The interviews that Fethullah Gülen has recently given to Western media have provoked critical comments in the pro-AKP media. Abdülkadir Selvi questions Gülen’s claim that the rift between his movement and the AK Party was caused by the government’s back-tracking on democratization. Mustafa Akyol offers what he calls a “friendly warning” to the Hizmet movement, writing that its involvement in Turkish power games endangers its global influence. Meanwhile, Mümtaz’er Türköne, in the Gülenist daily Zaman deplores that Islamism has been undone by graft and by the attempt of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to monopolize the surplus of the state for his part of the Islamic movement. Liberal commentator Mehmet Altan warns that the government is courting a danger of the worst kind by opening the door for the military in order to evade justice.
The crisis in the Turkish state is of growing concern among the commentators in the Turkish press. Liberal commentators have in particular started to worry that the crisis is going to have the effect of re-inviting the military into the political equation ; indeed they warn that the recent statements of the General Staff indicate that this has already happened. "The increasing frequency of the statements of the General Staff is not at all reassuring," writes Hasan Cemal. Leading pro-government commentator Abdülkadir Selvi argues that the AKP needs to embrace new friends, the military and also the Kurdish movement, to stave off the challenge of the Gülen movement. "If the state crisis, the fight between the institutions, turn into a threat to the existence of the state in the eyes of the military, the position they will take is going to represent a risk for democracy," warns Ali Bayramoğlu. While liberals see a risk that the old guard military may return, others speculate about the Gülenists within the military and point out that the question how they might act is the big unknown of the raging power struggle.
The polarization in Turkey and the lack of democratic progress remains a major concern for many commentators. The decision, announced by the minister of education, that the private test-prep classes are going to be shut down, was taken as evidence that the AKP government is now openly targeting the movement of Fethullah Gülen. Ekrem Dumanlı, writing in the daily Zaman, warned that the decision, if implemented, will open deep wounds between the movement and the ruling party that will “take decades to heal.” Taner Akçam, writing in the daily Taraf, drew a historical parallel with the failed Ottoman reform process in the nineteenth century and the lack of democratic progress today, pointing out that the idea of the “dominant nation” still remains a point of reference, which guarantees that no equality will be instituted between Turks and Kurds and between Sunnis and Alevis.
The Taksim/Gezi Park protests, and their violent dispersal by the police in May-June, continue to cast a deep shadow over the political life in Turkey, and the political commentaries reflect this fact. Notably, the protests and their handling by the AKP government has provided new ammunition in the ongoing power struggle between the ruling AKP and the movement of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, deepening their mutual distrust. Mehmet Baransu in the daily Taraf reports that many in the leadership of the AKP think that the Gülen movement was behind the Gezi protests. Meanwhile, it is noted that the conservative business community in Anatolia, which has been instrumental in bringing the AKP to power, is concerned that the confrontational policies of the government – at home and abroad -- are going to harm the stability and economic development of Turkey. Commenting the verdicts in the Ergenekon trial, Murat Belge, a leading liberal intellectual, expresses doubts that the trial has touched anything but the “tip of the iceberg”, while Fuat Keyman, another liberal commentator, speculates that Prime Minister Erdoğan must in fact be deeply troubled by the verdicts that contribute to the perception abroad that democracy in Turkey is in retreat.
by Richard Weits (vol. 6, no. 7 of the Turkey Analyst)
Turkey has been using its energy and economic links with Russia and Iran to manage their political differences. Turkey’s relations with Russia improved considerably during the past decade, but those with Iran saw only a modest upturn due to enduring differences over regional security and religious-ideological principles. But in the past year, Turkey’s diverging response to the Arab Spring and especially the Syrian Civil War has strained both partnerships. No one talks anymore of an emerging Turkey-Iran-Russia axis in the heart of Eurasia.
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.