Tag Archives: Republican People’s Party

Questioning Erdoğan government’s motives is not treason

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It seems that it is easier for the Turkish government to put the blame on an external source, such as the media, opposition parties or foreign governments, rather than answering legitimate questions and admitting failure on many Turkish foreign policy choices.

The media in Turkey as well as opposition parties have questioned the motives of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s government following the shooting down of a Syrian military aircraft just a week before the local elections and the prime minister trumpeting that Turkey will not hesitate to retaliate in the event of an attack on the tomb of Süleyman Şah, a slice of Turkish territory in Syria, attracting unnecessary attention to an area that was probably unknown to many until recently, and what would appear to some as him encouraging an attack and to gain nationalist votes in the local elections.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has gone as far as having Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accuse the Turkish media outlets of treason and acting as if they are the spokespeople of the Syrian regime.

In the latest incident, two Syrian MiG-23 warplanes were recently warned four times when they began flying close to Turkish airspace, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement on Monday, and one was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter jets in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement. Prime Minister Erdoğan and other Turkish officials say that the warplane was violating Turkish airspace by about one-and-a-half kilometers at the Turkey-Syria border.

“The downing of a Syrian military aircraft, while perhaps explicable in terms of the so-called ‘rules of engagement’ declared by Turkey, is undoubtedly an exaggerated response to an alleged airspace violation,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu told Sunday’s Zaman.

Following the start of civil war in Syria, Turkey developed rules of engagement stating that Syrian military aircraft should not come within five kilometers of the Turkey-Syria border. The Syrian military aircraft was targeting certain terrorist areas in Kasab in Syria when it was shot down by the Turkish F-16 fighter jet, according to various press reports.

‘Aiding and abetting terrorism in Syria’

Loğoğlu also said that the move is “probably inconsistent with the principle of legitimate self-defense as enshrined in the UN Charter” and he added, “If the Syrians claim that the Syrian air force is fighting terrorists in the region, then the Turkish action, in effect, also means aiding and abetting terrorism in Syria.”

“The more disturbing problem in connection to this is that Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are daring to play dangerous games with Turkey’s national security and acting as if they seek an armed conflict with Syria,” said Loğoğlu. “This scenario, if actually a plan put in action, is aimed at diverting public attention away from the corruption and bribery allegations and is a cheap ploy to make a national hero out of Erdoğan,” he said.

The area surrounding the tomb of Süleyman Şah was relatively unknown to most Turks, until the Turkish government drew attention to it recently, saying that it is the only Turkish territory outside Turkey’s borders. Süleyman Şah, who drowned in the Euphrates River, is the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. The area in Syria where he is buried is considered Turkish territory under international agreements. Beginning in mid-March, President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu threatened anyone who targets this area with Turkish retaliation.

Erdoğan said, “Attacking the tomb of Süleyman Şah means attacking Turkey,” in a recent TV interview.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threatened Turkey, according to recent press reports, and demanded in a YouTube video that Turkey lower its flag and withdraw its troops protecting the site within three days. The video was uploaded on March 20 but has since been removed by YouTube due to its threatening content.

The criticism of the Turkish government’s foreign policy choices does not just come from within Turkey. The editorial board of the influential US newspaper The Washington Post wrote on March 25 that the Turkish prime minister is acting desperately to hold onto his power.

“Erdoğan tried and failed to shut down Twitter in his country last week. Half a million tweets from Turks were recorded in the first 10 hours after the attempted ban, including one from President Abdullah Gül. On Sunday, the Turkish military had better luck in targeting two Syrian MiG-23 planes that Turkey said briefly penetrated its airspace: One that failed to heed warnings to turn around was shot down,” said the editorial.

The Turkish government also announced on Thursday that it will block access to YouTube, citing national security concerns, following a leaked audio recording that was posted on YouTube by a number of different usernames around noon on Thursday. The audio reveals an allegedly top secret conversation between Davutoğlu, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler.

Erdoğan confirmed the meeting at a public rally in Diyarbakır on Thursday, saying that the wiretapping of his foreign minister’s office is “immoral, cowardly, dishonest and mean.”

The conversation in the uploaded audio recording focuses on whether the Turkish military should enter Syria to protect the tomb of Süleyman Şah. The voice allegedly belonging to Davutoğlu can be heard saying that “the prime minister said this [the area where the tomb is located] must be evaluated as an opportunity at this juncture.”

When Fidan asked in the recording why they were pushing for an attack on the tomb of Süleyman Şah, Davutoğlu allegedly responded by saying that the pretext for an incursion must be acceptable to the international community.

The Turkish foreign minister also allegedly said, “Without a strong pretext, we cannot tell US Secretary of State [John] Kerry that we need to take severe measures.” Davutoğlu then apparently added that Kerry had asked him whether Turkey was determined to strike Syria.

According to the audio files, Fidan allegedly said, “If needed, I will dispatch four men to Syria. [Then] I could have them fire eight mortar shells at the Turkish side and create an excuse for war. We can also have them attack the tomb of Süleyman Şah as well.”

Sinirlioğlu was also seemingly recorded as saying that Turkey’s national security has turned into cheap material for domestic political consumption. Gen. Güler allegedly warned, “What we are going to do is a direct cause for war.”

Today’s Zaman

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Turkish politics : The battle for Turkey’s future

464564An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country

An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf
An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf
An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf
An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN has reason to thank Vladimir Putin. For weeks the Russian president’s attack on Ukraine has hogged headlin

An increasingly autocratic prime minister is losing touch with voters and damaging his country – See more at: http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21599819-increasingly-autocratic-prime-minister-losing-touch-voters-and-damaging-his-country#sthash.lHg8PweI.dpuf

es. This has let Turkey’s prime minister get away with only limited international opprobrium for a string of illiberal laws that seem designed mainly to protect himself and his allies from a corruption scandal that one insider calls the biggest in modern Turkish history.

