What Turks really want

Last week, I participated in an interview with the main opposition Republican Peopleand’s Party (CHP) leader, Kemal Kiliandcdaroilu, with a group of journalists from the Zaman daily. In terms of political identity, I do not consider myself a likely CHP voter under normal conditions.
Though Turkey departed from those long ago, nonetheless, as a result, my impression of Kiliandcdaroilu could be considered pretty objective. Many would agree that he is an approachable, polite and tolerant person. Unlike some others (I am not going to name any names, since I do not want to waste time with the hassle of lawsuits filed by the obvious names), Kiliandcdaroilu was open to criticism and we felt comfortable asking any questions we wanted. I can hear some of you say, and”So what, isnand’t that what is supposed to happen?and” but in the extremely polarized political landscape of the and”New Turkey,and” members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), in particular, have not been even talking to any non-partisan — let alone critical — journalists out of the fear of receiving real questions rather than questions (!) decorated with praise. Set aside Turkeyand’s unexpected turn to swift authoritarianism for a while, I could not help but think, after our interaction with Kiliandcdaroilu, that we Turks do love to deceive ourselves. Kiliandcdaroilu could by no means be considered a charismatic leader. He does not seem to patronize people, either. Could that be the reason why he is not considered as appealing as, for instance, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who lashes out in a condescending way at anyone who challenges him? In Turkish media, stories from the Western world that reflect political leaders as and”regular peopleand” always receive coverage with an open envy: a president getting in line to order a hamburger, a first lady who takes the metro, a minister who walks down the street without any staff, a deputy who parks herhis own car and suchandhellipThis is the preferred image of a politician in Turkey, but what about in reality? What portion of the Turkish public would actually respect a politician who walks alone on the street? Would anyone accept a leader who actually lives like an ordinary person? Why do even deputies who have lost their seats sometimes become depressed when they go back to normal life after becoming used to privileged treatment? Is politics not seen as a means to upgrade to a better lifestyle? Deep down, I think many in Turkey know the real answers to these questions. This is not necessarily hypocrisy, but there is clearly a significant gap between the images of an ideal politician and the one that actually has stronger appeal. Turkeyand’s love of and”strong leaders,and” needless to say, lies in its long tradition of the sultanate in the Ottoman Empire. Thanks to belated and mismanaged modernization in Turkey, the concept of the individual has still not been celebrated. The individual has been sacrificed to the and”holy existenceand” of the state when necessary. Only powerful leaders, like father figures, were perceived as capable enough to govern the nation, regardless of their democratic credentials. In some cases, the fear factor could also instill a seeming respect for the leader. Machiavelliand’s recommendation to the Prince that and”it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be bothand” seems to hold ground in Turkish society. The preference for strong leaders when there is an absence of checks and balances and the rule of law results in disastrous outcomes, as we are now painfully experiencing in Turkey. Strong, charismatic politicians can easily turn into arrogant leaders who believe they deserve everything but accountability, even in the face of massive corruption investigations. Despite the contradictory wishes of Turkish people when it comes to leader, one quality where they want to see and”someone like usand” is with regard to piousness. In the AK Partyand’s rise to power, the overt religiousness of its leading cadres was influential. Hopefully, especially among conservatives, there is increasing belief that outward observance of religion is not sufficient, when ignoring the essence of the faith and the violation of individual rights have become the rule under a religious administration. Turkey can start normalizing when the discrepancy between what its people seem to want and what they really want is closed.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman