DOIU – Turkey as we know it

Turkey as we know itWas Turkey a liberal democracy? It was never so! So why is the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) government drawing so much criticism for its illiberal practices?The answer is pretty obvious: The AKP came to power representing the andldquoperiphery,andrdquo those who have always been kept away from the economic and political center It was expected to end this bias as well as tutelage of the state over society, which was realized by the bureaucracy.For half a decade Turkish democracy expanded to make way for incoming social groups.

The militaryand#39s dominance over political processes came to an end. Turkeyand#39s legal and political standards were raised with the countryand#39s candidacy to the EU.

The economy grew exponentially and Turkey began to play an effective geopolitical role in the region.The liberals of the country did not believe ominous calls from authoritarian secular nationalists that this was just a facade for the AKP, to be dropped when it was entrenched in the system Now they are not sure whether they have been fooled or not because after its third electoral victory, the AKP began to reverse the reforms and derailed the liberal practices that had made it so popular and drawn international praise.

As the government increased its hold over the state apparatus, it relied less on public support and began to use state power to manage society. The concerns of the people receded, and absolute control of the system and society gained an upper hand.

The easiest way to do this was to alter the legal system and to undermine the independence of the judiciary. This meant moving away from the rule of law.

Another aspect of arbitrary rule was changing the education system and Islamizing its secular character It became obvious that the partyand#39s primary political agenda was returning to a romantic Ottomanism that fused politics with religion and Islamic law (Caliphate). This was its envisaged formula for politico-religious indoctrination.

With total control of the executive and legislative branches and having a stronghold over the judiciary, the AKP began to pay less heed to matters of corruption. This process was interrupted by a group of police officers and prosecutors who accused some Cabinet ministers of corruption, charges based on hard evidence, in December 2013.

Since then the AKP government has been ferociously fighting back. Those police officers and prosecutors were all dismissed or replaced.

The legal process was labelled a andldquocoup by a parallel state bodyandrdquo sworn to overthrow the Turkish government. In order to ward off this takeover, the AKP government imposed a series of bans, applied pressure to the media and dismissed seasoned journalists and columnists.

Street demonstrations, no matter how peaceful, are relentlessly suppressed, and an aura of repression has settled on Turkey. This is facilitated by bringing the police and intelligence agencies under political control.

Once they were state institutions now they are government agencies with increased powers and less accountability.No doubt Turkish society is more polarized than everThe AKPand#39s full control of state institutions and centralization of power have left no room for checks and balances.

This whole process is described as the triumph of andldquonational willandrdquo or andldquonational sovereignty.andrdquoiven this dismal backdrop, Turkey is inching towards a general election scheduled for next summer with a 10 percent election threshold, from which only the AKP can benefit.

The Kurds defied the callousness of the ruling party in not introducing a more representative system and declared that they would enter the elections as a party. Formerly, knowing that they could not beat the exceptionally high threshold, they had entered the elections as independent candidates and formed a party when in Parliament.

This challenge is a serious one in that if the popular Kurdish Peoplesand#39 Democratic Party (HDP) (and the only Kurdish party in Parliament) gets more than half or two-thirds of the vote in the east and cannot get any representatives elected to Parliament because of the election barrier, grim things may happen. The empty seats vacated by the HDP will be filled by the ruling AKP.

Secondly, the Kurds will remain unrepresented in a country where they have fought for decades for recognition and equal citizenship. Seeing that all these efforts have been wasted, their response to election results may be so negative that we may see a new Turkey in a few years.

This is a dramatic shift from a future that was expected to be shaped by Turkeyand#39s regional leadership, now we just have total uncertainty.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman