Who sows divi­sion in Turkey?

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS KONSTANDARAS

When on Oc­to­ber 10 ter­ror­ists struck a peace rally in the cen­ter of Ankara, killing 100 or more peo­ple, it was clear that Turkey faced a crit­i­cal choice: Unite as a na­tion against all that would de­stroy it, or carry on down the path of divi­sion and vi­o­lence. In the weeks since, the ques­tion ap­pears hope­lessly naive. Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan and the gov­ern­ment of the Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AKP) that he founded hardly missed a beat in drum­ming up sup­port for a war against any­one they do not count as an ally. They have in­vested not only in widen­ing ex­ist­ing rifts but have also made de­ter­mined ef­forts to warp re­al­ity – both by telling lies and by clamp­ing down on news me­dia. The peo­ple of Turkey will go to the bal­lot box on Sun­day be­cause their pres­i­dent wanted his party to have a sec­ond chance at gain­ing an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity in the Grand Na­tional As­sem­bly af­ter fail­ing to achieve this on June 7, when it re­ceived 40.9 per­cent of the votes. If, as in June, four par­ties en­ter the as­sem­bly, the AKP will need at least 43 per­cent to gain the 276 seats re­quired for a ma­jor­ity in the 550-mem­ber cham­ber. The lat­est polls see the AKP get­ting 41.5-43.3 per­cent, the cen­ter-left Repub­li­can Peo­ple’s Party (CHP) get­ting 25.6-27.6, the Na­tion­al­ist Move­ment Party (MHP) 14.3-15.3, and the left-wing pro-Kur­dish Peo­ples’ Demo­cratic Party (HDP) 11.7-13.4. The polls pretty much re­flect the re­sults of the June 7 vote, af­ter which Er­do­gan was quick to pre­dict fail­ure to forge a coali­tion. Such a gov­ern­ment is even less likely now. Un­der the in­flu­ence of Er­do­gan, and in its mis­sion­ary zeal to change Turkey, the AKP can­not be ex­pected to com­pro­mise with any of the other three par­ties, all of which are sec­u­lar. Its most likely ally could be the CHP, as ex­treme na­tion­al­ism is com­mon to both. But Er­do­gan’s rhetoric and ac­tions are aimed at rous­ing pas­sions sot that the AKP will win the elec­tions on its own. That is why the Oc­to­ber 10 ter­ror­ist at­tack, in­stead of be­ing an op­por­tu­nity to unite the po­lit­i­cal forces and all of so­ci­ety against ter­ror, high­lighted the rifts be­tween Turkey’s left and right, be­tween reli­gious and sec­u­lar forces, be­tween Sun­nis and Ale­vis, be­tween Turks and Kurds. With its con­trol of the state ap­pa­ra­tus, the gov­ern- ment chose to sow fur­ther divi­sion. The clam­p­down on re­port­ing on the Ankara at­tack was ac­com­pa­nied by sur­real charges by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials that it was the work of Is­lamic State, Kur­dish, Syr­ian and “other” for­eign op­er­a­tives. The gov­ern­ment is so used to warp­ing re­al­ity it has cre­ated a world in which bit­ter en­e­mies put aside their dif­fer­ences to fight Turkey. How­ever cyn­i­cal this men­tal­ity may be, those who ped­dle lies come to be­lieve them. In pur­su­ing Turkey’s divi­sion to bet­ter con­trol it, in curb­ing me­dia free­dom and clip­ping democ­racy, Er­do­gan and the AKP are vi­o­lat­ing so­ci­ety’s bonds to a de­gree that may ful­fill their para­noid prophecy that ev­ery­one is against them. No one can pre­dict what comes af­ter Novem­ber 1.

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