Sunday, February 9, 2014

Erdogan, Gulen, and Turkey's Troubles

If you are at all curious about what is happening in Turkey, with protests and riots and so on, I recommend Suzy Hansen's long article in the Times. She explains that Turkey is run these days by an alliance between the AKP, the center-right political party headed by Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, and a Muslim religious and social movement headed by Fethullah Gulen:
Erdogan welcomed the movement’s international influence and media support. With its endorsements, he achieved real gains. He sidelined the military. He moved Turkey’s laws significantly toward European Union norms. The economy flourished, as he pushed privatization and investors from abroad poured money into the country. The A.K.P. built hospitals, roads, bridges and luxury shopping malls. Turkey had been so dysfunctional, and so undemocratic, that many of these initiatives were necessary.

Eventually, however, they seemed like a power grab. Around 2007, the A.K.P. and Gulenists in the judiciary and the police force put hundreds of journalists and former military generals on trial, charged with being members of a Kemalist “deep state.” Much of the evidence appeared to have been manufactured by Gulenists. At the same time, many Turks were beginning to believe that the intelligence wing of the police force was wiretapping the phones of journalists and businessmen. Erdogan himself bullied the corporate owners of media outlets, and hundreds of journalists were muzzled or fired. And in 2010, a referendum on the Constitution revamped the judicial system to favor the judges affiliated with Erdogan and Gulen. Instead of reforming the state, the A.K.P. appeared to be capturing it.
A big part of the problem is that Turkey's opposition is too fragmented and too troubled by past scandals to mount much of a challenge to Erdogan; a well-organized opposition could have beaten Erdogan in 2010.

The background to the current crisis is that Erdogan and Gulen have fallen out. Gulen has denounced the violent tactics Erdoan has used against protesters, and it is Gulenists who have aired corruption charges against Erdogan's close associates. Erdogan would almost certainly lose an election held today -- that is, if anyone can be found to run against him.

I am sure all of this is very stressful to live through, but I think that in the long run it is making Turks more and more involved in their government, and I hope that eventually the current protests will be seen as a bump in the road toward real Turkish democracy.

1 comment:

Yavuz Sahin said...

I don't think it was the Gulenists who exposed the corruption scandal, Turkish National Intelligence Service (MIT) let Erdogan know 2 years ago. Erdogan puts pressure on justice, army, intelligence service, even on media!

Erdogan’s heavy hand in Turkish media