Cohn-Bendit laments PM’s opponents declared traitors

Daniel Cohn-Bendit, the leader of the Greens in the European Parliament, has lambasted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his policies enacted since Dec. 17, 2013, warning that Turkey is heading toward an “Erdogan-type authoritarianism.”

Cohn-Bendit, who is also known as “Danny the Red,” long supported Erdogan’s reform-oriented policies and has been a vocal supporter of Turkey’s membership in the EU. However, he has been increasingly critical since the Gezi Park incidents of last summer and strongly condemned the government for its handling of the protests. In the wake of the revelation of corruption investigations on Dec. 17, 2013, that were later halted by direct government interference, Cohn-Bendit has openly taken a very strong position against Erdogan’s policies.

In an interview aired on the Samanyolu Haber channel’s “Avrupa Masası” (European Desk) over the weekend, the Greens leader, who was one of the iconic student leaders of the 1968 unrest in France, said he was extremely disappointed in Erdogan’s policies and warned that Turkey could be heading to another type of authoritarianism after the decades-long period of Kemalist authoritarianism. “If Erdogan continues like this, we will face a situation in which Turkey, which has come out of the Kemalist authoritarian era, will have lived as a democratic system for a short period of time and then go under another authoritarian regime, this time Erdogan and the AK Party’s [Justice and Development Party],” Cohn-Bendit said. He emphasized that the democratic space would shrink slowly but consistently.

Criticizing Erdogan’s political discourse, Cohn-Bendit said those who do not support Erdogan are being declared traitors now in Turkey. “Now this is a democratic criterion for me. If you are not declared a traitor by Erdogan, then you are not a democrat. That is my new vision of Turkey,” he said.

Likening Erdogan to President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, the Greens leader said it would now be very difficult for the corruption investigations to be handled fairly, following massive replacements of police officers, judges and prosecutors. “We also see corruption in Putin’s Russia and Orban’s Hungary. All the big men also organize corruption,” he said.

When asked about the government’s description of the corruption investigations as a coup organized by foreign forces and a parallel state, Cohn-Bendit said these theories were “ridiculous” and far from convincing to anyone in Europe. He was also asked about the government’s calls on the EU to condone recent events in Turkey as part of a struggle against a parallel state and the argument that the government would return to the path of reforms once the parallel state was destroyed, and the Greens leader said he did “not believe in this at all.” He added that Erdogan was behaving exactly like Putin, claiming that he has all the power, that he knows everything best and that everyone should believe in what he says and follow his instructions.

In a meeting on Jan. 21 in Brussels, Cohn-Bendit had a heated dispute with Erdogan about majoritarianism. When reminded about this fight with Erdogan in the European Parliament, Cohn-Bendit said he objected to Erdogan’s argument that he could not make mistakes as he had the majority of his people behind him and the claim that majorities do not commit mistakes. “I told him that this is not true. There are many examples in history when majorities made mistakes. One of the examples is Germany under Hitler. He got angry about the comparison. What I wanted to do was to give an example from history,” he said.

Dismissing Erdogan and the AK Party’s discourse that finds an enemy in every corner, Cohn-Bendit said this style of politics reminded him of the Kemalists. Stressing that the real problem in Turkey is Erdogan and his policies, Cohn-Bendit said the Turkish prime minister and his party are betraying what they have said and promised.

Cohn-Bendit, who is about to retire from politics, said he was very sad to witness these developments in Turkey when he is on the eve of leaving the political scene. He also underlined his disappointment with President Abdullah Gul, voicing optimism that he will also come out and fight Erdogan’s policies.