Power-hungry Erdogan brings an end to Turkish democracy

Erdogan’s never-ceasing political ambition for more power adds an element of fatal danger to Turkish democracy

Mahir Zeynalov
Mahir Zeynalov
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly said on Saturday that he will fully exercise his rights when he takes on the largely ceremonial position in the presidential palace following a vote in August, de facto shifting Turkey’s parliamentary system into a presidential one.

There are more than 70 states in the world that have a presidential system while only nine of them are functioning democracies and only two of them are close to the desired level of a democratic system: France and the United States. Turkey’s need at the moment is not a presidential system but a consolidated democracy that recognizes basic freedoms and rights. It is 2014 and it is unbelievable that we are urging the Turkish government to be accountable and respect basic freedoms.

If Erdogan’s force of darkness triumphs, it will be tantamount to a complete eclipse of Turkey’s already nascent democracy

Mahir Zeynalov

Erdogan’s never-ceasing political ambition for more power adds an element of fatal danger to Turkish democracy, as he is intent on creating a political system that is much more compatible with dictatorship. With Erdogan at the helm, the situation signals long, dark days ahead for Turkish people long oppressed under a military regime. Erdogan was viewed as a revolutionary leader who would save the nation from military tutelage. Sadly, he is today building his own party state and reversing many democratic gains posted under his watch.

Against the background of the ongoing Turkish drama looms the shadow of angry Erdogan who vows to “sterilize” his opponents by “boiling and molecularizing” them. Think of a leader who feels no drop of timidity when openly acknowledging that he is waging a witch-hunt across the nation. Yes, this is exactly what he said in his Saturday speech. Without any hesitation. Without any shame.

Shameful cheers

Add to that scandal the shameful cheers of his supporters. In Turkey, there is a firmly-held belief that the more support the government has, the better (and more democratic) it is. Ankara points to public support for the government when responding to Western officials criticizing the level of Turkish (not already existing) democracy. In the West, however, what is more important is how strong governments are treating minorities and critics of the authorities and if the government upholds the rule of law.

Erdogan’s arrogant government falsely believes that it has the wind in its sails as they recently secured a significant support of their electorate who have shown an unprecedented loyalty despite undeniable evidence of corruption and growing despotism. Overwhelmed by the media’s 24/7 brainwashing, only less than 40 percent of the Turkish people support the country’s bellicose and incendiary prime minister, but this was enough to provide an enabling environment for the government to do whatever it wants with outrageous impunity.

The deepening polarization at home and growing isolation abroad remains both a cause of concern for Turkey as well as an opportunity to install the institutionalized despotism. Erdogan has largely benefitted by sowing the seeds of discord within the public and it is still unclear how he is going to reconcile during upcoming campaign for a presidential vote with majority of the Turkish people whom he deeply alienated.

Paranoid Erdogan

The hate rhetoric that spewed out of Erdogan on Saturday proved once again that the prime minister is suffering from an advanced phase of paranoid and constant fear. Here is a common definition of paranoid, of which every symptom is displayed by Erdogan: hostility, aggression, feeling of certainty without proof, lack of a sense of humor, questioning motives of everyone, even including close family members. The bad news for him is that his version of this illness is not curable.

Instead of talking and incriminating themselves, dictators usually move on and crush dissent. In the case of Erdogan, however, he does little to refrain from non-stop hate speech which indicates that he is unable to fully hunt down his opponents and he is increasingly feeling frustrated as his dirty laundry could be aired at any time. By constantly bashing the opposition, he is creating an illusion that any dirty revelation about him is probably the fabrication of his critics.

Doomed to fail

The ingredients that successfully maintained authoritarian regimes in the Middle East are abundant in Turkey: a silenced media, rampant corruption, anti-democratic laws, violent security services and members of the government who are (literally) above the law. Now stop being angry when one tries to draw parallels between Erdogan and other dictators, such as Qaddafi (who, by the way, used a similar rhetoric against his opponents such as Erdogan).

If Erdogan’s force of darkness triumphs, it will be tantamount to a complete eclipse of Turkey’s already nascent democracy and the loss of entire gains under Erdogan, once the country’s most democratic and promising leader ever.

Those around Erdogan should already understand that the government survives thanks to a spectacular balance of interests (may be this is also what drives their motivation to remain within the government) and a small-scale clash of interest among officials will wreak havoc the ruling party. Associating with the ruling AKP is a sure path to a room of full trouble.

The country that is touted as a role model for Arabs is now a state that is ruled by a leader hell-bent on burying freedoms and tarnishing Turkey’s reputation abroad. For God’s sake, what good could you expect from a leader who is banning Twitter and YouTube in 2014?

The government of Erdogan is eventually doomed to be buried in the dark pages of Turkish history. The question is, how much will Turkey be damaged with the prime minister’s demise?


Mahir Zeynalov is a journalist with Turkish English-language daily Today's Zaman. He is also the managing editor of the Caucasus International magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirZeynalov

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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