My commentary: Pit

“Mr. Erdoğan has to acknowledge right away that his dominating style threatens Turkey’s future and prosperity.”

”If he does not change his style, investors might become impatient soon like everyone else and it will be difficult for Turkey to regain its reputation as a forward-looking, moderate Islamic state in the Middle East which others in the region would follow with admiration.”

So commented Arzu Kaya Uranlı, in her column in Sunday’s Zaman (Feb. 23).

Will he? Erdoğan is already way beyond sound reason, at a point of no return: He is determined to drag the country along with him into a pit where civilized social dialogue will no longer be tolerated.

It is a pit in which we may see all the hopes and aspirations of the society being buried.

Cengiz Çandar drew a comparison between Erdoğan and Louis Bonaparte, and found a common denominator in conducting a civilian coup. Many would agree with this.

In my recent analysis for Le Monde Diplomatique’s German edition, I similarly used the term “Putsch in Zeitlupe” (Coup in slow-motion).

What we have been anxiously observing is a process where all the ingredients necessary to establish a police state — in which the dark term “organized crime” in countries like Belarus finds official legitimacy.

Erdoğan’s way has only one destination of hope: political survival. Once faced with corruption allegations, with tentacles penetrating into the very government he is in charge of, all he chose to do was to unleash a massive counter-operation, which he hopes will undo whatever has come to surface due to the inquiries.

The chosen path includes measures to grant his power initially a temporary impunity, until the local elections. No matter what the results, Erdoğan will choose to raise the stakes higher because, if the impunity is to last further, and if it should grant protection to arbitrary behavior, it must be institutionalized by more amendments in law.

We all know it. That knowledge itself has made the series “House of Cards” so popular. To bury lies and deceit, one has only to lie more and deceive more deeply. So it goes, spiraling towards a downfall.

We now know for certain that, endorsed by a 58 percent “yes” vote in the referendum in 2010, Erdoğan interpreted the almost 50 percent vote in the general elections in 2011 as a carte blanche for whatever he wishes to do. Probably he was also under the illusion that the crowds no longer were a loose coalition but had solidified their support behind his leadership. He felt he no longer needed any external backing by the liberals and democrats spread along the left-right spectrum.

Thus began an open “use, abuse, throw away, demonize: period, in which individuals and groups were forced either to resort to full loyalty and unconditioned service, or stand back, reflect and resist. In pure Machiavellian style, some younger prospective rivals from the conservative right were “convinced” to join the party — to be used, for sure, and be thrown out later.

Antagonization is applied as a powerful tool: Social groups, religious communities and organizations are, if defiant, humiliated, often by sheer hate speech and threats. If those who sympathize with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were worshippers of fire, the affiliates to Hizmet were “hashashin,” or assassins and the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD) members were traitors. To dupe the crowds, the “adversary” is presented as the “bogeymen” — operating in secrecy to overthrow his rule.

The methods to establish a rule of impunity push the prospects of a constitution farther and farther away. As Ali Bulaç noted in his last column, he is playing with fire. The Taraf daily noted on its front page headlines yesterday, it is now a Midnight State, where laws in the spirit of hijacking whatever is left of democratic order are all passed late at night, where the Parliament TV is not on air and no information is shared with the public.

Every new morning, it wakes up to a regime where screws are tighter than the day before.

No, Erdoğan neither will nor can back down, after taking such drastic steps into darkness. But the core issue is, unlike Ukraine, Belarus or a Central Asian republic, this is Turkey: negotiating with the EU; part of the European legal system; and a member of NATO. Erdoğan may be in denial to see it, but there is a wall at the end of the path he chose. Such a pity.

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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