February 5, 2015

Seeing oneself as ‘the nation’

Cafer Solgun

Turkey is going through an extraordinary period. The responsibility for this extraordinary period lies with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is finding it increasingly hard to put up with him. The outcome concerns us all, of course.

I don't have any ideological or political affinity with neo-nationalists or pro-status quo circles that believe they have to oppose anything the AKP does. Rather, I have long been opposed to those groups from an intellectual perspective.

Like many other people and groups, I have lent support to the AKP's moves that paved the way for democracy and freedoms. I have advocated that Turkey's problems be tackled with a perspective that relies on rights, rule of law, democracy and freedoms.

I have attached importance to every effort that contributes to the peaceful coexistence of all ethnic, religious and cultural identities in Turkish society as well as to the AKP's moves to this end.

My previous articles received many reactions with offensive content from readers who were apparently AKP supporters. "How can you call Erdoğan a dictator?" they asked and accused me of being pro-Gülen movement.

This is the mentality the AKP and Erdoğan impose on their supporters. They are quick to stigmatize any critical view in an effort to discredit it. I am an independent columnist. Above, I noted how I analyze our problems and based on which criteria. If your views have a critical nature, you may be accused of being "pro-Gülen movement" or a "traitor." What is this?

Many people call Erdoğan a dictator. I am one of those who were late to make this assertion. I said Erdoğan has dictatorial ambitions. I explained the justification for this assertion. Focusing on the period over the last year, we have been observing practices from the ruling party that violate the rule of law. The latest example of this is the usurpation of the management of Bank Asya on trumped up reasons that fail to convince anyone. State authorities have been trying to sink this bank for the last year. What is this?

The transition to a presidential system has entered our agenda, not because Turkey needs it, but because of Erdoğan's dictatorial ambitions. This fact is so obvious that even some members of the AKP cannot conceal their doubts about it. In every speech he makes, Erdoğan brings up the issue.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the ruling party's spokespeople are quite reluctant to lend support to Erdoğan's remarks about the presidential system. Apparently, they don't like the way the general election slated for June 7, 2015 has turned into a referendum on the presidential system.

Erdoğan finds or invents opportunities to make public statements virtually every day. He acts as if he is still the leader of the AKP and does not care about being criticized for doing so. He levels harsh criticism at opposition parties in every speech. He turns a deaf ear to those who remind him of the fact that, under the Constitution, the president should be neutral and impartial.

"I am not impartial; I side with the nation," he says (Feb. 4, 2015). This sentence is the peak of demagoguery. Erdoğan sees himself as the nation. He thinks "siding with the nation" is a mission specific to him. He forgets that opposition parties, too, represent the nation. He does not see those who are critical of him as part of the "nation."

This perspective is not unique to Erdoğan. All dictators in history found similar missions for themselves.

Turkey will not give in to Erdoğan's ambitions. What Kenan Evren, as the chief of the coup of Sept. 12, 1980, failed to achieve cannot be achieved by Erdoğan. This attitude is undermining the country, making it waste its precious time. But he cannot be successful. It is our duty to issue warnings. My advice to readers who find themselves angry at me is that they should think before insulting and stigmatizing.

Published on Today's Zaman, 05 February 2015, Thursday