September 5, 2015

The raid

Doğu Ergil

A few days ago, the Bugün daily and affiliated media organs were among more than 20 of İpek Koza Holding's companies raided by the police. The media organizations are deemed to be among the few outlets “critical” of the incumbent government.

What is odd is the fact that the media organizations, the university that belongs to the holding (İpek University in Ankara) and financial and business concerns were raided on the same day. It is obvious that the government had launched an all-out war on the holding.

Why a raid, instead of a routine inspection? We are told that the chairman of the holding had his home's front door broken down and even his kids' rooms were searched. He is accused of “financing the ‘Fethullah Gülen terrorist organization (a fabricated suspect without arms) and his media organs were accused of being instruments of terrorist propaganda.” Half a dozen ambassadors live in the same building in which he resides and the actions of the police took place right in front of their eyes. An undesirable sight…

A raid is a type of ambush. It is a method employed by those who evade direct confrontation with their opponents under clear rules. Unfortunately, ambushes have a place in our culture. Police raids generally take place at dusk rather than during the daytime.

Another cultural characteristic of ours is intolerance to criticism. This feature becomes more pronounced at the higher echelons of government
that does not enjoy being held accountable for their actions. Indeed, the AKP government became more authoritarian as its actions were questioned and took the futile course of attempting to seal off channels of criticism.

Yet, criticism is like a mirror held to one's face. Individuals and societies can only get to know themselves through criticism. If individuals block out criticism, they fail to see the consequences of their thoughts and actions in a different light.

Individuals and societies may break the mirror of criticism for disliking their reflection in it. Then, they would not be able to correct their mistakes or improve themselves. Criticism and opposition is sine qua non of a democracy.

If someone or a party in power tries to prevent criticism and any opposition, for that matter, not do not only deny themselves the chance to correct their mistakes, but also turn themselves into absolute authorities. However, this effort stands in direct contradiction to the letter and spirit of democracy. The end result is evading accountability and covering up injustices, infractions and corruption.

At the last elections, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost the chance to form a single-party government. The party is now trying to push the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) below the 10 percent election threshold to win that chance again. Reigniting and escalating violence is the method being tested towards that end. The Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) took the bait so as not to lose its grip on Kurdish turf. The organic relationship between the HDP and the PKK will be exploited so that less Kurds and more nationalists will vote for the AK Party.

We were all very much worried about the possibility that this tactic could work. But on the whole it has not, so far. According to a Metropoll survey in August, more people held the trio of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, interim Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the AKP responsible for the initiation and escalation of violence, than that of HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, the HDP and the PKK.

Understanding this fact, the AKP changed its strategy and tried to chip away at MHP's electoral base to win enough votes to form a single-party government. However, this cunning intelligence is not geared to rid the party of past mistakes, rectifying corruption and administrative irregularities, or appointing groups of people based on loyalty rather than merit.

If the AKP does not get what it wants in the renewed elections, it may invent new ways of changing the rules of politics or postponing the transfer of authority. This would mean ruling by force rather than consent. Yet, the sustainability of an anomic government is low and unless the rule of law backs it up, the level of arbitrariness becomes unbearable.

In conclusion, the AKP's agenda for the elections and style of politics does not correspond to Turkey's true agenda. Yet, it all started so well…

Published on Today's Zaman, 5 September 2015, Saturday