The harsh and vulgar language does not only cause harm to parties in politics, it also leaves scars on the society, family, in everyday life, school and on the street.”

Günay also criticized Davutoğlu, who became prime minister after Erdoğan was elected president in August of last year, for following in Erdoğan’s footsteps in directing harsh language at the opposition.

“He has chosen to become a copycat of Erdoğan instead of being himself,” Günay added.

Most analysts agree that by polarizing society, the ruling party hopes to retain its voter support despite becoming increasingly authoritarian in recent years and failing on various fronts ranging from foreign policy to the economy.

It was on record that President Erdoğan became increasingly disturbed by all kinds of criticism after the Gezi Park protests that developed into anti-government demonstrations in the summer of 2013. The government felt seriously threatened by the nationwide protests caused by Erdoğan’s insulting language towards all dissidents.

The AK Party was not yet humbled by the protests and accusation of corruption, instead of reflecting on their conduct and confronting their mistakes, the government chose to attack the opposition and the faith-based Gülen movement, also known as the Hizmet movement, claiming that the corruption investigation was a plot by perceived enemies.

And with the opposition pointing accusing fingers at Erdoğan for insulting opposition figures on daily basis, it was observed that the president’s biggest victim is the Gulen Movement.

Gülen has repeatedly denied any involvement in the corruption investigations but Erdoğan, Davutoğlu and some leading government officials have continued to hurl insults at the movement they had formerly praised.

Todays Zaman went on to explain that in a speech last April, shortly after emerging victorious in the local elections, Erdoğan effectively declared war against his opponents, saying that he would never forget what the opposition parties and their supporters had done attempting to topple his government.

“He also threatened to take action against critical media outlets, slamming them for running what he calls “provocative headlines.” “We will not forgive these kinds of vile acts, this treason,” Erdoğan vowed.

During the almost month-long Gezi Park protests, which originated not only out of environmentalist concerns but more also s a result of a social reaction against Erdoğan’s displeasing discourse towards all dissidents, Erdoğan also likened protestors to “piteous rodents” that work to harm Turkey.

Erdoğan, who was then prime minister, at that time refused to ease tensions and even threatened to pit his voters against the protestors.

Several days after the nation-wide demonstrations broke out at the end of May, Erdoğan said: “There is another 50 percent [that voted for the AK Party] that we are having difficulty keeping at home. We tell them ‘please be patient.’”

It was also reported by the media that only a couple of days after Erdoğan’s remark, in Rize, the province on the eastern Black Sea coast where Erdoğan is from, a group of young people who wanted to make a public statement to support the Gezi Park protests were threatened by a crowd of some 500 people and had to seek shelter in a building for hours.

But not just the opposition is crying out about the alarming rate of polarization of the masses. Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, Bulent Aric had also complained as published by The Hedge on February 9, 2015 that he is frightened.

“Turkey could cease to be a governable country,” Arinc called for a softening of political language, as he warns “the polarization of the masses, frightens me.”

In an article by Turkey Pulse published on August 6, 2014, titled ‘The Cult of Erdogan’. His followership was described as occultic in which it was explained that fifty-five million Turkish voters were bombarded with Erdogan’s image in an aggressive electoral campaign ahead of the presidential polls, in which the prime minister was the strongest and most advantageous candidate.

“The omnipresence of Erdogan’s image cannot be passed over with the explanation that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has mobilized all its financial and organizational might for the elections, along with all the public facilities and resources it has at its disposal. It is also the story of how a cult has been created around Erdogan as he presses ahead in his journey to higher echelons of power.

“However, the cult of Erdogan has another aspect: The more his supporters love and glorify him, the more an equally large part of the population dislikes and even detests him. According to a Pew survey published on July 30, 48 per cent of Turks believe Erdogan has a positive influence on the country, while an equal 48 per cent see his influence as negative, illustrating how Turkey is torn right in two on the issue of Erdogan,” it stated.

Similarly, Altan Tan, a deputy from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is concerned that the harsh rhetoric politicians commonly use towards one another is dangerous for the future of the country.

For Aykan Erdemir, a social anthropologist and deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), he is concerned that the damage Erdoğan has inflicted on the fabric of Turkish society may well be lasting.

“It looks as if Erdoğan has been systematically undermining the common ground we have, (causing) damage that could turn out to be permanent,” Erdemir told Sunday’s Zaman in an interview he gave several weeks after the Gezi Park protests broke out.

There is a warning that such polarization may lead to wide scale violence that may shake the country to its roots.

Erdemir said: “Let’s not forget all massacres and genocides in world history erupted as a result of (polarization in the public). The road to the death of millions of people in concentration camps was paved with hate speech, with political speeches and with a climate of hate created via the media.”

A survey conducted found that the rise in polarization was primarily a result of political divisions and the discriminatory discourse of some political figures.

As it stands now, Turkey needs to be saved from the impending doom that may befall it if Erdogan places his personal interest ahead of the overall wellbeing of the state. He should place emphasis on uniting the people, bearing in mind that Turkey existed before him and is expected to exist after his demise.

Source: Leadership , March 17, 2015


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