ANKARA: Embedded Government

by Bulent KeneÅ~_

Nov 19 2008

For some time we have been hearing quite shocking remarks from the
ministers, including the prime minister, of the ruling Justice and
Development Party (AK Party).

When all of these remarks are collectively assessed, one can
indisputably arrive at the conclusion that there has been a clear
change in the AK Party government’s policies. Now the government
seems to be embedded in the establishment.

Although great hopes and expectations have been invested in him with
respect to finding a solution to the Kurdish issue and, accordingly,
54 percent of the Kurds gave their support to him in the elections on
July 22, 2007, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently started
to use the typical pro-establishment/neo-nationalist discourse. He has
frequently repeated his motto of "one nation, one state, one flag,"
which is the most obvious sign of this change of heart.

Moreover, Vecdi Gönul, the defense minister for the AK Party
government, which has clearly steered away from the nation’s demands
vis-a-vis the "red lines" of the status quo, praised the forced
migration of Armenians and the non-Muslim population exchange. Then
Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Å~^ahin attempted to defend the infamous
Article 301, which is used to block freedom of thought and the
press, saying, "I will not allow anyone to describe the state as
a murderer." All these incidents serve as further evidence of this
change. In addition, the replacement of Dengir Mir Mehmet Fırat with
Abdulkadir Aksu, known as a pro-establishment Kurd, as AK Party deputy
chairman and many other actions can be listed as evidence. However,
we should not be overwhelmed by individual incidents or lose sight
of the essence of the issue.

Like many intellectuals, I think that the AK Party has made a deal
with the establishment — a compromise in return for not being shut
down — and is now complying with the requirements of this deal. I
can provide numerous incidents to prove my case. But the sharp turn
in Kurdish policy and the backpedaling on the EU reform process are
sufficient to prove it.

Until recently the AK Party was able to secure the support of all
kinds of voters from every region due to its image of being outside the
system and even being wronged by the system. It had managed to become
the only political party that represented the unity and integrity
of Turkey, thanks to the great support lent by the Kurds. Clearly
this was a great opportunity for Turkey. But now I am afraid that
the AK Party, which has been tamed and has a rough neo-nationalist
discourse, is misinterpreting the support it received from Kurds
in the last election. The AK Party is wrongly assuming that Kurds
will support it at all costs and under any circumstance. With the
help of this great support, which it assumes to remain intact, it is
planning to uproot the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP),
which has been forced to adopt a pro-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)
line. For this reason, it prefers a language of confrontation instead
of dialogue with the DTP. Moreover, it makes the wrong calculation
of compensating for the loss of votes caused by this discourse in
the East and the Southeast with the extra votes it may produce in
the west. With extremely pragmatic tactical calculations, the AK
Party fancies that this discourse will boost its overall votes in the
local elections in March 2009. On the other hand, I, as an ordinary
citizen, see no difference in terms of the interests of Turkish
democracy between an AK Party that secures 40 percent of the vote
and an AK Party that secures 50 percent. However, I can imagine what
kind of a political party will be produced out of the old AK Party:
an AK Party embedded in the establishment, alienating itself from
the sensitivities of the nation, losing its reformist identity and
no longer giving hope for the solution of the Kurdish issue.

Ignoring the fact that Kurdish citizens are actually an extremely
politicized group, the AK Party, it seems, plans to secure the support
of Kurds and even increase its votes in the region through the Village
Infrastructure Support Project (KOYDES), the Social Support Project
(SODES) and other educational and economic aid programs in the
southeastern provinces. However, the signals we get from the region
do not seem to lend support to this plan. For instance, an academic
friend of mine who conducts polls in the Southeast told me that they
had to abandon their recent poll in the region because of the extreme
reactions to the government’s recent discourse.

The AK Party fails to realize that even if a political
party wins votes in the region by surrendering to the typical
pro-establishment/neo-nationalist discourse and abiding by the
red lines of the military, Turkey will lose its opportunity to
solve the Kurdish issue and become a true democracy. Because of
this pro-establishment/neo-nationalist discourse, which is new to
the AK Party but well known to Turkey, the AK Party has only two
options. Because of this discourse, the AK Party will either be more
successful or fail in the local elections. Personally, I think this
will only bring about a big failure. The AK Party will lose its status
as the only political party that represents national integrity and the
entire country. It will no longer be an opportunity for the solution
of the Kurdish issue, and it will not be different from other parties
except for having more voter support. In the end, the AK Party will
lose, but the status quo that does not want a reformist AK Party
will win.

Now, let us imagine the reverse. Let us suppose that, despite its
recent pro-establishment/neo-nationalist discourse, the AK Party
manages to boost its votes in the region thanks to its social
policies and increasing investments in the eastern and southeastern
provinces. It is no doubt that this, too, will prove beneficial for
the status quo. If the AK Party can increase its votes in the East
and Southeast despite this discourse, why should the status quo
establishment reform its existing policies?

The AK Party should at once pull its head out of the sand and
lend an ear to concerns about where it is heading. The AK Party
and Prime Minister Erdogan should not forget that Turkey does not
need a government that makes short-term plans to increase its votes,
but one that continues to change the country’s social and political
atmosphere and proceed with democratization and the EU reform
process. A possible totalitarian AK Party that increases its votes
with a pro-establishment/neo-nationalist discourse and without doing
anything about democracy, pluralism and freedom will no longer be a
source of hope for this country, but a major threat.


From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS