July 22, 2014

Erdoğan's parallel bicycle gets rotten

Selçuk Gültaşlı

Because he believes that the lies about the so-called "parallel state" are a useful tool to cover up the corruption charges, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan keeps riding this parallel bicycle. He is aware that once he stops riding this bicycle, he will fall off and the corruption charges will be exposed to the people.

Prime Minister Erdoğan and the members of his close circle, whose careers depend on his, have developed a strategy to address the serious corruption charges that emerged on Dec. 17. One crucial leg of this strategy was to reach out to people who would vote in the local elections and convince them that there had been no corruption. As part of this strategy, they also launched a campaign to argue that the Dec. 17 charges were a coup attempt rather than a corruption investigation and that this attempt was sponsored by the Hizmet movement, which he referred to as a treasonous network that collaborated with external actors, to make the people hate the movement, which is presented as an enemy, and to carry out a perception-altering operation based on false news reports and allegations on pro-government TV channels, newspapers and Internet sites. Another crucial leg of this strategy was to work hard to ensure that the world, particularly the West, bought this fictional depiction. Despite the allegations of electoral fraud, it seems that this strategy at least partially worked in the local elections.

Erdoğan, who believes he has found a treasure in his offensive discourse, keeps pedaling the parallel bicycle because he still believes that he can win the upcoming elections by blaming the Hizmet movement and covering up the corruption allegations. He is also aware that once he stops pedaling, he will fall off the bicycle, the corruption allegations will become known to the public, and the public will in turn grasp the true nature of the government efforts to paralyze the state apparatus.

He does not hesitate to use libel about Gülen's comments on Gaza; he presents himself as a hero who sorted out the problem of military tutelage, while he also argues that a conspiracy was set up against the military; he redesigns the entire judiciary to make it submissive to his wishes; these are all moves he has been making to keep pedaling the parallel bicycle. 

Despite the fact that the strategy has partially worked in the domestic terrain, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) is having a difficult time in the West. While they have reserved some criticisms against the Hizmet movement, the European Union and the US have not bought Erdoğan's argument about a so-called "parallel state" wholeheartedly. And Erdoğan's parallel bicycle has started to rot despite all efforts abroad.

A leading figure in the European Parliament (EP) has suggested that it is Erdoğan himself who has done the greatest harm to his "parallel state" argument. EU institutions that believe that the Hizmet movement has some influence within the bureaucracy are suspicious of the accusations directed against the Hizmet movement in connection with the Hrant Dink, Father Andrea Santoro and Zirve Publishing House murders, while the convicted perpetrators of these incidents have been released.

I talked to another official in the European Commission (EC) who is familiar with political affairs in Turkey. He says it has been seven months since Dec. 17 and that no convincing evidence has been presented so far. He notes that any evidence that might be presented now would not be as strong as if it had been presented months ago. His conclusion suggests that there is either no "parallel state," as there is still no evidence despite the fact that 40,000 police officers, judges and prosecutors have been reappointed, or the "parallels" are so skilled that they disappeared without leaving any shred of evidence behind. The same official further said: “Now the word 'parallel' is a joke; AKP figures have been making reference to this argument less frequently now.” Like former socialist group leader Hannes Swoboda told Prime Minister Erdoğan, and former EP Rapporteur on Turkey Ria Oomen-Ruitjen said to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, there is a widespread belief in Brussels that the government is using the Hizmet movement as a pretext. The reappointment of 40,000 police officers, prosecutors and judges confirms this belief.

EU Commissioner for Enlargement Stefan Füle insisted on meeting Constitutional Court head Haşim Kılıç on his latest visit to Turkey, and then he held a lengthy meeting with him, while he avoided Erdoğan; these are all hints of how the "parallel state" argument is viewed by the EU.

A police officer who was removed from his position because of attempted rape during his service at the US Embassy in 2003 has blamed the "parallel state." It is inevitable for others to follow, if you have a prime minister who relies on this "parallel state" argument so eagerly. But if the number of subscribers to this thesis grows further, the number of those who buy this argument will inevitably decline. It should also be noted that the West has been following these news reports and developments quite closely.

Published on Today's Zaman, 21 July 2014, Monday