In times like this, when there is a growing sense of despair about the future of liberal democracy in Turkey, it is important to take a long-term view and calmly reflect on how the country will weather the current developments.
Objectivity is often the first victim in times of political polarization. And since Turkey is extremely polarized today between several diverse camps -- between not only secularists and religious conservatives or Turkish nationalists versus Kurdish ones, but perhaps even more so within the Islamic camp itself -- objectivity is in short supply. So let's try to bring some objectivity and long-term analyses to the cacophony in our country.
The obvious place to start is the question of where we are in our political evolution. Some countries categorize their political evolution in terms of sequenced republics. For instance, France, a country that provided a political model for the Kemalist conceptualization of laicism and assimilationist nationalism, is currently in its fifth republic since 1958. Italy, after the fascist era under Mussolini, went through its first republic under the anti-communist hegemony and kleptocracy of Christian Democrats. This first republic collapsed with the end of the Cold War and the "clean hands" operation only to open a second republic of more kleptocracy and hegemony under the buffoonery of Berlusconi.
Taking this long-term view, it is clear that today's Turkey has undergone significant transformations since the transition to democratic politics in 1950. Although the current government claims credit for the term "New Turkey," the real novelty that radically changed the political economy of the country came under the leadership of Turgut Özal. It was Özal who unleashed the dynamics of capitalism and export-led growth that created the so-called Anatolian tigers in Turkey. The rise of Erdogan's AKP would not have been possible without the "new" Turkey that Özal created. However, despite the radical departure from the past in the economic arena, one crucial institution maintained its supremacy behind the scenes of Turkish politics: the military.
The war against Kurdish nationalism and the rise of political Islam under Necmettin Erbakan plagued most of the 1990s -- Turkey's lost decade. The military made its presence abundantly clear in 1997, with the fourth intervention. A similar attempt to shape politics shook Turkey as late as in 2007 when the army opposed the candidacy of Abdullah Gül to the presidency.
The Kemalist system, in which the staunchly secularist military and judiciary exerted significant political influence, appeared alive and well as late as in 2008, when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) narrowly survived a closure case. The next few years paved the road for a paradigm change of unprecedented importance in Turkish political history. The Ergenekon case laid the foundations for a post-Kemalist order in Turkey with the emasculation process of the military. During this process, the Gülen movement and the AKP appeared hand-in-glove in their coordination and cooperation against their common enemy.
Today, this post-Kemalist phase of Turkish politics is in full steam, and it has taken a tragic twist with fratricide between the AKP and the Gülen community. In fact, in a country where Erdoğan has managed to silence the Kemalist and liberal media, the strongest voice against the AKP's authoritarianism is coming from fellow conservative Muslims of the Gülen community.
Another clear example of post-Kemalism is that the country is no longer discussing the legitimacy of Kurdish cultural rights. Instead, the real focus is on the nature of the political future between Ankara and Kurds in a possible framework of federalism and decentralization.
Sadly, the crackdown of the government against the educational, media and economic infrastructure of the Gülen movement shows that the post-Kemalist order of the AKP is as autocratic and illiberal as the Kemalist order. The tyranny of a minority under Kemalism has now turned into the tyranny of the majority. This illiberal predicament of the country remains its most deeply rooted structural problem.
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 21 December 2014, Sunday