‘Rogue partner’

”Turkey watchers are used to heated political exchanges both within Turkey and between the country and its international partners. In the past spring and summer, however, all boundaries have been overstepped” wrote Marc Pierini last Monday. Formerly an EU ambassador in Ankara (when Turkey was stille seen as the rising star), he is with Carnegie Europe issuing comments that reflect the deepening gloom enveloping the Erdoğan-centered, destructive mismanagement.

What’s next, then, people ask.

Before I dig into the prospects, let me share here Pierini’s findings. He sees four consequences as rapidly standing out.

First, the European tolerance and leniency with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is over. Erdoğan is no seen as only elected leader in NATO or the Council of Europe who regularly executes verbal attacks against his counterparts for domestic political purposes.

Second, the EU governments under attack at last see Erdoğan’s hand and counter with tough rebukes, ”as a a defense of their democracies”. Doing nothing has become politically unsustainable.

Third, the EU-Turkey is now in jeopardy. If no progress is made, EU business will potentially lose some advantages, but Turkish business will lose a lot more at the worst possible time for the country.

Fourth – and most worrisome – the Western military and intelligence community will alter its general assessment of Turkey.


”With unchecked authoritarianism growing by the day, the rule of law systematically dismantled, state hostages occurring here and there, blunt political interference taking place, and the military vastly disrupted, Turkey may increasingly appear to be a rogue partner. The implication for many of Ankara’s partners is an irreparable loss of confidence with the current leadership. Over time, and despite occasional appeasing words, that may even lead to a policy of containment” concludes Pierini.

The reality is ugly, where som pundits now use the metaphore of ‘cat cornered’ regarding the mercurial hegemon. Much of the myopia lies with the EU leaderships, ignoring early desperate warnings from Gezi protests on, living in false optimism, tactical errors and, often, indifference.

But here we are. Let me issue another heads-up that, given the dead-end road Turkish President obstinately locked himself in, the inner logic of the crisis means a further free fall – a strategic challenge to the new German Government after the elections. Not only the infernal conditions which will prevail in Turkey, but also for the prospect that it may create splits within the EU. As already noted, the UK displays intentions to fill in the vacuum by keeping remarkably silent about the erosion of the rule of law in Turkey, as it may be hoping for getting a larger slice of trade and cooperation. The sly scheme is already visible.

What else about the future for Turkish people?

”What will happen? Is this crisis sustainable?’ people ask me.

No, the crisis is not sustainable. At the moment, it is spreading as a systemic disease and it is deepening. Turkey shows all the signs of a police state, almost ready to be identified as a larger copy-paste of Azerbaijan, but its social textures, and the tradition of free vote for seven decades point out to an extended resistance from within. This will, sooner or later, turn Turkey into an ungovernable land. The path chosen by Erdoğan is committed to establish an order by brute force and, sadly, this vision may include stains of blood.

”But why? Why did Erdoğan choose such a path when Turkey was until some years ago climbing up so well that it raised all the hopes?” asked some people in Sweden, when I was at visit recently.

He had to. The political machinery he favoured, so visibly marked since 2011 elections, was a blend of a cronyism, nepotism and clientelism. He shaped an order which made it possible to make dependent various segments of society directly to him. Redistribution of sources cemented the support of his voter base, and a new sycophant business and political class emerged, copying the earlier patterns which sunk Turkey into corruption in the 1990’s.

How was he able to do it? The key issue was the public procurement system. In the good old days when much seemed to go well with the attempts to meet the EU membership criteria, the old AKP leadership was very keen on accountability. Then, roughly from 2010 on the public procurement law attracted much attention of Erdoğan and his cronies; in small cunning steps it was amended more than 160 times to eventually be turned into a ‘dirty wheel of fortune’ which led to a profound corruption, paving way for an ‘organized looting’ under the political shield.

As a result, as of today, allegations of massive corruption stand between Erdoğan and a return to democracy. That is also the main reason why the judiciary is an extended arm of the Palace, that is why the rule of law has been demolished, that is why scrutinizing journalists have no choice but jail or unemployment, that is the reason why Turkish or foreign national are now being taken prisoners as hostages for swaps. So, his current choice exposes Erdoğan as keen on survive politically, possible never leave the power, unless offered an exit strategy.

”Will Turkey’s finest human resources continue to leave the country?” people ask me.

Yes they will. A diaspora of qualified workforce is already in the making. Its acceleration, the growing exodus, will depend on the consequences of the economic redistribution of domestic wealth as well as the alienation caused by majoritarian supremacy – a Sunni voter base placing itself at the top of the new social hierarchy, a new tutelage dictated by its lead all-Sunni institution, Diyanet (Directorate of Religious Affairs).

”But, the referendum showed that those opposing the Erdoğan rule are about 50 %. Why can’t the political opposition unite?” people ask me.

It looks like a mission impossible. This has to with Turkey for long cut through three major identity cleavages – Sunni, Secular and Kurdish. Then, the first two are some what united by some archaic form of Turkish nationalism – denialist of the past crimes and, to a large part, resistant to Kurdish demands on collective and individual rights. The secular segment, then, does not struggle enough to overcome its worship culture for the State, and allergia for the Kurdish political movements that want to have say in Parliament. So, much depends if a new wisdom emerges from within the main-opposition and some cop-outs of the nationalist MHP party to find a minimal common ground to battle against Erdoğan, who will not go quietly.

Given all these aspects, dear readers, keep being prepared to watch Turkish crisis deepen, and please do not let your attention, and your compassion for all those who battle for a decent democratic order over there.


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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