Voters in the Turkish Republic have dealt the so-called neo-Ottomanism of Recep Tayyip Erdogan a blow. The Sultan – sorry, President – had hoped his Islamist movement, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), would not only win a clear majority of 276 deputies in the 550-seat parliament but a two-thirds majority. Had the AKP won 330 seats in the June 7 election, Erdogan could have set in motion constitutional changes leading to the transformation of Turkey’s political system from a parliamentary system to a presidential one. As it now stands, however, Erdogan’s AKP has won less than 41% of the vote and will have to make do with 258 deputies — not enough to form a government on its own.
There a many reasons to be horrified at President Obama’s Middle-East policies – the embrace of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, the “model intervention” in Libya, appeasement of Iran, the premature departure of American forces from the Iraq, reluctance to mobilize forces against the Islamic State, failure to directly support the defence of the Kurdish Regional Government, intrusion into Israel’s democratic elections, and so on ad infinitum – but Barack Obama’s embrace of Erdogan, best friend of Hamas, must rate highly on any list of wrong calls.
To give an idea of Erdogan’s zealotry, the day before the election he was accusing the New York Times of being the instrument of “Jewish capital”. No subtle disguising of toxic anti-Semitism under the colourful wrapper of anti-Zionism inside a BDS chocolate box for our man Erdogan! The New York Times had some of its own back by responding with what has been described as a “satirical tweet” about President Erdogan’s spanking new 1,150-room Ankara palace, thirty times the size of the White House. Trouble is, there’s nothing especially satirical about mentioning that Erdogan has built a 1,150-room palace in Ankara because that is exactly what he has done. Moreover, all this has come to pass as the Turkish economy goes into reverse and accusations of endemic corruption at the top emerge.
Erdogan bears more than a passing resemblance to Vladimir Putin on a number of fronts, and yet it could be argued that at least the Russian’s foreign policy has seen the return of Crimea to the “motherland”. Erdogan’s “zero problems with neighbours” could now be re-labelled – as one wag suggested – “zero neighbours with problems”. The sight of Kobani fighting for its very existence against the Islamic State whilst President Erdogan ordered Turkish tanks to line the Turkish-Syria border and do nothing remains a haunting memory.
Before the June 7 results were announced, Daniel Pipes was warning that the Turkish parliamentary election was “the least important among Turkey’s elections” over the years because President Erdogan had already subverted democracy in the Republic:
“…since the moment Erdogan’s presidency began nine months ago, he has behaved as though his wished-for constitutional changes had already been effected; he has chaired cabinet meetings, chose AKP candidates, leaned on the judiciary, and deployed a bevy of ‘czars’ to compete with the prime minister’s staff. He is lord of all he surveys.”
Pipes might, of course, turn out to be right, and one-man authoritarian rule could be Turkey’s destiny whatever unfolds in the next parliament. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note – at this admittedly early stage of proceedings – that the three non-AKP parties, the nationalist MHP with 80 deputies, the secularist CHP with 132 deputies and the secularist-leftist-pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) with 80 deputies, are refusing to form a coalition with Erdogan’s minions. It is still early days but – who knows? – June 7, 2015, might turn out to be a true and lasting victory for genuine democracy and liberty in the Turkish Republic. Perhaps the country will not have to endure more headlines such as this one from last December: “Erdogan Launches Sunni Islamist Revival in Turkish Schools.” Or this from last week: “Islamists and Secularists Battle Over Turkey’s Hagia Sophia Museum”.
After Erdogan’s brutal crackdown on peaceful demonstrators in Istanbul in June, 2013, Jenna Krajeski wrote an article for the New Yorker titled “In Takism Square, Where Are the Kurds?” In one powerful passage she observes, “the Gezi Park protesters need the Kurds.”
Maybe the HDP, which soared past the parliamentary threshold with 13.12% of the national vote, has already begun to form a connection with all freedom-loving Turks. As I wrote in “The Battle for Modernity on the Kurdistan Border”, the Republic of Kurdistan “might never get a guernsey at the United Nations and yet the defacto Republic of Kurdistan might become the saving grace (and guiding light) of Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran.”
Daryl McCann has a blog at darylmccann.blogspot.com.au