German Greens’ Ozdemir: AK Party represents Islamist face of Kemalism

In an exclusive interview with the Nokta magazine on Monday, Ozdemir answered questions regarding Turkey’s European Union membership process, the current refugee crisis, the AK Party’s authoritarian rule and the repression of the opposition in Turkey.

In response to a question on what he thinks about the victory of the AK Party in the election, Ozdemir stated that following the June 7 election, in which the AK Party lost its majority for the first time since 2002, the people were threatened and manipulated by Erdogan with the idea that if they did not support the AK Party, the country would lapse into chaos. Stating that Erdogan’s policy of fear worked well in the Nov. 1 snap election, Ozdemir said, “The strategy [of fear and manipulation] that everybody easily envisioned came in handy.”

AK Party criminalized HDP following June 7 election

In the June 7 election, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) passed the national threshold and put 80 deputies in Parliament, causing the AK Party to lose its majority for the first time since coming to power. As a result, the AK Party could not form a single-party government. Following the election, the tension between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish security forces escalated. Many analysts have argued that the AK Party intentionally raised the tension in the country in order to criminalize the HDP, convincing the public that the HDP is the political branch of the PKK terrorist organization.

Pointing to the ruling party’s criminalizing and marginalizing of the HDP prior to the snap election, Ozdemir said the old fears of terror had been awakened.

Emphasizing the disappointment he has experienced since Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has not kept the promises he made during his balcony speech after winning the vote, Cem Ozdemir said: “On election night, I congratulated the prime minister in a message I posted on social media. I hoped that the new term was going to be built on consensus and peace since it [the government] got what it wanted: the majority. That is why I gave special importance to Davutoglu’s speech. However, the seizure of media groups, the curfews in the southeastern [provinces], the arrest of opponents and the violent treatment of civilians after [the Nov. 1] election have shown that nothing is going to change.”

The Green Party co-chair also claimed that the government has not taken any serious steps to solve the deep-rooted problems in the country, such as the Kurdish question, the rights of minorities including Armenians and Alevis and creation of a new constitution removing restrictions on civil and democratic rights. “Most importantly, the violent treatment of the Gezi protesters showed that Erdogan has a different understanding of democracy than we do,” said Ozdemir.

‘Merkel-Erdogan bargaining over refugees is not ethical’

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with Erdogan on Oct. 18 in İstanbul in a bid to convince Turkey to make a deal on stemming the flow of refugees into Europe. It was a visit that drew heavy criticism, interpreted by some as a show of political support for the AK Party ahead of the Nov. 1 election. According to reports, Merkel offered Erdogan 3 million euros in financial aid.

On the topic of what he thinks about the meeting between Erdogan and Merkel, Ozdemir stated that “Merkel, who has strictly opposed Turkey’s being a member of the EU in previous years and has offered instead a ‘stupid’ model called ‘privileged partnership,’ began to talk about Turkey’s full membership after the discussion on the influx of refugees into Europe.”

Regarding the meeting between Erdogan and Merkel as “unethical bargaining,” Ozdemir argued that both Merkel and Erdogan know perfectly well that the pledge of EU membership given by Germany is just a dream.

Ozdemir also highly criticized the German chancellor for her visit for giving the impression that she supported the undemocratic, repressive and authoritarian rule of Erdogan over the country.

‘AK Party is Islamist face of Kemalist state tradition’

According to Ozdemir, the AK Party represents the new Islamist face of Kemalism — the ideology of the authoritarian state with the military at its center. “It was recognized that [the AK Party’s] efforts to remove the military tutelage [over politicians] and transformation of the state were for cementing its own position in the state.

The Kemalist state tradition has been contested by political Islamists since the foundation of the Turkish Republic in that it does not tolerate opposition and it represses the many societal groups. Ozdemir argues that Erdogan and the AK Party have been taking advantage of this statist structure, which they pledged to change when they came to power in 2002.