Since the scandal broke in mid-December, when police raided the homes of several sons of ministers, illicit recordings have emerged on the internet supposedly implicating Mr Erdogan, his relatives and others in dodgy dealings. Mr Erdogan has denounced these as fabrications, and blamed a network of judges, prosecutors and police linked to Fethullah Gulen, a powerful Sunni Muslim cleric based in Pennsylvania. (The irony that Mr Gulen was an ally of Mr Erdogan in his previous legal battles against the army and the secularists has not escaped Turks.)

Mr Erdogan has reassigned or sacked hundreds of policemen, judges and prosecutors, stalling the investigation. He has passed laws giving the government greater control over the judiciary and security services, clamped down on the media and tightened internet regulation. His latest move was to get the internet regulator, a former spook, briefly to ban Twitter, and he has often threatened other social media as well (see article).

Mounting criticism of the prime minister has left him unmoved, just as it did after he unleashed a brutal police assault on protesters in Istanbul’s Gezi Park last summer. Besides attacking Gulenists and protesters, he has responded with digs at the foreign media and a purported “interest-rate lobby” (in January the central bank doubled its rates to 10%). And he defiantly declared that the Twitter ban showed to the world the strength of the republic.

Above all, Mr Erdogan relies on one overarching claim: that he has the support of voters. Ever since his Justice and Development (AK) party was catapulted to power in November 2002, its electoral success has been impressive. AK’s share of the vote rose to 47% in 2007 and almost 50% in 2011 (though it fell below 40% in municipal elections in 2009). Mr Erdogan has adopted a fiercely majoritarian attitude: so long as voters back him, he is entitled to do whatever he wants, heedless of opponents, protesters, judges, prosecutors or Europe. In a country with weak institutions and few checks and balances, such a view inevitably tends to authoritarianism.

On March 30th the prime minister’s support among Turkish voters will be put to the test, for the first time since the Gezi protests and the corruption probe, in municipal elections. Mr Erdogan has explicitly turned these into a referendum on himself and his party. If AK does well, which most analysts reckon means winning over 40% of the vote and keeping control of both Ankara and Istanbul, Mr Erdogan will claim vindication for his tough policies.

The outcome is highly uncertain. The main opposition parties, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) are weak. AK remains very strong in its Anatolian heartland, which includes such cities as Bursa, Kayseri and Konya. But Mr Erdogan’s approval rating has fallen over the past year. The CHP is quietly confident of winning Ankara, and it even hopes to upset AK in Istanbul, the city where Mr Erdogan began his political career. If AK does that badly, one minister predicts, it might even split.

Besides his 11 years in office, Gezi and the corruption cases, another reason why some Turks are tiring of Mr Erdogan is the economy. During AK’s time in power, GDP per head has tripled in real terms. After a sharp drop in 2009, growth bounced back to China-like levels in 2010 and 2011 (see chart). But this year it may be barely above 3%. The IMF reckons trend growth has dropped from 7% to 3%, too low to stop unemployment rising. Turkey also has the biggest current-account deficit in the OECD rich-country club, making it vulnerable to a loss of foreign confidence. Not surprisingly the lira has tumbled, shedding some 24% of its value against the dollar since last April and pushing up inflation.

Mehmet Simsek, the finance minister, rejects warnings about the economy as alarmist. He says all emerging markets have suffered since America signalled that interest rates might start rising. The current account was hit by high gold imports. Worries about corporate exposure to foreign-currency debt are exaggerated: most is owed by the biggest exporters. For the long term, he talks of better infrastructure, education (he points to 400,000 extra teachers and 210,000 extra classrooms) and more investment in R&D. He notes that Turkey has climbed from 71st to 44th in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness table.

Yet Turkey’s weaknesses are obvious. Female participation in the workforce is the lowest in the OECD. Inequality is alarmingly high. Turkey comes a lowly 69th in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” rankings. In many ways it is in a middle-income trap: the low-cost advantage that the Anatolian tigers had in textiles, furniture, white goods and carmaking has been eroded by rising wages (and prices), but productivity and skills are not good enough to switch easily to higher-value production.

Above all is the uncertainty about Turkey’s political direction. Although the new European Union minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, talks of 2014 as the year of the EU, he concedes that popular support for EU membership has fallen from 70% in 2005 to only 40% today. In truth EU membership talks are stalled, and they are unlikely to revive soon, not least because Mr Erdogan has lost interest. He is also said to have become more dismissive of Turkey’s NATO membership. Losing the EU anchor, in particular, worries businessmen. Muharrem Yilmaz, chairman of Tusiad, the industrialists’ lobby, complains that the government did not take advantage of EU membership talks to strengthen political and economic institutions, and that its reform momentum has run out.

What might Mr Erdogan do next? He had hoped to stand for president in August, when the term of the incumbent, Abdullah Gul, a co-founder of AK, runs out. Mr Gul, who has avoided clashing directly with Mr Erdogan but made clear his unhappiness with his restrictive laws, could then become prime minister. But recent events have reduced the chances of Mr Erdogan stepping up to the presidency, not least because he has been unable to amend the constitution to give the job greater powers. So he may prefer to let Mr Gul run again and instead scrap the internal AK party rule against any MP running for a fourth term. That would let him stay on as prime minister and perhaps bring forward the general election due next year.

Yet such a move would only confirm criticism of Mr Erdogan’s autocratic ways.  Aykan Erdemir, a young CHP MP, says the situation makes him think of other embattled leaders in their bunkers, surrounded by yes-men. Put simply, the prime minister lacks an exit strategy. It would be better for his country if he found one.

 

 The Economist.

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