The bigger picture

The first question was tackled by Ivan Krastev in a New York Times opinion piece published on Nov. 11, 2015 titled “Why Did the ‘Twitter Revolutions’ Fail?” where he argued that societies’ urge for stability and predictability dominated over calls for disruption and change. Krastev noted that Mr. Vladimir Putin and Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdogan understood very well their respective societies’ demand for stability and manipulated developments so that these societies would consolidate around the state and the national leader. There is ample food for thought here for Turkey’s opposition.

Written right after the horrendous Ankara bombing in October, Umut Ozkirimli’s piece in openDemocracy titled “Ankara bombing and the end of the Turkish Republic” argues that we are witnessing the end of the Turkish Republic as we know it. He underlines that “the anger that pits half of the society against the other is too intense, the divisions that run through various ethnic, religious and ideological groups are too deep to paper over … the quest of the Kurds for the full recognition of their identity and rights, especially in the context of the developments in Iraq and Syria, is in the long-run irreversible.” This is certainly an argument that needs to be revisited after the election outcome on Nov. 1 and Krastev’s more overarching argument. We ought to ponder what this means for our country.

Lastly, Soli Ozel’s insightful piece in Haberturk titled “Kitlelerin İsyani” (The uprising of the masses) points to the rise of demagogues due to the failure of elites to connect with the masses and deliver on their issues. He notes that the gap between elites and societies is increasingly widening, which opens the door to an “Age of Demagogues.” Such tendencies are to be seen in Turkey, India and Taiwan where millions of people have migrated to cities and have opted for ambitious, new local elites who promise to deliver on their needs. Ozel argues that the world is not entering a clash of civilization but a clash between pluralism and an aggrieved localism that is likely to be very costly.

Examining Turkey in view of these three thoughtful pieces provides a number of answers to what we are observing currently in Turkey. The Turkish Republic that we know has indeed come to an end; the large conservative masses have ensured that their aggrieved local leaders have reshaped the country at the expense of pluralism, the rule of law and minority rights. The Gezi Park protests suffered from the fragility and diversity of Twitter revolutions. It overlooked the centrality of being organized on the ground and its true impact on the rest of society. As we saw on Nov. 1, the potential for chaos and instability has precipitated a strong reaction in favor of the political actor the Turkish electorate thought was most likely to deliver stability and order. In this sense we are as Krastev noted “witnessing a new anti-cosmopolitan moment.”

These trends are much more gravitating than daily political considerations and must be understood properly if an alternative to this pervading localism is to emerge. Recognizing these fundamental dynamics and understanding their backgrounds is critical to make sense of what we are witnessing in Turkey.