By Halil Karaveli
June 6, 2016
The celebration of the conquest of Constantinople 1453 is an expression of Turkey’s quest for purity. The “ideology of conquest,” the need to symbolically and repeatedly reclaim what has been Ottoman and Turkish for centuries, ultimately speaks of an existential unease with a historical legacy that is marked by a heterogeneity that is unsettling for an authoritarian state that seeks uniformity. The need to celebrate the conquest of the most important city of the land shows that Turkey is yet to become reconciled with its past. Such reconciliation calls for assuming the entirety of what is a multi-layered historical legacy. Recognizing that Turkey is the result, not so much of conquest, as of a history of continuous mixing and assimilation of aboriginal cultures and state traditions, is also the key to coming to terms with country’s ethnic and cultural diversity today and securing a democratic future for Turkey.
Özgür Mumcu in Cumhuriyet notes that the presence of the chief of the general staff, General Hulusi Akar, as a witness as the wedding of Sümeyye Erdoğan, the youngest of President Erdoğan’s daughters, provoked angry reactions among those who – like betrayed lovers -- are used to pinning their hopes on the military. This is not a meaningful reaction, but apparently we needed a wedding picture to realize what the power structure looks like. It was the military-industrial complex that posed for the wedding picture. This is the situation of the military that some hope so much from. And the same goes for the “Istanbul capital” that again, some expect will provide salvation. These capital interests are standing in line to get defense contracts (from the state). Erdoğan, the military, big capital and MHP form a united front. The wedding picture is instructive: it reminds that democracy will not come with the help of big capital and the military. Erdoğan, capital, the army and MHP are hand in hand. Had the laws about contract labor passed so easily if it hadn’t been for this alliance? The power relations are as easy to read as an open book: A united rightist bloc, behind it big capital, and the military as its assurance. These are all well-known themes for the left, for a left that once again needs to bring back class to the center of the political agenda.
Nuray Mert in Cumhuriyet writes that the opposition circles dangerously put their faith in chaos to get rid of the government. It is dangerous to hope that chaos is going to weaken the regime, instead of engaging in a serious struggle for democracy. Not only is an international isolation of Turkey not the solution that the opposition circles think; it will also provoke more extreme reactions from the regime. Which country has so far fared good after its leader was declared a “dictator?” We see what end that has befallen these countries. In such situations, the whole country crumbles together with the regime. None of the paths of the opposition offers any hope for the future: not the extreme nationalism of MHP, with its hostility to the Kurds; not the Kurdish movement, which is only provoking the regime to be more repressive and Turkish nationalist; not the democrats and liberals who simply put faith in anything that they think is going to weaken the regime.
By Halil Karaveli
April 5, 2016
The outsize personality of President Erdoğan obscures the systemic dynamics that sustain his exercise of power. Erdoğan’s push for an executive presidency corresponds to the “logic” of Turkish state power. Erdoğan’s personal ambitions and raison d’état coincide to reinforce authoritarianism. Ultimately, democracy in Turkey is crippled because no major political force, representing the Turkish majority, challenges the dominant mentality that holds that the survival of the state requires the checking of ethnic and cultural diversity.
Fatih Yaşlı in Birgün writes that at first glance, the terror attack in Ankara on March 13 would appear to have been “wrong and a mistake” from the view point of PKK, which has also been pointed out by leftist circles that are close to the Kurdish movement. These make the point that the massacre in Ankara circumscribes the political room of maneuver of the leftist-democrat forces in the west of the country and that it has undermined the position of those who call for a democratic and peaceful resolution of the Kurdish problem. What this criticism overlooks is the fact that the dynamics of war has changed since the state abandoned the “solution process”, and that the PKK – in response to the state violence that has been escalating since then – no longer gives priority to forcing a solution with “democratic” methods. Instead, PKK is spreading the war in the Kurdish areas to the rest of the country. As war has become the way of conducting politics, it leads to new alignments: MHP edges closer to the government, while CHP’s statist reflexes are triggered and the party’s discourse becomes similar to that of the governing party. And we know who’s going to benefit from that. Unfortunately, we can expect that the worst is yet to come, lest the two sides are bluffing, which they don’t seem to be doing. When the “spring war” intensifies, attacks like these are going to become routine, and with growing polarization in society, there will follow an increased risk that civilians are going to take on each other directly.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.