Thursday,19 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1297, (26 May - 1 June 2016)
Thursday,19 July, 2018
Issue 1297, (26 May - 1 June 2016)

Ahram Weekly


With Turkey’s former prime minister gone, there is one less voice able to steal the limelight from President Erdogan, who continues his plan to be a modern-day sultan, writes Sayed Abdel-Meguid

Al-Ahram Weekly

The Yeni Yuzyil newspaper only had to refer to the forced resignation of ex-prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu as a coup for it to go the way of dozens of other newspapers. On this occasion, an unaccustomed touch of mercy was shown to Yeni Yuzyil, probably because it subscribes to the same conservative Islamist ideology as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

It was allowed to keep its Internet site. Still, it had to be punished because it was said to be close to the ousted Davutoglu, whose rising popularity was threatening to eclipse the sun. In today’s Turkey there can only be one orb around whom all revolve, and to whom all owe absolute allegiance: the latter-day sultan who is blazing Anatolia’s trail to a vision straight out of Gabriel García Márquez’s The Autumn of the Patriarch.

Last Sunday an emergency meeting was called of the AKP central executive committee. The scenes unfolded exactly as planned by the acknowledged actual and de facto AKP chief. who resides in the sparkling new and opulent White Palace.

Following the emotional farewell by Davutoglu, his successor was ushered in. There was no need for speculation beforehand. There were no rival candidates. Also, everyone knew that, unlike Davutoglu, Binali Yildirim would not exceed the bounds of his basic job specs as general factotum for the chief. Indeed, right on cue, the new so-called prime minister announced that his main priority would be to draft a constitution based on a presidential system.

Henceforth, no voice in Turkey shall sound above that of the president-for-life. But, as Ahmet Altan pointed out many months ago, this had all been coolly and carefully planned out well in advance. In his column in Zaman on 28 January, which is to say before the newspaper was seized and placed under government guardianship, Altan recounted how Erdogan has asserted his control over the judiciary, the police, the army and the press, placing loyal followers and yes-men in key positions and tossing all who ventured a word of criticism against him into jail.

A number of uppity consortiums were also paraded to the guillotine, in spite of their Islamist outlooks. All this took place beneath the nose of the Supreme Constitutional Court. Violating the constitution conceived by “coup-makers” is one of his prerogatives, just as is applying it in his own way to others when it suits him.

A major component of the plan was to generate a climate of intense fear and hatred throughout the country. It was not enough to sever the Kurds from their fellow Turkish citizens through the fiendish measures his government instituted following the 7 June parliamentary elections last year. A war now rages across southeast Anatolia, casting its tragic shadow across the country while the demagogic leader and his minions stoke ultranationalist and xenophobic passions.

Against this alarming backdrop, the Turkish parliament just voted to lift immunity from 138 of its members, delivering yet another stunning blow to Turkey’s moribund democracy and civic freedoms. True, a few of those 138 MPs belong to the AKP to give the impression that all are equal in the eyes of the judiciary.

But it is hardly a secret where many prosecutors get their orders, and no one seriously expects the hand of justice to extend to individuals implicated in the corruption scandals that have been haunting the AKP for over two years. “Justice” here will not be blind.

It will have its sights firmly set on the opposition, albeit not all of the opposition, not after the complicity on the part of the leader of the ultra-right National Movement Party (MHP), but this is not the place to delve into the shameful deal he struck.

The secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) may be relatively safe for the moment. The powers that be in Ankara realise that it is too risky to pounce on this major opposition party at this stage, and that it is better to wait until the opportunity is ripe. Still, a bit of wing clipping may be in order, entailing a few fabricated charges against a few CHP members.

In all events, the real target of this anticipated move is the Democratic People’s Party (HDP) which, as its co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtas has pointed out, has come under systematic attack since it won 13 per cent of the vote in the June legislative polls last year. That threw a temporary spanner into Erdogan’s designs, though he would quickly recover from his shock and wreak relentless and brutal vengeance.

Most of the MPs who have been stripped of their immunity are members of the pro-Kurdish rights HDP and these will soon be marched before tribunals for summary hearings. Of course, Demirtas, who has quite a few dossiers pending against himself, will attempt to take advantage of this conspiracy to expose the tyranny of its mastermind and executioners to the international community.

Not that he will have a difficult time persuading world opinion. The extent of the erosion of civil freedoms in Turkey is common knowledge. Also, Demirtas and his colleagues in parliament have pledged not to report voluntarily to the prosecution to give testimony, which means that they will have to be dragged in by force, with cameras from around the world watching.

Not that a wave of outrage among the Europeans and Americans will deter Erdogan from his great obsession. He will press forward, exploiting the expulsion of the Kurdish bloc from parliament, to call for another round of early elections in order to produce a parliament configured to give him the approximately 400 votes he needs to install a constitution tailored to his plans to become the country’s sole leader.

With this, the type of government to which Turkey had grown accustomed in the course of the history of its parliamentary system will no longer have a political function. It will merely be there to run the wheels of public services. Indeed, parliament itself will exist in name only.

With this dream in mind, Erdogan has been meeting with village mukhtars at least twice a month, gracing them with his hospitality in his sumptuous palace. In addition to consolidating the cozy bonds of his patriarchal patronage, the purpose of ensuring the loyalty of these local officials is to guarantee an electoral process that will give him the parliamentary composition he needs for his constitution without having to bring it to a popular referendum.

Still, if the 10 per cent parliamentary threshold that was introduced in the constitution drafted after the coup of 12 September 1980 ultimately fails to keep the Kurds out of parliament, the Erdogan presidential system will similarly fail to achieve this end. The price will be too costly and bloody. In Turkey today, the AKP, the secularists and the Kurds have become like three hostile tribes, ready to leap at each other’s throats at any moment.

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