Turk­ish para­doxes

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY PAN­TELIS BOUKALAS

What Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan is try­ing to ac­com­plish is per­fectly clear: He wants to win the April 16 ref­er­en­dum on con­sti­tu­tional re­form and thus gain the en­hanced pow­ers his am­bi­tious na­ture so cov­ets, some of which he al­ready en­joys af­ter turn­ing last sum­mer’s failed coup into an op­por­tu­nity. His strat­egy is also clear: crim­i­nal­iz­ing any op­po­si­tion, be it in ac­tions or mere words, mainly at the ex­pense of jour­nal­ists and the Kurds, as well as con­demn­ing in sum­mary fashion any­one per­ceived as be­ing pro-Gulen. The sec­ond part of his strat­egy in­volves ex­port­ing his edgi­ness and bul­ly­ing rhetoric, first and fore­most to the Aegean at the ex- pense of Greece, and then to the Euro­pean Union in a bid to win fa­vor among Gray Wolves vot­ers. The Turk­ish pres­i­dent is also try­ing to strong-arm Western Europe into rec­og­niz­ing his pre­rog­a­tive (and that of his sub­or­di­nates, though only those who vote his way next month) to a right that he him­self openly scorns and de­nies his op­po­nents. His­tory is full of such para­doxes. Another is that while Er­do­gan ac­cuses the West of Is­lam­o­pho­bia, he is do­ing ev­ery­thing in his power to strengthen this sen­ti­ment be­cause it will ben­e­fit him at the polls, as for years he has been cul­ti­vat­ing the myth that he is the leader of all of Is­lam, both in the East and the West. In con­trast to Er­do­gan, what the Euro­pean Union is try­ing to achieve vis-a-vis Ankara is not so clear, nei­ther in terms of strat­egy nor even in tac­tics. Over­all, it’s hard to know what it’s think­ing about Turkey’s “Euro­pean prospects” and, more specif­i­cally right now, about the pre-elec­tion speeches of Turk­ish pro-Er­do­gan of­fi­cials in EU mem­ber-states. Pre-elec­tion anx­i­ety strength­ened by the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of anti-sys­temic, anti-mi­grant, far-right forces, has been in­stru­men­tal in Europe as well, es­pe­cially in the Nether­lands and Ger­many. It has re­sulted in bans against Turk­ish of­fi­cials that demon­strate fear rather than faith in the strength of democ­racy, even when it is ex­posed to the test of regimes which are hardly demo­cratic, such as Turkey. Mean­while, fears that the Euro­pean Union’s refugee deal with Turkey may col­lapse have pre­vented the Ger­man and Dutch lead­er­ships from openly con­demn­ing the hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in Turkey, re­sult­ing in them ba­si­cally swal­low­ing pro­found in­sults from Er­do­gan and some of his min­is­ters re­fer­ring to fas­cists and Nazis. Here’s another para­dox: Turkey, which didn’t ex­actly shine in the war against Nazism, con­demn­ing the Nether­lands, a vic­tim of Nazism. And the last of the para­doxes is that Turk­ish elec­toral law pro­hibits pre-elec­tion ral­lies abroad.

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