A destructive option for Turkey takes shape

Yavuz Baydar
Yavuz Baydar


Date posted: December 30, 2013

YAVUZ BAYDAR

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Nothing is more valid than this Machiavellian motto in correctly assessing the course of developments in Turkey these days. And the more the rule is applied, the more destructive its results will be for Turkey.

Regardless of his enviable political survival instincts and economic achievements in the first half of his rule, since 2011 Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has not attempted to hide his dark side.

In three years he has moved away from his pledge to be “the prime minister of the entire nation,” to being “the prime minister of the bad old state.”

He has step after step walked away from accountability; he took the media under his control by various means and made most of the state’s autonomous institutions that are crucial for checks and balances toothless and devoid of power.

In exemplary Machiavellian manner, he “integrated” his prospective rivals in conservative politics — Süleyman Soylu and Numan Kurtulmuş — into his party.

Adopting the role of his predecessors, he has — as his reaction to the Uludere bombing clearly displayed — acted to protect the military instead of encouraging justice and accountability.

But now, he faces his greatest challenge ever. The current corruption probe and his clash with law enforcement and the judiciary will define Turkey as a whole from now on. Its path will be either toward Central Asia or the European Union.

The imminent danger lies in Erdoğan’s drastic choices. “By removing all institutional limitations on his power, or by controlling whatever remains, Erdoğan has ensured that whether or not he falls, the damage to Turkish political institutions will still be considerable,” commented Brent E. Sasley in his blog with The Washington Post.

Erdoğan’s weakness, while facing a deeper crisis around the graft probe, is that he has now run out of political ammunition with which to appease Sunni voters. By “normalizing” the veil issue in public — and Parliament — he has very little to offer in terms of goodies wrapped in religion. He will have increasing difficulty propagating infrastructure projects because the allegations have already stained his aura.

Since his increasingly desperate battle against the judiciary will not suffice to convince the electorate, he will have to intensify his efforts to attack an imaginary “enemy within.” This is part of his strategy to cling to power with impunity for all those who may until now have been part of the organized crime.

The Hizmet movement is the latest in a series of domestic and international “enemies” presented to the public since the Gezi Park protests. It is a “parallel state,” he claims, and the movement gets help from its die-hard loyal media, as well as some leftist-secular circles and even from abroad. Such diversion on this issue helps him buy time, water down the content of accusations and divert attention.

He has yet to prove that there indeed is a “parallel state;” so far, not a single shred of concrete evidence has been provided. But, couldn’t it be that, there are people who are affiliated with or who have sympathy for Hizmet are present both in the police and the judiciary, but not “in power?” Can it be that they do not dominate, but are only “influential” to varying degrees in the course of their duties?

If not, then demands that all Free Masons, Alevis, Kurds, Nakshibendis, Circassians, Fenerbahçe fans, atheists, etc. within the state be declared “gangs” and purged can be equally “legitimate” — and ridiculous.

If not, we are on the verge of a witch-hunt and more government control –- through internal replacements — in two critical institutions.

But Erdoğan’s dark side may not care. He is skillful in tactic-based deals. It is not for nothing that his chief advisor, Yalçın Akdoğan, who mentioned that the “parallel state” did an injustice to the military in the mass coup trials, was quickly welcomed by the Chief of Staff. Also, a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) front figure, Mustafa Elitaş, yesterday talked about a retrial of the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases.

There is no doubt, this “foreplay” with the military, if it continues, will trigger an array of vicious dynamics and at the end of the day will certainly target the man who will become a victim of his own tactics: Erdoğan himself. Will he play with fire?

Source: Today's Zaman , December 29, 2013


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