December 23, 2014

Where is Turkey heading to?

Haluk Özdalga*

The Dec. 14 operation, where a number of police officers and media workers including the Zaman daily's Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and STV Broadcasting Group Chair Hidayet Karaca were placed under detention was conducted under the supervision of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) administration. The current state of affairs represents a new stage for the regime, which has been in decline for a while. This stage reveals that the current regime has lost its democratic legitimacy. Elections, freedom of expression and supremacy of the law are the three main elements of a democratic order. A regime lacking one of these three main principles cannot properly be called a democracy.

What we also need to see is that the whole thing is not all about the AKP-Hizmet movement disagreement. True, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AKP administration are staunch opponents of the Hizmet movement; but even if this confrontation ends, the current state of affairs will not be improved or fixed.

We all know that the threats and pressures against the free media started well before the Dec. 14 operation and that the government had certain goals that went well beyond dealing with Hizmet. On the other hand, another project was devised to make the judiciary subordinate to the political administration. This project was initiated when a law enforcement directive was amended to ensure that all investigations would be controlled by the government. Further steps in the implementation of the project included seizing control within the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), the Council of State and the Supreme Court of Appeals. True, the motive of dealing with Hizmet accelerated the process; but it would be naive to think that the systematic project seeking to undermine the independent judiciary was based on this motive alone.

So where are we heading to? Well, the AKP's İstanbul chairman explicitly defined their final destination: “In the past 10 years, we worked together with some stakeholders with an emphasis upon freedom, legality and justice. But the future is an era of reconstruction; and this would not be how they would desire. Those stakeholders would no longer be with us.” Those were not statements that a local branch chair is able to make; undoubtedly, they reflected the overall mood and goal of the AKP administration. Now we are in an era of reconstruction that is not consistent with the democratic state and supremacy of law. In other words, the regime is still declining.

To better understand the gravity of the crisis we are having, we need to see the big picture in terms of international relations and domestic affairs in the country. Turkey's territorial integrity is now under an immense threat. The AKP, which argued that there was no Kurdish problem and pursued a policy of denial, suspended the reform process years ago. Reliable research shows that the number of Kurds who want independence has grown significantly over the last three years. In the settlement process, the AKP is being held hostage by the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the party's leader Abdullah Öcalan.

The European Union membership bid represents the direction of Turkey's long journey rather than a six-decade long goal. Now it becomes clear that there is no room for that goal in President Erdoğan's ideological world. One of the things the AKP and Erdoğan fail to see is that supremacy of law and EU membership were and are the two main assurances for Turkey's territorial integrity.

In Syria, the government pursued a policy of regime change through military intervention. This illogical policy made Turkey one of the main targets of confrontations in the region. Turkey now has no friends in the region because of consecutive mistakes its government has made. On the other hand, the anti-Western discourse President Erdoğan and his AKP supporters rely on contributes to the escalation of tension and growing risks in foreign policy.

Turkey is moving towards a total collapse. We all will be affected by this; one of those who will pay a huge price will be the political Islamists who missed this historic opportunity. They should have listened to Rashid Gannushi: the only advantage of the AKP is the weakness of the opposition. But I am afraid that the weakness of the opposition will exacerbate the situation in the final analysis.

*Haluk Özdalga is a deputy representing Ankara.

Published on Today's Zaman, 23 December 2014, Tuesday