Erdoğan offers instability

With decisive steps now being taken by a political class across the board, steps that are starkly reminiscent of the ones done away with at the end of the 1990’s, Turkey is heading not just for chaos, but for profound instability.
The country’s 12-year-long, mostly admired and at-times-too-exciting cycle is over, despite the firm ground it has stood on for so long.

Now, after an annus horribilis for its increasingly selfish macro- and micro-manager, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey is being taken back to its despised old order.

In other words, despite its firm electoral support base, it is the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its mission to carry through a transformation in Turkey that has failed. The old guard, which was pushed away, had not changed much of its mind on how Turkey should be run. And it is now being handed the means and tools to win.

As I write this, positive development after positive development in Turkey — no matter how half hearted or incomplete — are being turned into negatives.

Developments arrive in scores and at the speed of lightning these days, with tiny but utterly significant details. Erdoğan, having been pushed so hard by the graft probe, has now become so erratic that he is opening the doors to many risky options for Turkey’s fragile democracy.

His chief advisor made remarks in his column claiming — without any concrete evidence — that the army was subjected to a conspiracy. All the forces and circles, some linked to the Kemalist main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), some to the Bar Association and some sworn enemies of the very AKP itself, are now up in arms.

Erdoğan backed his advisor and went even further, saying that he had given “orders” to the minister of justice to find a way to have a retrial of the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer (Balyoz) cases. We have all known and criticized the procedural wrongdoings of those trials and of many others, but neither Erdoğan, his advisors nor his totally loyal justice minister apparently know or care about how this move of theirs is being perceived.

The move is not only a game based on the knowledge of the AKP and its advisors that the judiciary of Turkey is antediluvian, but it is also a slap in the face of the High Court of Appeals, which ratified the Sledgehammer verdicts unanimously.

But in the broader picture, you now have all the elements that will feed judicial chaos. Since there cannot possibly be “special treatment” for military trials, there will be cases of organized crime whose defense lawyers will use the same argument. “We,” they will say, “were also victimized by the ‘parallel structures'” — whatever that means.

We are thus speaking of thousands of cases, those still in process or already completed, which will mean mayhem for the already overloaded and insufficient legal body.

Erdoğan’s hopes that a blind eye will be turned on all the graft probes — and prospective ones — that point to a connection with the government. He hopes that they will be “buried.” And in return, the judiciary he desires to reset will do the same, turn a blind eye, for the officers.

This is, to say the least, an intent to make dirty deal. If both camps’ involvement in wrongdoing and crime is true, nothing of this sort will vanish forever. The immense problems will only be postponed, and the burden will be made much bigger.

Does Erdoğan realize that he is digging a hole for himself? Apparently not. He has shown once more that he will remain cynical and raise the stakes to dangerous levels. It is an open invitation to old Turkey.

He piled up all the issues on the table and left them spread out on its surface. Erdoğan has failed badly at delivering a democratic constitution.

He has failed and lost.

Turkey will pay.

From my column at Today’s Zaman.


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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