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.
Murat Aksoy in Haberdar writes that politics in Turkey has historically not been defined by the left-right axis, but by an axis of change-status quo. And but for a few exceptions, politics in Turkey has been carried out within the realm of the state, that is, with a view to preserve status quo. During AKP’s first term, the party made politics with society, not the state, as its point of reference, which set it apart in the historical context. However, the Arab Spring, and the process that started after the 2011 general election, has resulted in the AKP embracing the state, abandoning society as its point of reference. The main opposition party is not different in this regard. If CHP is going to become a strong rival to Erdoğan/AKP, then the party needs to differentiate itself from statism: it must stand up for society and give voice to the different societal demands, instead of also having the state as its point of reference. And the way to do this is to build coalitions with the different societal sections and groups. CHP should take the initiative to build a democratic coalition, bringing together the victims of Erdoğan, the AKP and the state.
Celal Başlangıç in Haberdar notes that AKP is taking action in parliament to strip especially the HDP parliamentarians of their immunity. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has said that the move “is against the constitution, but we are nonetheless going to vote in favor of removing the immunity.” Everyone in the party was surprised, even shocked, including some of those who are very close to the CHP leader. Why had Kılıçdaroğlu – who until now had accused President Erdoğan of violating the constitution – decided to be party to this crime? In CHP circles, four answers are suggested to this question: one is that the CHP leader feared that the AKP was going to accuse him of helping “PKK deputies.” Second, he was afraid that the neo-nationalists within CHP would have rebelled otherwise. Third, Kılıçdaroğlu’s own identity – he is Alevi and Kurd – played a role. But the explanation that is mostly discussed is that Kılıçdaroğlu decided to say “yes” after a briefing he received at the General staff. People in the party are saying that Kılıçdaroğlu knew very well – after a meeting earlier during the day with the central committee of the party – that the general tendency was in favor of saying “no” to the AKP’s motion, but that the briefing he was given at the General staff later during the day led was decisive, explaining why he went on television in the evening to tell that CHP was going to vote “yes.”
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.