My comment: He has won, but will not care to convince

In some of my earlier columns, preceding the March 30 elections, I gave the prospects of a Justice and Development Party (AKP) win a good chance but used the famous words of Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, uttered in the turbulent year of 1935: “You will win [venceréis], because you have enough brute force. But you will not convince [pero no convenceréis].”

He has won, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But will he convince? Does he wish to? Does it matter at all? What for? Does he need to assure the nation, as a whole, that we are in the same boat and have many common issues that we must discuss, so that citizens do not go to sleep every night and wake up every morning with hard feelings? 

Sharing in his apparent euphoria, as if he has passed all the tests to prove himself a reliable statesman — which is not the same thing as a victorious politician — his flunkeys are now busy doing everything but convincing. Everything they write to the opposition and dissenting pundit is as simplistic as “Now you have learned your lesson” and “You miscalculated the election outcome, thus you have erred completely and have no legitimacy anymore,” or as infantile as calling all the conscientious intellectuals who are desperately ringing the alarm bells about Erdoğan’s devastation of the rule of law as a “pack in self-deceit.” 

Whatever happens, two features will always define Turkey’s independent observers, most of whom are intellectuals spread across a wide spectrum: the duty to question and scrutinize the structures of power, and — as Turkey is a very critical country (hopefully) in transition towards democracy — the urge to ask Erdoğan to step back from alienating those social groups who disagree and “convince” them that they will feel free and secure and be able to exercise the full right to voice their concerns. 

The reality is that the more Erdoğan is perceived to be devouring greater slices of power, the more concerned they are. If Turkey’s prime minister continues to ignore his duty to tone down his patronizing rhetoric and refrains from unifying the nation on common issues, we are doomed to observe a land where parts suffer under heavy majoritarian rule. 

The signs are strong enough. Erdoğan seems, by emphasizing single-man rule to be the only exit, fully determined to eradicate whatever comes his way in terms of questioning — let alone weakening — his power. He will not allow himself to be stopped by any legitimate legal institution in his quest for arbitrariness in executive action. 

Some days ago, in another eyebrow-raising move, Erdoğan applied to the Constitutional Court to claim that his family’s “privacy had been breached” by illegal audio leaks in the social media, demanding that the state — I repeat, state — compensate him for the damages by about $25,000. This is a unique case. 

Erdoğan did not hide his fury when the top court found three complainants about the Twitter ban to be in the right. He appears to be using the same path, but the difference is that the three applicants complained that the state had ignored the lower court’s order to lift the Twitter ban and the top court issued a ruling referring to the right to freedom of expression in general.

Erdoğan’s choosing not to exhaust the entire legal process before going to the top court might look bizarre. He should have. 

But this is not the point at all. Erdoğan knows that the formidable adversary before the presidential polls is the top court. He has launched, therefore, a purely political move: If the court agrees with him, he will appear to have won another victory. If not, he will present the “defeat” as yet another case by which to display himself as “the victim” and start “court-bashing.” His flunkeys in the media will not hesitate a moment to launch a smear campaign against the judges, and the new climate will pave the way for raising the pressure on new bans on social media. 

“Convincing,” you might say. As we make demands on the prime minister for the sake of social stability and peaceful coexistence in Turkey, what he understands is further convincing those who are already convinced of his greatness, at the expense of the others.

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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