What is the fight all about?

Here is my latest for Today’s Zaman:

 

So, as expected, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared all-out war. The enemy — what he and his advisers regard as “the junta formation within the police,” the media, the judiciary, the American Embassy, affiliates of the mainly volunteer Hizmet movement, and, well, whoever seems to disagree with the way he intends to run the country and whoever tends to believe there is no smoke without fire — have dug their trenches in a circle.

Increasingly, day after day, with one erratic decision after another and choices based only on basic survival instincts, his war is sinking inexorably into desperation.

As over 50 people, including the sons of his two key ministers — interior and economy — the CEO of Halkbank and a shady businessman for organized criminals, were detained and a massive amount of bribe money was seized, Erdoğan managed in a series of rallies on Saturday at the Black Sea Coast to characterize elements of the state as the “enemy within” and issued a series of open threats to the judiciary, warning it to pull itself together, adding, “there are things we know, too.”

Elaborating further, he accused the opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), of forming, together with the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD), an alliance to topple him. He warned both “capital” and the media to “watch it,” or else.

While one of his chief advisers was busy explaining on TV how his beloved boss was under a “global assault,” the prime minister addressed “foreign ambassadors” — implying the US ambassador, who was depicted by pro-government media as an accomplice in this “conspiracy.” But, realizing that the story (planted, rumors say, by a minister implicated in the probe) was fabricated, he backed down.

The damage, however, was done.

Erdoğan has intervened in the top echelons of the Finance Ministry’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK), Turkey’s up-to-now independent and efficient financial police unit, rapidly amended a law to stop basically any criminal inquiry into the government or its branches, removed more than 100 police chiefs in the course of 72 hours and banned the media from entering police headquarters.

Meanwhile, the four ministers implicated in the probe are still in charge — the most worrisome of which is the interior minister, who has the power to make administrative changes to the police force.

There are two major points of concern, as of now:

Move after move, in full defiance, Erdoğan is demolishing what remains of the fragile separation of powers in Turkey and tightening the screws on the judiciary.

Second, by the extensive purge of the police force, he has made the security mechanism of Turkey much more vulnerable to internal and external acts of terror and provocations. Yet he seems fully determined to take the ship into even more dangerous waters.

We see a pattern, this time in much bolder lines: Deeply mired in what is definitely his worst nightmare ever, Erdoğan is sticking to methods and solutions that only promise to turn Turkey into Turkmenistan — further exacerbating its “precious loneliness.”

On Saturday, Erdoğan found another angle: The attack against him, he argued, happened because the “axis of evil” didn’t want to see the Kurdish solution process succeed. It didn’t make sense at all: Only days ago the courts refused to release the jailed Peace and Development Party (BDP) deputies, as they also refused to free Kurdish journalists tied to the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK). For the Kurds who don’t vote for the AKP, the process is just a cunning tool to delay the reforms, and they remain largely unconvinced.

It is Erdoğan’s war against the world. As Marc Champion, a colleague at Bloomberg, argues: “Precisely because Erdoğan has concentrated power so closely around himself in just a few men, any perception that they are corrupt will immediately infect his personal image and support. This is why Erdoğan hasn’t fired the four ministers …”

He will fight to the very end, antagonizing ​whatever and whoever gets his way, but the damage caused​ may in the end be tremendous.

Mind this: At the very core, this ordeal is about the ​ future of Turkey. It is about a choice between a new Turkey based on morality,​ or sheer banditry ​and ​impunity. ​But ​Turkey as I know it will surely resist being turned into a Central Asian republic.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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