AKP: from victim to oppressor

Here is my comment on the metamorphosis of the AKP:

“Turkey is currently an authoritarian regime,” warned a respected political scientist from Sabancı University yesterday. According to Professor Ersin Kalaycıoğlu:

“The issue is whether or not we will be able to move toward democracy again. We are a country that has been in the process of democratization — and one that has failed to consolidate its democracy — for the last 70 years.”

Known for his caution to not fall into the trap of exaggeration, Kalaycıoğlu’s diagnosis is grave. He went on:

“Can a president or a prime minister who may have committed a crime rule the country in an administration that is viewed as a legitimate government? There is a clear answer to this in political science: no. In a democratic state, this investigation should be properly carried out by an independent and impartial judiciary. You may postpone this, but you cannot eliminate it. Eliminating it means that Turkey is not governed by a legitimate government.”

I’d certainly agree with Kalaycıoğlu on the legitimacy of the government, and also that one cannot eliminate accusations, hoping that they will go away forever. Let us take it for granted, though, that the Justice and Development Party (AKP) leadership will do its utmost to make them disappear or be forgotten.

After all, Turkey is a country where an “I can get away with anything if I am privileged and as long as the instruments of power are on my side” culture is part of the typical political scheme.

Yet, I am not sure whether or not Turkey has already shifted to an authoritarian regime. Needless to say, with the enormous steps taken since Dec. 17 and with the recent National Intelligence Organization (MİT) bill, we are heading there in full gear, but more is still needed to seal the deal.

Instead, I would see the period between the March 30 elections and the presidential election in August as one where a hardcore — and perhaps final — battle will have to take place. If all goes as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hopes it will, we may end up with a political model that concentrates full executive power in a person who also leads a dominant party and controls most of the three no-longer-separate branches as well as the fourth estate — the media. This is the ideal world for a politician whose hunger knows no bounds.

But, on the other hand, this is Turkey. The legacy of the late President Turgut Özal and the good deeds of the early AKP have produced a different society in which any attempt at oppression will backfire and be costly.

This is the real reason why the Constitutional Court, given even greater independence in the historic 2010 referendum, has entered onto the existential battlefield. Taking the great risk of being bashed by Erdoğan government flunkies, Haşim Kılıç, the chief judge, presented an excellent analysis of “Turkey 2014” that was well equipped to be “equal” in bluntness and match the vitriolic, vindictive rhetoric employed by Erdoğan ever since the 2011 elections.

One extremely important point in his speech was this:

“Courageous steps were taken to remove the pro-tutelage mindset, with the constitutional amendment [of 2010]. [But] a big gap emerged after the pro-tutelage powers were rooted out. This gap was supposed to be filled by actions that reflect fair values and that embrace all segments of society, but we have failed to do this.”

Kılıç further said that Turkey is now in the grip of a new tutelage, namely the one designed, enforced and implemented by Prime Minister Erdoğan. By this, he means political and social engineering based on a new form of privilege and an aggressive demolition of the rule of law.

His remarks show how important the referendum in September 2010 was, and what a critical watershed moment it was.

Kılıç’s remarks showed how the AKP soon abandoned its role as “opposing those in power in order to transform the country,” and instead started to transform itself into the new owner of the half-reformed state, using the tools available to entrench its unaccountable and arbitrary rule.

This is the story of the metamorphosis of the victim into the oppressor.


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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