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.
Sezin Öney on the Haberdar news site notes that President Erdoğan on March 11 stated that “We are going to build a new Southeast.” It seems that the state is executing a specific project. Since last summer, a “military-civilian coalition” or what should perhaps more accurately be called a “comradeship-in-arms” has been established at the highest echelons of the state. The different elements of this coalition or comradeship may not see eye to eye on every issue, but there seems to be an agreement between them regarding the execution of a specific project aiming at the reconfiguration of the Southeast. Why was the need felt to send in all the elements of the security forces, deploying excessive violence, into the city centers? The area is being “cleaned,” to use military terminology. According to the estimates of the Union of the Municipalities of the Southeast, close to two hundred thousand people have migrated – whether temporarily or permanently -- from the urban areas that are subjected to military operations. Meanwhile, the Human Rights Association suggests that the internal migration could possibly number around three hundred to four hundred thousand people. The military operations that have led to this refugee flow seem to be the expression of the “allergy” of the state to Kurdish developments: first the “democratic autonomy” that was declared in Rojava and subsequently the fact that HDP crossed the threshold to parliament in the June 7, 2015 general election. It seems that “raison d’état” calls for a “cordon sanitaire” in order to contain what the state fears is a “contagion” of Kurdish identity and political aspirations. The policy of “erase and rebuild” seems to be a way of driving away the Kurdish population from the region, to simply discourage it from continuing to live there; is some kind of deportation also part and parcel of the state policy? Is the state maybe also entertaining a plan to create a different demographic structure in the region?
Ergun Babahan on the news site Özgür Düşünce writes that AKP never intended to reach an agreement with PKK and solve the Kurdish problem on the basis of a Western model. It assumed that it was going to be able to dilute the Kurdish identity within a Sunni Muslim identity and that it would solve the problem with economic investments and individual rights. When the Kurds mobilized around HDP and the party crossed the ten percent threshold to parliament that not only jeopardized Erdoğan’s dreams of an executive presidency. It also jeopardized the founding paradigm which the 1980 coup had put in place specifically in order to ensure that the Kurds were kept out of the parliament and politics. Different schemes were enacted to block the path of HDP and to neutralize the Kurds politically (after the June 2015 general election.) This is the development that those who are accusing the PKK of having fallen into the trap of the state, or of AKP fail to fully read. The state openly chose to settle the accounts with the Kurds by the means of violence.
Mahmut Bozarslan on Bertaraf Haber writes that the PKK engaged the state in a ferocious fight without allowing the HDP the chance to do politics. And this time it did it by bringing the fighting into the middle of city centers… Even though the west of Turkey holds HDP responsible for the fighting, the Kurds knew very well who the responsible was. The declarations of self-rule in many Kurdish populated cities and the armed resistance on the streets, started to annoy the Kurds. The Kurds could not make sense of why there was suddenly a resumption of violence just as peace was within reach. The Kurdish voters stood up against PKK’s preference for violence. The HDP was made to pay for the violence that did not cease despite all calls from civil society. Yes, the state started the violence, but the PKK continued with it. The PKK could very well have declared that it was not going to take action and then withdrawn across the border. Not only did it choose not to withdraw, it turned the cities into war zones. And poor HDP had to pay the price. Yet despite everything negative, if one victor of the election is the AKP, so HDP is the second one. It is a major accomplishment to manage to get 59 parliamentarians elected despite all pressure and despite having been squashed under the tension that all the fighting has caused. The loser is the strategy of Kandil [the PKK], and the tactics of urban guerilla. As the saying goes, “War for the people in spite of the people” does not work.
Etyen Mahçupyan in Akşam reminds that in 2002, after AKP won its first election, he predicted that the party was going to score at least four consecutive election victories. If we honor this prediction, the AKP is going to win the 2019 election as well. The reason is simple. This movement is the vector of the sociological change that became visible in Turkey from the beginning of the 1990s. The party’s vote potential hovers between 35 and 55 percent, and if the “right” things are done, it will not stop at 55 percent. The AKP’s successful performance in the management of the economy, its health, urban and infrastructure policies have converted this “new” movement toward conservatism into a modern middle class movement as well, and it has consolidated its voter base. This is the fundamental reality of the last fifteen years in Turkey. Turkey’s future depends on the AKP doing the “right things.” When the AKP does the right things, other parties become insignificant. That is because AKP is an authentic reality that connects the past to the future, and the local to the global…
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.