Wednesday, 27 August 2014

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

Pro-government pundits have declared the advent of a “New Turkey” after the appointment of Ahmet Davutoğlu as the successor of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as  the leader of the ruling AKP. One commentator described the appointment as one of the most critical thresholds in the realization of the New Turkey project, which is described and celebrated as a comprehensive break with the past century of Turkish history. Dissident commentators warn that Davutoğlu’s vision of a world in which religiously based civilizations clash, and where Turkey aspires to lead the Islamic world, threatens to bring with it cataclysmic effects for Turkey. A more moderate commentator compared the “New Turkey” of Erdoğan to the sheikdom of Dubai.


New Turkey is not a slogan, writes Ibrahim Karagül in Yeni Safak. New Turkey is a project. It is the project of redesigning, re-founding Turkey after a century. New Turkey is the announcement of the end of the First World War, of the construction of a new country. New Turkey means profound changes in Turkey’s century-long perspective on foreign policy, on economical and social policies; it means foundational changes. It means a change of received opinions, the renewal of our political language and a profound change of our way of looking at our country and at the world. The preference for Ahmet Davutoğlu as the chairman of the AK Party and Prime Minister represents one of the most critical thresholds in the implementation of the New Turkey project. The Seljukid and Ottoman heritages are going to be resurrected. Turkey will break free from the confines of the nation state, replacing these with strength and solidarity, challenging the established order, redesigning the geography and new forging partnerships.


Özgür Mumcu in Cumhuriyet notes that Erdoğan is the only one of the founding leaders of the AKP who remains in active politics. Abdüllatif Şener disappeared after a failed political initiative. Bülent Arınç is slowly ending his political career with statements referring to his “unique importance” that no one takes seriously. And Abdullah Gül has long since been purged. With Ahmet Davutoğlu, the without comparison least successful foreign minister of the history of the republic has become prime minister. The sole criterion is unconditional subservience to the chief, and to be a loyal foot soldier that executes his orders. Davutoğlu is going to be the least powerful prime minister since Turkey became a democracy; he is always going to be in the shadow of Erdoğan. Davutoğlu is someone who fits perfectly into the paranoid, delusional mindset of Erdoğan, which has become ever more pronounced and which is beyond treatment since the Gezi protests. He is someone who has created his own fantasy world that has no relation whatsoever to reality, and who rebels against reality because it fails to conform to his own fantasies. The advance of Davutoğlu, who sees the world as a stage for the supposed confrontation between religiously based civilizations and who is obsessed with assuming the leadership of the Islamic civilization, is one of the worst misfortunes that have befallen this country. We have seen the results of his hallucinations in foreign policy. Now we are going to experience his and Erdoğan’s shared hallucinations. This means a harsher, more divisive, polarizing political climate. Our new prime minister is a sectarian politician who sees even ISIS as the reaction of persecuted Sunnis. After he was appointed prime minister by Erdoğan, Davutoğlu described AKP as a “struggle for justice and rights that will continue until the apocalypse.” If his premiership is going to be like his stewardship of the foreign policy, he will not need to worry; then the apocalypse will be pretty near.


Ergun Babahan on the t24 news writes that what Erdoğan has in mind is a “Dubai model.” Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has set his mind to create a conservative society in place of the goal of Mustafa Kemal, which was to attain the level of contemporary civilization; he is going to try to organize everything, from education to tourism, accordingly. It is apparent that the model in Erdoğan’s head is a societal order similar to that of Dubai. This is a societal order where the president is the sheik, where consumption of alcohol is confined to five star hotels, exclusively for tourists, where every kind of madness is perpetrated in the name of development, violating the environment, where human rights and the rule of law are suspended.  In this societal order a superficial religiosity masks the fact that every fundamental value represented by religion is trampled upon, where businessmen dependent on the regime are quickly enriched. How far are Turkey’s urban opposition, the Kurds and Turkey’s relations with the West, going to allow this societal model to continue along its path without encountering any obstacle? Time will tell us…


Süleyman Yaşar in Taraf notes that there is a lot of talk lately about a new Turkey. Then, let’s check what’s new about this new Turkey? First of all, there is no new project of production in this new Turkey. There are two, populist projects in Istanbul. These are the third bridge (over the Bosporus) and the third airport, but there is nothing beyond these. The new Turkey is defined by the iron triangle of the state, the oligarchs that are offered risk-free, lucrative concessions by the state to construct and for a time operate huge public projects, with profits guaranteed, and the trade union bosses that organize the best paid part of labor. The state/the politicians offer the concessions to the oligarchs, who in turn feed the politicians. However, this iron triangle is unable to produce a productive economy; what it does produce are tangibles that are not subject to foreign trade; the “hot money” that flows in from abroad thanks to the policy of high interest rates enables a show-off economy of luxury estates, luxury restaurants, luxury cars and shopping malls. Let’s note that the August statistics show that the use of industrial capacity regressed compared to the same period last year and also compared to the previous month. Thus, the expectations are not particularly good; the economy is underperforming.


Ali Sirmen in Cumhuriyet notes that the main opposition party CHP, which holds an extra party congress the first week of September, runs from defeat to defeat. And these electoral defeats are grounded in the fact that the party lacks an efficient organizational structure as much as it does in the mental confusion that besets the party. In the presidential election, the party failed to mobilize its own voters at the ballot box. It is normal, after a failure of such a magnitude, that the party leader heeds the calls to convene an extra congress. But the congress in nonetheless futile; it’s futile because it will only be about electing party chairman and the sixty members (together with the fifteen substitutes) of the party caucus. We should note right away that we would take the wrong or insufficient approach if we were to put the blame for CHP’s permanent state of failure on the back of Kılıçdaroğlu. In other words, CHP’s problem is not a party leader problem. The same held true during the time of Deniz Baykal. The roots of CHP’s torubles are its own identity crisis and its organizational model. The fact that Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu replaced Deniz Baykal did not change its mode of organization, and neither did it help produce a solution to its identity crisis.

Read 7677 times Last modified on Monday, 01 September 2014

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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.


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