Sunday, April 16, 2017

Turkey Kisses Democracy Güle Güle


I've been to Turkey a dozen times; I love the country. On my first trip there I was just a kid in a VW camper van on the way to India. But I stayed for a month, visiting parts of the country few tourists ever see. And I've tried tried going back as frequently as possible, always to new parts of the country I hadn't been to-- as well as to Istanbul over and over. As with all places I like enough to go again and again, it's because of the people. In Turkey I first experienced the boundless generosity and hospitality of people towards a stranger. I was sad today to see the returns from Turkey's referendum come in, as the election-- in which independent observers report was marked by massive fraud and even murders in the Kurdish east-- went narrowly for tyrant Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Turks living abroad voted no. And Turks in the 3 biggest urban centers-- Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir-- voted no.

But in the end, rural conservatives decided Turkey's little experiment with democracy had gone on long enough and they voted to end it. Even with all the violence and cheating Erdoğan's referendum only passed 24,325,985 (51.20%) to 23,189,021 (48.80%), which seems a little tight to take a country from a democracy to a dictatorship. The new system will be implemented after the elections in November, 2019.

The results of today's constitutional referendum will make official what Turkey has been slipping into over the last couple of years-- a presidential dictatorship. After the failed coup last July, Erdoğan purged over 130,000 people working for the government, launched a war against the media-- arresting 200 journalists and shuttering 149 media outlets-- and detained over 100,000 people. The referendum gives him an even great degree of absolute power over all branches of government. And all in the name of... you guessed it, "terrorism."

Do you wonder what would make people give up their own freedom to a tyrant? Today's Independent offered a good perspective on what happened in Turkey, pointing out that the instability in and around Turkey "has enabled him to project the strongman image that may just allow him to extend his powers. Those sweeping new powers will turn the largely ceremonial presidential role he now holds into a nearly all-powerful position as head of government, head of state and head of the ruling party."
To his supporters Mr Erdogan is a man who has given a voice to the working and middle-class religious Turks who had felt marginalised by the country's Western-leaning elite. He was seen to have ushered in a period of stability and economic prosperity, building roads, schools, hospitals and airports in previously neglected areas.

Others see him as pushing too much of a religious line in a nation that was built on the secular aspirations of Turkey’s modern founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The constitutional amendments would give the president the power to appoint ministers and government officials, to name half the members of the country's highest judicial body, to issue decrees and to declare states of emergency.

That raises the alarm for many. Mr Erdogan has long-faced accusations by critics of using the judiciary to silence opponents, and journalists groups have often spoken out of the stifling of their freedom to report-- with many more civilians worried about the implications of a move to ‘one-man rule.’ Hence the close result in the referendum.

Despite what many citizens see as Mr Erdogan’s commitment to the safety of his country’s citizens from the multitude of threats they currently face, as he has become more powerful, his critics say he has become increasingly authoritarian.

His election campaigns have been forceful and bitter, with Mr Erdogan lashing out at his opponents, accusing them of endangering the country and even supporting terrorism-- either in Syria or the insurgency of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

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At 10:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: " ... instability in and around Turkey 'has enabled him (Erdogan) to project the strongman image that may just allow him to extend his powers'."

These countries are around Turkey: Former Yugoslavia, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Ukraine Iraq, Syria.

The US has fomented "instability" in all of these countries, since well before the arrival of Herr Hair.

Would we care to accept any responsibility for the apparent destruction of "democracy" in yet another country? Hardly, the public lamentations seem to be an integral part of the denial and cover-up.

John Puma

At 5:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sultan Recep Tayyip Çok Yaşa!

I share your affection for Turkey (sadly, only two trips and never farther east than Adana). The vote saddens me, although experience in areas around Konya and Nevşehir makes it no surprise. Perhaps I'm adjusting too easily to the new reality, but what happened yesterday is merely the formalization of ongoing conditions. Still, they deserve better than rule by emergency decree and perpetual war on Kurds demonized as PKK & political foes as Gülenists.


At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And the world descends further into chaos.

As JP points out, American greed and hate have played a big part by destabilizing most of their neighborhood.

But it's also about religion and mankinds' inability to act based on reason when there is a "god" in play.

Between competing "gods" who each seem to preach hate of the other ones and the usa who wants to economically subjugate everyone in the world, there would seem to be no hope for anything better.

read the above.


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