Erdoğan turns Turkey into a combat zone

The elections on June 7 are all about President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It is about his future, position, legitimacy and survival.

This bitter fact, which diminishes further hopes for Turkey ever coming closer to a “democratic order,” has turned all parties, but especially the Justice and Development Party (AKP) of which he is the de facto chairman, to mere players that follow.

All the four major parties position themselves in relation to him, rather than each other.

Having managed with this strategy so far, Erdoğan sees Turkey as a combat zone, keen to maintain the political stage as a minefield; identifying and handpicking enemies — most of them imaginary, a few of them only determined rivals — and attacking them with full force.

As the elections approach, the scope of warfare is being broadened.

Erdoğan is fully aware that the only ways to succeed with the combat strategy are a) remaining defiant of the clauses of the Constitution by being “partial” and active in politics, b) defending himself with constant, fierce attacks on those who his followers do not have any sympathy for and c) further fear-mongering injected into the judiciary and media, both of which will be very “useful” until and after the elections.

For long enough Erdoğan had entrenched himself in denial of the Armenian genocide, and now the Pope declaring it as such comes in very handy for domestic use. If the European Parliament issues a similar resolution, it will also add to the ammunition to assemble the conservative votes around the AKP on the basis of Muslim-Christian divisions and the “us and them” divide.

At home, his pattern in the “combat zone” is multi-faceted. It comes either in the form of direct moves to further clip the wings of the judiciary or intensifying attacks on institutions and individuals.

The most dramatic move in the latest phase of attacks is visible in the investigation launched into the prosecutors and a judge in the Dec. 17-25 graft probes: Celal Kara, Muammer Akkaş and Süleyman Karaçöl.

They are accused of “abuse and oversight of power,” charges associated with a sentence of three years of prison, by the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).

Needless to say, this confirms the gloomy predictions by law circles that foundations are being laid for a) deterrent actions against the judiciary to encourage it to become subordinate to power and b) establishing impunity for all the allegations of corruption and abuse of power.

The move makes it clear that the battle for executive power now engulfs both the police and judiciary and is bound to cause turbulence within those segments. If the AKP has another sweeping victory on June 7, it is most likely that the judiciary will be forced to give up on the remnants of its independence.

Turgut Kazan, a veteran lawyer who staunchly fought against what he saw as wrongdoings in cases such as Ergenekon, pointed out this dramatic turn in an interview yesterday for Hürriyet daily with a focus on the HSYK.

“It has been problematic before,” he said, referring to the state of the body before the critical referendum on Sept. 12, 2010. “Now the judiciary is a battlefield for different political groups. In the near future, the government will gain full control over it. There is no more hope for the judiciary or justice in Turkey anymore. I see no way to struggle for these.”

There is more.

As pressure on the bulk of the state-run or private media for biased election coverage in favor of the AKP increases, Erdoğan has once more targeted Turkey’s influential business organization, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD).

Not so long ago, its new chairwoman, Cansen Başaran-Symes, had spoken out using carefully chosen words to say that the worsening economic situation could be explained by a loss of credibility in international arena.

She found herself personally attacked by the president, who did not respond to the content of her critical views and instead chose to take a jab at her. “We know what sort of damage she caused before to this country,” he said, adding in vague terms that she be exposed for what she has done.

This is deliberate. Erdoğan clearly aims at facing the big business community down, to clear the path for a victory without strong, critical voices.

The result is further polarization and increased fears of a path now opening to fascism.

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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