October 9, 2015

AKP’s test run for a sultanistic regime program

İhsan Yılmaz

There are only three weeks to the election. All polls suggest the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) will pass the threshold and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will lose its parliamentary majority by a few votes. There are still some undecided voters. To have a democratic election; voters need to be informed about the parties positions and their criticism of each other. Well, on this, we have a very serious problem. The AKP is doing everything it can to make sure that the voters only get its version of the story. Can you imagine what it will do if it wins the election?

Only a few days ago, the largest digital TV platform (Digiturk), which was recently bought by Erdoğan's Qatari friends, removed seven TV channels from its portfolio. This means that many millions of TV viewers will not be able to access these channels. This is clearly against the Constitution. The AKP is abusing its power in order to silence TV stations that offer the opposition a platform as well. Digiturk says a prosecutor sent it a notice saying these TV stations belong to a terrorist organization (i.e., the Hizmet [Gülen] movement). This is of course a stupid allegation. There is not even a shred of evidence to support this, other than Erdoğan's firmans (imperial edicts)! There are no court decisions stating that the Hizmet movement is a terrorist organization. And even if we, for the sake of argument, assume that there is such a court order, media organizations cannot be silenced by law as long as they do not support terrorism and violence. Digiturk's decision is so stupid that one of these seven stations is a channel for children famous for broadcasting the cartoon character Caillou, a Canadian educational children's television series.

Digiturk's censorship decisions came just before one of the banned seven channels, Bugün TV, was to host a party leader: the pro-Kurdish HDP's co-chair, Selahattin Demirtaş. Because the HDP passed the draconian 10 percent threshold and froze Erdoğan's sultanistic ambitions for a while, the AKP hates him and wants him to be seen as a terrorist. This is why the AKP does not want to allow him to be seen on TV. Thus, it hopes that the HDP will not be able to surpass the threshold, making it possible for the AKP to “steal” its 80 seats and establish Erdoğan's one-man regime without checks and balances.

The Doğan Media Group has been under immense attacks by the AKP for exactly this reason as well. It has also been tried by the courts for allegedly supporting terrorism. The group's influential news channel CNN Türk hosted Demirtaş before the June 7 election, when he played the bağlama, a traditional string instrument, and sang Kurdish and Turkish songs, capturing the hearts of many Turks. This infuriated the AKP. The program's host, Ahmet Hakan, was verbally attacked by AKP figures and later attacked and injured by four gangsters, three of whom are AKP members. The group's influential newspaper, Hürriyet, and its editor-in-chief, Sedat Ergin, are so afraid that they could not even inform the Hürriyet readers that Digiturk censored seven (actually six, if we exclude Caillou's TV station!) critical channels. These channels are ones where not only the HDP appears, but also where the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the Felicity Party (SP), the Grand Unity Party (BBP) and many other opposition parties frequently appear. Without opposition, one cannot have a democracy. This is what the AKP has been gradually doing.

Every day critical journalists, singers, actors and players have been taken to court on the alleged “crime” of insulting President Erdoğan. Prosecutors consider even the lightest criticism of him as an insult. This is actually now the most serious crime according to the AKP's judiciary. Those who injured Ahmet Hakan were set free but the prosecutor wanted Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş to be imprisoned on Tuesday because of his critical tweets concerning Erdoğan.

This is only a test run of the AKP's sultanistic program. This is only a demo. If it wins the election, we will see the results. We can still criticize Erdoğan and the AKP but by taking a huge risk. All of us face several legal charges and our lawyers are busy dealing with them. We can no longer use public transport since AKP leaders and the media have been presenting us as traitors and terrorists. We do not want to face the fate of Hrant Dink and many of us have started to think that maybe prisons are safer, for they have not started torturing the inmates. At least not yet!

Published on Today's Zaman, 9 October 2015, Friday