December 29, 2015

Each new year is the feeling of a hopeful new beginning

Cafer Solgun

Turkey is entering yet another new year with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in power. Each new year brings with it the sentiments of a new beginning but the AKP has dulled this feeling of ours. This is how…

One of the first events of 2013 that left its imprint on the year was the Gezi Park protests. Prior to the protests, the AKP and then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had rolled back military tutelage and with the confidence that comes from having done away with the threat of a military coup and every threat that comes with it, they had adopted a discourse that was becoming increasingly authoritarian in tone. They didn't seem bothered by the polarization in society; on the contrary, they thought this polarization was necessary in order to maintain their power. Instead of taking the uprising that took place by way of Gezi Park as a reason to evaluate themselves and society, they used it as a reason to further deepen the existent polarization. They described the reaction of people who felt as though their lifestyle was under threat as an “attempted coup” and squashed it with police force.

Close to the end of 2013, the bribery and corruption scandal case that came into the limelight paved the way for a period whose effects and repercussions have extended into the present. Erdoğan and his party used state resources to the fullest in order to prevent the legal investigation of these grave accusations against them. They stepped into public squares, declaring that it was a “coup attempt.” And they further argued that the Hizmet movement was behind this “coup attempt.” According to Erdoğan, the Hizmet movement had formed a “parallel state” within the state and aimed to topple him from power.

This allegation of a “parallel state” really resonated with Erdoğan and his supporters; they took a liking to it. It was a very convenient argument because all of the negativity and ill-doings that had taken place during the AKP's time in power could now be placed on the shoulders of the “parallel state” and they would walk away with no responsibility for anything.

2014 was an election year. Erdoğan ascribed an incredible amount of meaning to the March 30 local election and in the end, he won. The same year, he won the presidential election with 52 percent support. However, those who expected that due to his presidential stance and responsibilities as outlined in the Constitution, he would intervene less in politics, were dead wrong. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who took on the role of prime minister and leader of the AKP, bowed to this de facto situation.

2015 was yet another election year and whether Erdoğan continued to rule the country as though he was “prime minister” was dependent on whether the AKP could come to power as a single party. As such, Erdoğan was not about to leave this up to chance. Thus, every single day of 2014 and 2015 he was present either in city squares or on television, speaking before the public. He did not recognize his obligation to remain impartial to all parties due to his presidential role as outlined in the Constitution.

Prior to the June 7 election, Erdoğan ended the Kurdish peace process (also known as the “Kurdish opening”), which he had vowed to continue “no matter what,” because the process had arrived at a juncture that required that a tangible step be taken and he had no intention of doing so. The peace process no longer brought him votes and it was high time for a new period of clashes to be embraced so as to garner the votes of nationalist voters.

When the AKP lost the June 7 election this year, it hit the re-election button without falling far from power. It employed an agenda of “Without us things will be much worse,” and it worked. In the end, it gained more votes than even it had envisioned and rose to power as a single party. The party had promised “stability,” yet it has taken Turkey, both domestically and abroad, to its most unstable period. There is war waging in Turkey's east.

Despite all this, each new year arrives with the feeling of a new beginning. We have to insist on taking ownership of this feeling that the AKP has dulled for us. Hope means not yielding to tyranny and continuing to defend that fact that we have no safe future except with democracy. I hope that the year 2016 will be a year of peace, tranquility, justice and democracy for our country and all of humanity.

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 December 2015, Tuesday