Wednesday, 25 March 2015

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

Abdülkadir Selvi in Yeni Şafak asks what’s happening to the AKP, and warns that the spell of the party as the symbol of stability is being broken. Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet writes that the exposure of an internal power struggle no doubt creates certain question marks in the minds of voters, but that the impact on voter behavior is marginal. What matters more, he writes, are the mounting economic problems and the impression that the government is surrendering to PKK. Kadri Gürsel in Milliyet writes that AKP will lose either Kurdish voters or Turkish nationalists in the upcoming elections, depending on whether it is Erdoğan or the government that sets the course, and that regardless, Erdoğan’s dreams of presidential rule is going to be the casualty. Oya Baydar on the t24 news site draws attention to a belligerent ultimatum that was issued by the General Staff in response to the Newroz message of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. Baydar warns that military tutelage is making a comeback.




Abdülkadir Selvi in Yeni Şafak asks what is happening to the AKP: The tensions that the AK Party has experienced during the last three months are unlike anything the party had experienced since it was founded on August 14, 2001. The AK Party had managed to be a party that did not burden the public with its internal discussions. Indeed it was this trait that inspired the confidence of the society. The AK Party’s most important trait was that it did not spring crisis on this nation like the parties in government had done before it. But I have to confess that the recent events have started to create questions in the mind of the people. They make people wonder what is going on: The discussions between the president and the central bank; the Hakan Fidan incident; and most recently the discussions about the solution process. The AK Party had a spell. The masses preferred the AK Party because it was the symbol of stability. This spell is being broken.


Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet writes that the exposure of a power struggle no doubt creates certain question marks in the minds of voters. But this is marginal. What matters, and what has been piling up, are the problems that the AKP has been unable to solve. For example, unemployment is on the rise. The national income per capita is falling under ten thousand dollars, and people are finding it difficult to borrow money. Consumption is going to be reduced; the difficulties to pay back loans are going to increase. If the spell is broken, then this also has got something to do with the repercussions of the so called solution to the Kurdish issue; the impression that the government is giving in to the threats of the PKK is also having an impact. But what really has broken the spell is that the opinion surveys show that the AKP’s votes are slipping to and below forty percent. Now, the next round of the war is going to be waged over the candidate list for the election to parliament. Erdoğan may hold decisive sway over the composition of the lists; but the separation of powers between the president and the government is going to become even more pronounced when it becomes clear that changing the constitution and introducing a presidential system is impossible. Erdoğan’s tutelage over the government is doubtless going to regress. And this in turn is going to have an inevitable impact on the deputies in parliament that are pro- Erdoğan as well.


Ali Bayramoğlu in Yeni Şafak sees a pattern in the internal fights at the helm of the Turkish during the last months, from the president’s intervention in the decisions of the central bank, to the Hakan Fidan affair to the latest objections of the president to the management of the Kurdish peace process. It is always the same: The president wades into the territory of the executive, opposes the government and makes politics against his own party. Why is Tayyip Erdoğan pursuing such as a path? Either the president wants his instructions to be fully obeyed, and this does not happen, which in turn causes him to react; or, with the elections approaching, the president has become worried over the consequences of some of the decisions that he had sanctioned and attempts to correct course retroactively; or he is attempting to trigger chaos in order to prove his point on how necessary the presidential system is.. I think all these motivations have had their part in creating the current situation.



Kadri Gürsel in Milliyet writes that Erdoğan wants to make sure that the AKP gets at least 330 seats in parliament in the June 7 general election in order to realize his dreams of presidential rule. This is why he interferes in the government’s policies. By saying “What Kurdish problem is it that you are talking about?” he courts the nationalist voters who are turning to the MHP and wants to ensure that the AKP is the home of the nationalist vote. But then it remains to be answered how Erdoğan is going to be able to attain the coveted number of 330 seats if the HDP crosses the threshold with the Kurdish votes that he has scared away from AKP. Meanwhile, the question is, conversely, how the government is going to be able to hold on to the votes that are slipping from the AKP to the MHP by pretending that there is still an ongoing peace process with the PKK in spite of Erdoğan’s objections and interference.


Oya Baydar on the t24 news site draws attention to a statement/ultimatum that was issued by the General Staff after the Newroz message of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan. The reaction to Öcalan’s Newroz speech from the General Staff was hard and smelled of gunpowder; the message designated Öcalan as “head terrorist,” a term that Erdoğan has also started to use. And the news this week that the armed forces have started an operation against the PKK in Mardin further adds to a worrying picture. The timing and the content of the statement/ultimatum of the Turkish Armed Forces is more than significant; its importance cannot be overstated, as it followed just after the statement of Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç that the government remains committed to the Kurdish peace process, and in which he reminded Erdoğan (who had lashed out against the government’s conduct of the peace process) of the constitutional limits of his power. The statement of the General Staff constitutes a forceful support to a president who objects to even the simplest steps that are necessary to keep the peace process moving; it was either made on the president’s behest, or the General Staff simply used the occasion to assert itself. In any case, it is an expression of the military applying pressure on politics, just like in the old days that were assumed to be past. Maybe there will be those who think that I jump to conclusions, that I exaggerate, but I believe that what we are facing is a situation in which the president, relying on the military, is seeking to get the government into line and wants to force the Kurdish side to retreat. We should not delude ourselves into thinking that the military has excised its old reflexes, especially not in a society like ours, where democracy has not taken root. If the civilians encourage and embolden these kinds of genetically inscribed reflexes, if they turn to the military in order to uphold their power, then the next day they will find that the arms have been turned against themselves. Our recent history is full of examples of this. The developments of the last days show that’s equally wrong to expect democracy and solution from those who are not true democrats as it is to think that the attempts to establish tutelage belong to the past.

Read 30231 times Last modified on Thursday, 26 March 2015

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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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