Turkish politics hijacked by political hooliganism

 …and here are my comments on the latest in Turkey:
“Who do you think you are? You should know your place!”
This was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s blunt commentary on the tumultuous session of Parliament’s Justice Commission, where kickboxing replaced words and arguments, leading to a physical beating of a jurist, who wanted to have a say on the new amendment on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK). The verbal beating of Erdoğan was directed at the beaten jurist, not the AKP deputies who showed him his place.

It is clear that the opposition and parts of the civil society, as well as the judiciary and external jurist segments, see the amendments as the government’s attempt to hijack the process in such a way that the judiciary once and for all — as Erdoğan hopes — is tamed and subordinated to the political executive.

The public debate is filled with such mumbo jumbo these days that Turkey, where paranoia is already endemic, has practically turned into a junkyard of disinformation.

One after another, the front figures of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), inject explanations and theories over why the Dec. 17 graft probe was launched.

A late and interesting one landed yesterday, by Mustafa Şentop, a vice chairman of the AKP, and a member of the disbanded Draft Constitution Commission. He began by calling the graft probe a “judicial coup,” with which we all were acquainted, and continued in the same vein: “There was a parallel legal structure built in Turkey. This is an organizational structure. We, as the AKP, therefore want a new constitution. We want to do away with the tutelage.” He then adds: “Dec. 17 is an operation both against the AKP and the ‘community’ [Hizmet].”

He then elaborated his story into interesting territory, saying that the Dec. 17 “coup” was “cooked” at the end of August. “We had launched the democratization moves then. Some parties wanted a change in basic laws. But we said we preferred amendments in the Constitution. The work regarding the HSYK began in September. But when the draft was rumored to be brought to Parliament, these events were sped up: Why did this probe that was pursued over two years just ‘erupt’ in December? Because the amendments were about to reach Parliament, that’s why,” he went on to say.

Of course, in this fog of information, Şentop does not explain why it was that the AKP, and not the other three parties, disbanded the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission by no longer attending. It is now apparent that the AKP’s leader has lost all appetite for it.

Second, it is true that the HSYK had been “fixed” on Erdoğan’s radar, causing growing annoyance for some time. But in addition to what Şentop tells, let us say this: As of early autumn, sources in Ankara say that Erdoğan sent messages to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, saying, in a nutshell, this: I am not happy with the “wayward manners” of the HSYK, and guess that you feel the same, since you opposed it in the 2010 referendum, so let us go back to a “political control” model. I can give you four seats at the HSYK in that model and keep eight for my party.

The Republican People’s Party (CHP) allegedly rejected this, leaving the AKP on its own. Of course, none of what Şentop says explains the crisis today. It is just another diversion.

One should not beat around the bush: Erdoğan openly declared war on the judiciary, and is determined to apply all means and tools to take it under control. He raised the decibels even more during his visit in the Far East. Here are some excerpts, to explain the gravity of the crisis that is blowing up:

“The greatest problem is the tutelage of the judiciary. It is obvious what the greatest firms of Turkey now face… They [the judiciary] have no motive but treason. Neither the third airport nor the third bridge are desired, because they will solve the transport problems. Why at all should they want us to solve them? I can never ever trust the obsessive stand of the judiciary.”

He raises the threat level with a metaphor: “Much will be revealed. Like a virus that has entered the body … a virus, as you know, enters the body, and gets ensconced for a long time, making a place for itself. But the body gets stronger and destroys it.”

I wonder why President Abdullah Gül, addressing high-ranking officers recently, mentioned Hitler and Stalin out of the blue, as bad examples in history. I still wonder…


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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