October 29, 2015

Heavy price of political seizure

Sami Karahan

As a professor who has been teaching law for three decades, I cannot understand what has been happening in Turkey recently.

Grave crimes that call for life imprisonment and breaches of laws and the Constitution are being committed by those in power and their supporters as if they were the norm. There is no sign of fear or remorse from the perpetrators. On the contrary, they continue to perform criminal acts. The people, on the other hand, show surprise but remain as bystanders to the events.

The judicial, intelligence and police institutions of the state, as well as the Treasury, the central bank and the Court of Accounts have become paralyzed. The state fails to perform its main duties, including the protection of people's rights. There are many signs indicating that the country is unmanageable. We are being driven toward a state of collapse.

Bombs are detonated everywhere, hundreds of people are killed, and tens of soldiers are martyred every day in different parts of the country. Nobody takes responsibility for this. On the contrary, the state authorities argue on live broadcasts that there is nothing that requires the resignation of political figures. Cities are placed under blockade and people are prevented from collecting the dead bodies of their relatives. While this is happening, the state authorities raid kindergartens and schools with hundreds of police officers holding automatic guns. Due to these unreasonable developments, the gap between the state and the people has widened.

Bans have been introduced to restrict broadcasts and ensure that the public does not know the truth. Media channels are under huge pressure; they are being removed from Türksat, Digiturk, Tivibu and other platforms. Finally, to complete the media crackdown, the project courts appointed trustees to the Koza İpek group in a government takeover. The aim of all this is to increase the pool of pro-government media by placing pro-government figures at the helm of rival media groups. This is both offensive and patronizing to the Turkish people.

This is a state of madness and frenzy. You cannot possibly explain what is happening with reason or logic. To create a so-called religious, autocratic state, private companies in Turkey are being transferred to pro-government persons and institutions. With such moves, social opposition and the free media are being silenced.

The political administration views the state as a tool for transferring money and power to its supporters, rather than an organization that exists to serve the people. The entire state is mobilized to achieve that goal. The political administration made some strategic choices to this end and picked construction, energy, mining and transportation as priority sectors; furthermore, it encouraged its supporters to focus on these sectors so that they would get aid from the state. These pro-government figures won major public contracts and gained enormous economic strength. To enable this, the law on public tenders was amended 106 times, and public banks were exploited through the allocation of huge loans that were never paid back.

The ruling party has used media power in order to be permanently in power. Simultaneously with its efforts to create pro-government businessmen, it started to create its own pro-government media via companies which had fed on the funds of bankrupt banks of previous years that were seized by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF). Free media outlets were forced to surrender to the ruling party via tax fines, the cancellation of mining licenses, and other financial threats. The process led to the creation of the pro-government media pool consisting of 15 TV channels, 10 newspapers and dozens of journals.

The ruling party has used the legislature, the judiciary and autonomous bodies in an unrestrained manner in the creation of the pro-government businessmen. Turkcell was seized using the Capital Markets Board (SPK), Show TV via the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), Bank Asya via the Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) and İpek Media Group through the judiciary. The Energy Market Regulatory Agency (EPDK), the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK), the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) and the Turkish Competition Board (RK) have played critical roles in ensuring that the energy market, the telecommunication sector and media sectors respectively are dominated by pro-government businessmen who outgunned their rivals. This form of nepotism has reached a peak in recent years.

Turkey will have to pay a high price for the confiscation of Koza İpek Holding. The first penalty will be paid by the economy. Seizing a publicly traded company under feeble pretexts cannot be explained away to foreign investors. Foreign investors leave countries where they cannot find any legal security. It is easy to predict that foreign capital outflow will increase in the short run. Furthermore, Turkish capitalists will not want to invest in their own country, and they too will start to look for a way to flee Turkey. Also, I must note that an economic crisis is around the corner for Turkey.

The second price will be of a political nature. The legitimacy of the election depends on it being held in a fair and transparent manner. With independent media outlets silenced, this fairness and transparency cannot be ensured. Therefore, whatever the outcome of the Nov. 1 election, the result will be considered dubious. Even if the Justice and Development Party (AKP) wins, it will not be considered a legitimate government and won't be recognized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). When it is unrecognized by the OSCE, the AKP's legitimacy will be contested across many platforms including the European Union, the Council of Europe (CoE), the United Nations, and NATO. It should be noted that one of the fundamental values of NATO is democracy and that the Turkish army is also a NATO army and responsible for the protection of its fundamental values.

On the other hand, it is very likely that the illegal autocratic structure within the state that manages the election process wants to see the results of the Nov. 1 election contested. To prevent corruption charges from being brought against them, they will try everything to create chaos. If after the election, it becomes possible to form a coalition government; they will not allow this coalition. I believe there is a plan to hold another election in March, and until that time all dissident or critical private establishments and media outlets might be seized. Opposition parties may even be shut down on charges of lending support to terrorism, allowing a single party to enter the election. There is also the possibility that another election may never be held, and a theological authoritarian and totalitarian dictatorship may be established. In such a case, a civil war may erupt.

If you regard these predictions as too far-fetched and say, “This is too much,” then I recommend you read the story of how Adolf Hitler came to power. You may also look at what has been done so far. Did you ever think that such events would transpire?

The solution is to display a strong democratic reaction. This can be done only through solidarity and by acting in union. To this end, we should maintain our democratic struggle and ensure that a legitimate party comes to power with our votes. We should not let Turkey become like Syria.

Published on Today's Zaman, 29 October 2015, Thursday