By GHASSAN KADI*
(November 4) – Erdogan’s AKP party has scored a monumental victory; not so much in terms of the lead in parliament though. As a matter of fact, it is a fairly narrow victory, but one that was least expected. What is monumental about it is the course that Turkey has set itself upon.
A victory for Erdogan perhaps, but for Turkey itself, the outcome of this election will probably take years and even decades until it becomes clear what the results truly meant for Turkey’s future and wellbeing.
Nearly one hundred years ago, Ataturk set the foundations of the Turkish Republic, and Turkey was no longer a waning great Empire better known then as “The Sick Man of Asia”. A fresh new republic emerged, though with much smaller territory and much lesser wealth and resources. It was a fresh start for the Turkish people and an anticipation for a new direction without having to look back much at the past and the loss of either the war or the Empire.
This election for Turkey has been like no other, because most analysis predicted an AKP loss.
Some of Erdogan’s opponents are making accusations that the result was rigged. Perhaps one could argue that something was rigged; either the polling booths or the minds of the majority in Turkey.
This election for Turkey has been like no other, because Turkey has now embarked on a new path; the Erdogan Republic.
This now truly marks the end of the Ataturk era. Out with the old and in with the new. Erdogan continues to brandish the portrait of Ataturk in his office, but in reality he has dismantled everything that Ataturk has built and stood up for.
Democracy Ataturk-style had its own flavour, perhaps a unique flavour not known anywhere else in the world, and definitely one that is very different from Western-Style Democracy.
Ataturk was a soldier before he became a politician. He had full faith and trust in the military, and he therefore decided that the military should have the upper hand over politicians and be the national watchdog.
Ataturk was far from being a world hero. He was a ruthless nationalist who would stop at nothing in his pursuit of Turkmen superiority. Other ethnicities had to accept being assimilated into the Turkman identity or face genocide. This is needless to say that he was a drunk who died at the age of fifty seven from alcohol-induced liver cirrhosis.
For some decades later, once corruption became rife and once politicians were seen to put their own political agenda before national interests, the council of the three army chiefs stepped in, removed the government from office and declared military rule until there was such enough time to call for elections.
Politicians who were deposed by the army, were (and in accordance with the constitution) not allowed to run for office ever again.
The military deterrent was meant to keep politicians honest or face the consequences. The constitution was amended several times and the last significant change was back in 1982, but the army kept its stature.
Erdogan changed this, and the Turkish military does not have that moral upper hand any longer. The final say is back into the hands of the politicians.
But this is not all.
Erdogan has one more task to perform. He wants to change the constitution again giving more power to the president; ie himself, and turn Turkey into a state in which the president has unprecedented power. The link below is an excellent reference to the constitutional changes that preceded Erdogan as well as what he has implemented and endeavours to do.
My article however is not about the Erdogan changes per se. It is about the manner in which they have been done, both at the level of Erdogan as well as the Turkish people themselves.
Erdogan has used fear and a slogan that translates as “AKP or Chaos” in order to polarise voters and get them to revise their June 2015 vote and vote AKP. But this is not new. All Western-Style politicians use all sorts of tactics and dirty tricks in elections.
What is pertinent in the Erdogan-Style Democracy are a number of serious issues.
To begin with, Erdogan has used the democratic process in order to take power away from the army and political rivals and give more power and autocracy to himself.
Would Erdogan go as far as calling for a referendum that abolishes democracy altogether? Even though this is an unlikely prospect, the Erdogan-Style Democracy has definitely demonstrated new and unprecedented flaws in democratic systems, ones that have not been seen in Western-Style Democracies; or at least not yet.
In essence, if the public is polled and approves the abolishment of democracy and the instalment of autocracy, then the public’s wish will be granted. Democracy, in its pure form, Western-Style or Erdogan-Style therefore carries a licence for suicide with total impunity and lack of provisions to prevent any ensuing dictatorship.
What is more interesting in the outcome of the very recent November 2015 Turkish parliamentary elections is that Turkish voters did not really favour an Erdogan-Style autocracy against democracy, they have favoured a Theocratic-Style Democracy against secularism.
This is a potentially serious and dangerous development.
The political and military turmoil that has overtaken the Levant in the last couple of decades and since the first US-led war against Saddam in 1991, and to be specific the last five years or so, has seen a dogmatic polarisation of Levantine nations.
With the state of Israel in existence, a state that bases itself on a Zionist-Talmudic interpretation that gives some of the descendants of Abraham a form of superiority, some Levantine states and ideologies countered the Zionist argument by adopting a similar, but opposite, argument that is based on Fundamentalist-Islamic rights instead of Zionist-Jewish rights.
Secularism and all-inclusiveness in the Levant have been under severe attacks, the most fearsome of which is the one manifested in the “War On Syria”. As other nations were eventually drawn in, they had to decide whether they would support the dangerous rise of fundamentalism, especially Islamic fundamentalism, sit back and watch it, or partake in standing up against it.
Erdogan has played an instrumental role in the “War On Syria” and Turks are quite aware of this. His gamble has failed abysmally in Syria, and within Turkey itself, his stand has rekindled ethnic and sectarian divides, and Turks are quite aware of this as well.
On the matter of choosing to side with ISIS or those fighting it, including Kurds, Erdogan chose to support ISIS, and this too is not a secret as all Turks are aware of this.
It was mentioned above that some anti-Erdogan Turkish activists are claiming that the elections were rigged. This is a link to one of those claims:
It would be rather difficult for anyone to make impartial assessments about such claims. Certainly however, if the elections were indeed rigged, then there is a serious problem in the way Erdogan’s party practices politics. However, if the elections were not rigged, and if the Turkish people have indeed decided to side with Islamic fundamentalism, then this constitutes a much more serious problem.
I have always maintained that Islamism is a distorted form of Islam that can only be addressed by Muslims themselves if and when they decide to read the Quran correctly. The war against Islamism is not one that can be won militarily alone. That said, “war on terror” has been an American slogan all the while America was feeding the Jihadi Islamists in one hand and giving them a small smack on the bottom with the other hand. As the world is waking up to the fact that Islamic fundamentalism needs to be curbed, the world powers have been making very serious statements about on which side of this argument they stand.
If Turkish people have decided to side with Islamism and all that comes with it, they will need to be ready for the consequences, domestically, regionally and internationally, courtesy of Erdogan-Style Democracy.
*Ghassan Kadi, a political analyst, maintains an informative blog of his writing here.