November 23, 2016

Erdogan: Democracy Respecter?

Derek Davison*

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the president of Turkey, had some harsh words on Wednesday for Americans who are criticizing their new president-elect, Donald Trump:
“The West will continue to welcome tyrants who have blood on their hands with red carpets and label anyone who criticizes them as a dictator,” said Erdogan who is frequently criticized for his increasingly autocratic style of governing.

“Are they calling someone a dictator? Then you should think the opposite. That person is good, because (he or she) goes against their interests,” Erdogan said…

In the televised speech, Erdogan said anti-Trump protesters in Western nations had no respect for democracy or the result of the U.S. election.

“In America they started calling Trump a dictator. In various countries of Europe they spilled into the streets and started saying ‘dictator,'” said Erdogan. “I thought you were democrats? Why aren’t you respecting the results of the ballot box?”
If anyone can speak to the importance of respecting democracy, it is Erdogan, whose own respect for democracy knows no bounds:
The President of Turkey has said democracy and freedom have “absolutely no value” in the country after calling for journalists, lawyers and politicians to be prosecuted as terrorists.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Wednesday as almost 50 people, including activists and academics, were detained in a wave of police raids.

In a speech to local politicians in Ankara, he criticized critics raising concern over Turkey’s record on “democracy, freedom and rule of law” as discussions over a landmark deal on the refugee crisis continue.
Erdogan understands that there can be no respect for democracy unless the defeated side in a democratic election is able to accept the results of that election peacefully and in good faith:
The first is relations between the government led by the Justice and Development party (AKP) and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its political and societal affiliate, the Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK). A war between these two sides has been going on since Turkey’s June 7, 2015 parliamentary election. The war accelerated when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP were unhappy with the election results, in which they did not receive enough votes to seek a referendum to move Turkey’s political system from a parliamentary to a presidential system. One of the strategies of Erdogan and the AKP was to appeal even more strongly to ultra-Turkish nationalists to achieve this goal. Full-scale war commenced in July and has been ongoing since.
For example, a true democracy respecter must respect the fact that his or her political opponents will win elections from time to time and must not try to subvert or overturn those outcomes:
The two joint leaders of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic party (HDP) have been detained along with at least 10 MPs because of their reluctance to give testimony for crimes linked to “terrorist propaganda”.
Police raided the Ankara home of co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş and the house of co-leader Figen Yüksekdağ in Diyarbakır, the largest city in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish south-east, early on Friday.
It goes without saying that someone who respects democracy must also respect the things that make democracy possible, like a free and adversarial press:
Erdogan’s increasingly dictatorial style of governance claimed another victim. On March 4, supported by a ruling from Erdogan’s courts, Turkish authorities forcibly seized the offices of Zaman, Turkey’s largest daily newspaper, and then attacked those protesting the seizure with tear gas. Zaman had ties with Gulen’s Hizmet movement and was often critical of Erdogan and the AKP—it has now been reopened as a thoroughly pro-government outlet. It is hard to see the Zaman seizure as anything other than the final end of any semblance of press freedom in Turkey, the act of a government that will no longer tolerate dissent.
Indeed, a broad climate of free and open speech must be respected:
Overnight, educators became a suspected class. The Education Ministry dismissed more than 27,000 staff and Turkey’s Council of Higher Education forced all 1,577 university deans to resign, saying only those with no ties to coup plotters would be reinstated. The university watchdog also ordered each university to list faculty suspected of links to Mr. Gulen and has suspended 4,225 academics. The 15 Gulen-linked universities have been sealed like crime scenes.

So far, the purge has affected mainly academics on the outs with Mr. Erdogan even before the coup attempt, chiefly those connected to Mr. Gulen and to causes seen as critical of the government. But the chill is broadening, and many academics from top schools, expecting a second wave of purges, are seeking work abroad.
Additionally, one should respect the separation of powers so as not to consolidate too much authority in the hands of one person:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler to defend his controversial push to expand the powers of the presidency, local media reported on Friday.

Erdogan, the strongman of Turkish politics for more than a decade, is seeking a new constitution to transform his post into a powerful US-style executive “super-presidency,” which he says will provide more effective governance.

“In a unitary system (such as Turkey’s) a presidential system can work perfectly,” Erdogan was quoted as telling reporters in Istanbul on Thursday on his return from a visit to Saudi Arabia.

“There are already examples in the world and in history. You can see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany,” he was quoted as saying.
Fortunately for Americans who may find their respect for democracy wavering, there is a true democracy respecter in Ankara, governing a NATO ally no less, to whose shining example they might turn in this turbulent post-election period. Democracy itself owes him a debt of gratitude.

* A Washington-based researcher and writer on international affairs and American politics.

Published on LubeLog, 23 November 2016, Wednesday