Land of Broken Dreams, convulsing in despair

‘The [Justice and Development Party] AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the long-standing leader of the ruling party until his election to the top state post in August, are refusing to comply with more and more court rulings that they see as obstructing their business and are failing to observe the rule of law, a situation that creates serious concerns about the country’s transformation into an authoritarian regime,” was the lead to a news analysis in Today’s Zaman, on Sunday.

Another news analysis said:

“Erdoğan’s meddling into the government’s affairs, violating thereby all established norms of conduct for a president in Turkey’s parliamentarian democracy, may well lead to trouble in the management of the country.”

And, in the New York Times, titled “Turkish Leader, Using Conflict, Cements Power,” the core issue was highlighted in one passage:

“Ahmet Davutoglu, the former foreign minister, is Turkey’s prime minister. But Mr. Erdogan is the one on the phone with President [Barack] Obama discussing Turkey’s role in combating the Islamic State while the White House has to remind American diplomats to also include Mr. Davutoglu in discussions between the two countries.”

Scrutiny of Turkey today, politically, leaves very little room for doubt: In a state described as a suspension of the constitutional order, the order is changing character, with the world as its witness, a change symbolized by the gigantic presidential palace in Ankara, with 1,000 rooms, high-tech infrastructure and costs exceeding $350 million.

Turkey is undergoing a regime change bound to have vast consequences beyond its borders.  The most worrisome developments are taking place in the domain of the judiciary. After a series of moves, the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) is back to its “factory settings,” namely returning to a default position of serving the powers that be, while only changing its “owner.”

The referendum in 2010 that took around 58 percent of the popular vote, to open a wider path for independent justice is now a remote dream.  The next steps are already in motion: The justice minister declared that the entire structure of the Supreme Court of Appeals and Council of State are to be changed soon if a proposed bill passes.

When it is done, the final step may be to restructure the Constitutional Court after the retirement of its chairman, Haşim Kılıç, next spring.

If these ambitions cause a backlash, the court will most certainly be the target of intimidation and attacks, since it remains the last bastion of checks and balances with the lack of a properly functioning, clear-headed and effective opposition.

With international powers observing, our concerns and interests have narrowed, sadly, to economic relations and short-term profits, with Erdoğan as de facto ruler of Turkey, breaching the Constitution, which demands an “impartial” president.

Formulated lucidly in an article in Forbes magazine, the formula, adopted by many other elected leaders — such as those in Hungary, Russia, Georgia and Azerbaijan — goes like this:

“Media owned by the leader’s cronies; economy dominated by the same; opposition politicians constantly harassed, prosecuted, or in danger of prosecution; state and religion hand in glove; judiciary pressured to comply with government’s diktat; independence of educational institutions relentlessly subverted; corruption ubiquitous in state institutions; free markets victimized by political expediency; foreign NGO’s scapegoated. And, almost invariably the country’s woes get blamed on sinister outside conspirators, usually the US.”

And, in Turkey’s case, there is a larger variety: Jews, the West, internal enemies, the “parallel state” and many others…  So, now, we all live in a country whose leadership is obsessed with the fetish that all legitimacy is based on ballot boxes, and nothing else matters.

After 12 years of acrimonious struggle, we are to be beaten by hubris, with majoritarianism as the victor. Soon we will end up with a unity of powers, impunity for the elite and media subservient to one-man rule.

When the “project” is complete, Turkey will be doomed to be a land of broken dreams, its society admitting defeat, perhaps not without any violent reflexes.

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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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