Er­do­gan and Tur­key’s fu­ture

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

Tur­key, as Daily Trust ob­served in its ed­i­to­rial of last Thurs­day, has lately been in the news for all the wrong rea­sons – well, al­most all. And the prin­ci­pal cul­prit ap­par­ently is no other than its cur­rent pres­i­dent, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan.

The man is prob­a­bly the coun­try’s most suc­cess­ful mod­ern-day politi­cian – bar Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk, the ac­claimed found­ing fa­ther of sec­u­lar Tur­key, and Su­ley­man Demirel, who died at 90 last June, hav­ing served his coun­try as prime min­is­ter seven times and cap­ping it all as its sev­enth pres­i­dent for seven years from 1993.

Over eight years ago Tur­key hosted the In­ter­na­tional Press In­sti­tute, the global as­so­ci­a­tion of jour­nal­ists which cham­pi­ons free speech. This was for the third time in the as­so­ci­a­tion’s history, the first and sec­ond time be­ing 1964 and 1988. The key­note ad­dress dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 2007 congress was de­liv­ered by Demirel. Er­do­gan, then the prime min­is­ter, gave the clos­ing speech.

At the time of the IPI congress there was much talk about what many re­garded as “Two Tur­keys,” one, pi­ous and Mus­lim, the other, ur­ban and sec­u­lar. The di­chotomy was ex­em­pli­fied by two po­lit­i­cal ral­lies that took place in dif­fer­ent parts of the coun­try on May 12, the very day the congress opened in Is­tan­bul. One was by Is­lamists and the other by sec­u­lar­ists.

In his speech, Er­do­gan ad­verted to this talk of “Two Tur­keys” in a most dis­mis­sive man­ner. “When a peace­ful rally is held in Tur­key,” he said, “they im­me­di­ately start say­ing, ‘There are two Tur­key’s.’ We can­not ac­cept this. The Re­pub­lic of Tur­key is a demo­cratic, sec­u­lar, so­cial state, with a rule of law, and this is how it is go­ing to re­main.”

Eight years on, it seems, the man has been do­ing ev­ery­thing he can to un­der­mine his prom­ise of keep­ing his coun­try for ever demo­cratic and gov­erned by the rule of law, if not sec­u­lar. The irony of it all is that he has done more than most Turk­ish politi­cians to en­throne democ­racy and the rule of law in his coun­try in a ca­reer that took off when he was Mayor of Is­tan­bul, the coun­try’s cul­tural and com­mer­cial cap­i­tal, be­tween 1994 and 1998.

Fol­low­ing his may­or­ship, he founded and led the so-called “mildly Is­lamist” Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AKP, in its Turk­ish acro­nym) in 2001. With more than a lit­tle help from a num­ber of op­po­si­tion el­e­ments, no­tably the His­met Move­ment led by Fethul­lah Gulen, the Amer­i­can based Turk­ish in­tel­lec­tual and preacher, the AKP won the sub­se­quent gen­eral elec­tions in 2003, 2007 and 2011.

AKP won the first of these gen­eral elec­tions against the wishes of sec­u­lar­ists, most es­pe­cially the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary which con­sid­ered it­self the cus­to­dian of the coun­try’s sec­u­lar Con­sti­tu­tion. How­ever, Er­do­gan’s three terms as prime min­is­ter saw the coun­try’s trans­for­ma­tion into a great eco­nomic suc­cess and a model of plu­ral democ­racy.

He was voted as the coun­try’s cer­e­mo­nial pres­i­dent last year af­ter he stepped down as party leader in what many must have pre­sumed was a vol­un­tary re­tire­ment and glo­ri­ous exit from a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in par­ti­san pol­i­tics. Events since then have proved such pre­sump­tions com­pletely wrong.

For, far from be­ing sat­is­fied with play­ing the cer­e­mo­nial role of a fa­ther­fig­ure con­sti­tu­tion­ally as­signed to the pres­i­dent, Er­do­gan seemed to have be­come ob­sessed with trans­form­ing him­self into the first ex­ec­u­tive civil­ian pres­i­dent of his coun­try. Pre­dictably this has led to his fall­ing out with the op­po­si­tion el­e­ments whose al­liance made his suc­cesses pos­si­ble.

One of the first signs of trou­ble for the man was a mas­sive demon­stra­tion in Gezi Park, in Is­tan­bul, two years ago against his de­ci­sion to build a grandiose pres­i­den­tial palace which many of his coun­try­men saw as an ego trip and the de­spo­li­a­tion of the park’s beauty. More se­ri­ous, how­ever, was the erup­tion of a 100 bil­lion US dol­lar cor­rup­tion scan­dal, also in 2013, in which he, some of his min­is­ters and three of his sons were im­pli­cated.

