Can the EU be blamed for Erdoğan’s authoritarianism?

Şahin Alpay
Şahin Alpay


Date posted: December 29, 2013

ŞAHİN ALPAY

The other day a Brazilian reader of my column asked: “Do you think there are similarities between protest demonstrations in Taksim, İstanbul, and Maidan in Kiev?” And more interestingly: “Is it possible that difficulties Turkey encountered in relations with the European Union have played a role in Erdoğan’s slide into authoritarianism?”

There are indeed some similarities between this summer’s protests in Taksim and those in Maidan this winter. I believe that in both cases young people belonging to educated middle-classes have demanded freedom and democracy in line with EU norms. In both cases their governments have tried to suppress the protests by force and by organizing counter-demonstrations. Both Turkey and Ukraine are divided between those who favor EU integration and those who do not.

It may be speculated that the EU’s resistance to Turkey’s European integration has to a certain extent played a role in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s slide into authoritarianism. If the EU had consistently backed its accession process, Ankara may have consolidated democracy and rule of law, so that such a concentration of power could have been avoided. This, of course, is mere speculation. The real causes of Erdoğan’s slide into authoritarianism certainly lie elsewhere.

Erdoğan, after taking half of the vote in the last general election, and convinced to have taken the military under control, began to behave with overblown self-confidence. Since he believed he alone knew what was best for the country, he decided to take all power in his own hands. Taking advantage of the weakness of the opposition parties, he decided that he could do anything he liked and only be held accountable in elections. And thus he increasingly turned towards a Vladimir Putin-like arbitrary and authoritarian rule, aiming to consolidate this by instituting a “Turkish-style presidentialism” that would effectively avoid the legislative and the judiciary to stand in the way of the executive.

I do not, however, share the view that “Erdoğan is an Islamist who wants to move Turkey away from the West,” as argued by many local and foreign pundits. Judging from his performance so far, I believe he is a pragmatic religious nationalist. When he said “Let us into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and save us from the trouble of trying to get into the EU” to Putin, it seemed he was only expressing his anger over Turkey’s blocked accession. When his government appeared to flirt with the idea of buying a Chinese missile defense system, the motive was most likely to induce rival Western companies to come up with more favorable offers.

Erdoğan’s government has most recently taken initiatives that are likely to please Turkey’s Western allies. Such initiatives include unshelving of the protocols signed with Armenia four years ago and the opening of borders and establishment of diplomatic ties, and restarting talks for a comprehensive solution to the Cyprus problem. There are even signs indicating an initiative to mend Turkey’s ties with Israel. Ties with the West are so important for Turkey that, at least for the foreseeable future, whichever party is in power Ankara is not at all likely to move away from the Western alliance while it pursues its national interests in other directions as well. How well governments serve national interests is, of course, another matter.

Erdoğan’s demagogic discourse blaming foreign (the US, the EU and Israel) and local (the Gülen movement and the “interest lobby”) conspiracies for the mass demonstrations against his government and the corruption probe against several ministers, bureaucrats and favored businessmen is an example of the well-known tactic of deflecting responsibility onto others employed by all governments who fall into deep trouble, avoiding facing their mistakes and wrongdoings, and attempting to cover them up. With such discourse Erdoğan appears to damage even his own Foreign Ministry. Doubts about whether this tactic can save his government are growing.

Source: Today's Zaman , December 29, 2013


Related News

Fate of preparatory courses

Zaman’s Hüseyin Gülerce denied allegations that there is tension between the government and Hizmet movement due to government’s steps to bring an end to these preparatory courses, saying that Hizmet does not own all preparatory course schools in the country. What bothers members of Hizmet is that the government has not given a clear or reasonable explanation as to why they are taking these steps, Gülerce said.

Students of Fatih Schools take first place in LYS and TEOG exams

Students of the Fatih Schools network — which are inspired by the faith-based Gülen movement — popularly known as the Hizmet movement — were the top scorers in both the Transition from Primary to Secondary Education (TEOG) exams taken from Nov. 26-27 and April 29-30 and the Undergraduate Placement Examination (LYS).

Gulen Movement, civilian governments and the AK Party

The Gulen movement’s understanding of politics and the political process differentiate it from the military and bureaucratic elite. Its main political objective is to transform society by raising the moral consciousness of individuals. By raising moral consciousness, the movement hopes to cleanse the bureaucracy of widespread corruption, increase the efficiency and transparency of state institutions, reinvigorate public work ethic to serve the people in order to enhance the legitimacy of the state, and create opportunity spaces for marginalized sectors of the Anatolian population.

Dr. Jill Carroll speaks on Fethullah Gulen and The Gulen Movement

Dr. Jill Carroll, author of the book A Dialogue of Civilizations: Gülen’s Islamic Ideals and Humanistic Discourse, speaks at the lecture and book signing event in Chicago at Niagara Foundation. Dr. Carroll talks about the components that lead her to write the book and provides valuable insight on its context and content. Fethullah Gulen is […]

Independent deputy says there may be an attempt to pin political murders on Gülen movement

İlhan İşbilen, an independent deputy for İzmir, has said some sections of society are part of a “dirty scenario” that aims to make sure the Gülen movement, a faith-based grassroots social initiative, is uttered in the same breath as extrajudicial political killings.

UN praises Kimse Yok Mu for aid efforts in Somalia

Director of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) John Ging said in an interview on Thursday that Kimse Yok Mu and other Turkish NGOs’ aid efforts in Somalia should be praised.

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

Turkish dinner in Erie brings together flavors, cultures

Gulen Charter Schools Myth

Turkish gov’t jails yet another woman with 25-day-old baby

Al-Azhar professor: Gülen courageously resists radicalism

A Year Ago Today: Teacher Gökhan Açıkkollu died of torture on his 13th day in police custody

President of Zambia Mr. Rupiah Banda thanks Turkish investors in education

Is the Hizmet movement resisting normalization?

Copyright 2023 Hizmet News