His re­ac­tion to the scan­dal has been to clamp on the media for ex­pos­ing the al­le­ga­tions. Jour­nal­ists have been de­tained, tried and locked up on trumped up charges and a law is be­ing con­tem­plated to give gov­ern­ment pow­ers to block “un­de­sir­able” blogs. There has also been a ban on Twit­ter and threats to ban Face­book and YouTube.

For at least the last two years there has been no love lost be­tween the man and the Turk­ish media, in­clud­ing many like Hur­riet, the coun­try’s lead­ing news­pa­per, that have had lit­tle or no truck with op­po­si­tion el­e­ments, es­pe­cially those con­sid­ered Is­lamist. But it is not only the coun­try’s media that has had to con­tend with the man’s anger. Both the ju­di­ciary and the mil­i­tary have also suf­fered from his med­dling.

As if to make the man even an­grier, the AKP, for the first time since 2003, lost its ma­jor­ity in the par­lia­ment in last June’s gen­eral elec­tion, in spite of – some would say, in­deed be­cause of – his de­ter­mined ef­forts to se­cure the two-third ma­jor­ity his party needed to amend the con­sti­tu­tion to give the pres­i­dent ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers.

So an­gry was the man with the re­sult of the June elec­tions that he re­fused, as pres­i­dent, to in­vite the party with the high­est num­ber of leg­is­la­tors to form a coali­tion gov­ern­ment which the party could have done fairly easily. In­stead, he chose the op­tion of wait­ing with­out a sub­stan­tive gov­ern­ment for five months to have another gen­eral elec­tion, in the hope that this time his party will get the num­bers it re­quires to amend the con­sti­tu­tion.

Daily Trust’s ed­i­to­rial in ques­tion en­ti­tled “As Er­do­gan clamps down on Tur­key media” was con­cerned es­sen­tially with media free­dom in the coun­try. “Jour­nal­ism,” it said, “is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing dan­ger­ous in Tur­key as the gov­ern­ment clamps down on the media cov­er­ing sto­ries it wants ig­nored through threats, raids, ar­rests and de­por­ta­tion.”

What is at stake here is much more than media free­dom. Be­yond media free­dom, what is also at stake is the fu­ture prospect of a coun­try which, un­til last year, stood out as proof pos­i­tive that Is­lam, on the one hand, and democ­racy and the rule of law, on the other, are not nec­es­sar­ily mu­tu­ally in­com­pat­i­ble, as many in the West and Is­lamist ex­trem­ists want the world to be­lieve.

It is, as I’ve said ear­lier in this piece, iron­i­cal that the man who now stands be­tween Tur­key and its con­sol­i­da­tion as a model of a suc­cess­ful Is­lamic po­lit­i­cal-econ­omy is the very per­son who ar­guably has done more than most of his com­pa­tri­ots to make his coun­try the suc­cess story it has been in the last 15 years.

Much of Tur­key’s prospects now de­pend on how its cit­i­zens vote on Novem­ber 1. Chances are it will be a reprise of the June 7 elec­tion which de­nied Er­do­gan his per­sonal am­bi­tion to be­come their coun­try’s im­pe­rial pres­i­dent. His re­ac­tion may be to play the dog in a manger, as many a petu­lant po­lit­i­cal loser has done. Hope­fully, how­ever, he will see rea­son and swal­low his am­bi­tion.

But in case he doesn’t, one can only hope and pray that his coun­try has come too far down the path of progress to al­low one man’s over-am­bi­tion to de­stroy it, or even to re­verse its demo­cratic and eco­nomic div­i­dends of re­cent years.

Ghana­ian star An­dre Ayew has emerged as a sur­prise trans­fer tar­get for Liver­pool, ac­cord­ing to ESPN.

New Liver­pool coach Jur­gen Klopp has re­port­edly high­lighted Ayew, cur­rently on the books of Swansea City, as one of his key trans­fer tar­gets.

Klopp is said to be a big ad­mirer of the Black Stars player and could make a move for him in the Jan­uary trans­fer win­dow.

Bri­tain’s Heather Wat­son has bat­tled into the sec­ond round of the Hong Kong Open, beat­ing China’s Zhang Kai-Lin.

The 23-year-old Bri­tish num­ber two took more than two hours to over­come world num­ber 191 Zhang 3-6 6,-1 6-2.

Wat­son’s serve was not on form as she was bro­ken three times in los­ing the first set and did not serve an ace un­til the third game of the sec­ond set.

Heather Wat­son

An­dre Ayew

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Nigeria

© PressReader. All rights reserved.