[Marxism] The End of the Turkish Model

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Oct 31 07:58:30 MDT 2015


WSJ, Oct. 31 2015
The End of the Turkish Model
Erdogan’s moderate Islamist AKP party promised reform and growth but has 
turned instead to consolidating power
By JOE PARKINSON

Five years ago, Turkey was a beacon of hope for the troubled Middle 
East—not only one of the world’s fastest-growing economies but also the 
biggest success story in the Muslim world. Edging toward membership in 
the European Union and attracting waves of foreign investment, Turkey 
had a newfound swagger. Western and Arab leaders were hailing its ruling 
Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and its leader, Recep Tayyip 
Erdogan, for fusing Islamism and democracy inside a secular constitution.

Now, as Turks prepare to vote on Sunday in their fourth election in 18 
months, the Turkish model has unraveled, giving way to increasingly 
violent polarization in this strategically vital country. Social 
tensions once muted by robust economic growth and more inclusive 
governance have flared anew.

With a migrant crisis engulfing Europe, civil war in Syria and a 
proliferation of terror groups in the region, Turkey finds itself as a 
geopolitical hotspot. WSJ's Niki Blasina explains the key flashpoints, 
including Russia, the U.S. and the European Union. Photo: AP.
“The old elite are trying to reclaim power, and we won’t allow it,” said 
Ali Bodur, a 38-year-old hardware store owner in Istanbul’s conservative 
dockside neighborhood of Kasimpasa, where Mr. Erdogan grew up. Less than 
a mile up the hill, in the liberal Galata district, a 24-year-old 
student named Ozge Ulusoy also struck an uncompromising stance: “The 
reality is the Erdogan era needs to end before the country goes further 
off the rails…He is a dictator.”

First elected prime minister in 2003, Mr. Erdogan spent most of his 
first two terms focused on modernizing the economy, bringing stability 
to Turkey’s erratic politics, taming a military that had launched four 
coups in as many decades and empowering the long-subjugated pious 
majority. As his power has grown, however—he became president in 2014, 
after more than a decade as prime minister—so did his ambition to create 
a “New Turkey” in the image of the Ottomans. He sidelined reformers and 
technocrats and tried to centralize authority in his own hands. When he 
met resistance, he used the levers of state power and loyalist media 
outlets to brand his critics as enemies and traitors.

Would New Borders Mean Less Conflict in the Middle East? (April 10)
At the same time, many of the sources of Mr. Erdogan’s early popularity 
have shrunk away. Turkey’s once humming economy has slowed sharply, and 
the country’s currency has lost 25% of its value since January. A 
three-year peace process between Ankara and Kurdish militants has 
collapsed, leaving hundreds dead. And Turkey is falling deeper into 
neighboring Syria’s civil war. Adding to the general sense of insecurity 
have been three suicide bombings over the past year, including twin 
blasts in Ankara that killed 102 people at a peace rally last month.

Meanwhile, political discourse is supercharged: Opposition parties warn 
that Mr. Erdogan has brought the country to the brink of civil war, 
while AKP officials say that only they can prevent chaos. The atmosphere 
is so toxic that many of the thousands of Turks who returned home from 
abroad in recent years are again considering an exit.

“It is becoming very difficult to breathe in this country because of the 
polarization,” said Okan Demirkan, who came back to Turkey from London 
early in the AKP era to establish his law firm, Demirkan Kolcuoglu. “We 
see more green-card applications than ever, and many are applying for 
passports in the U.K., Portugal and Spain. That’s our future walking away.”

The AKP rejects such criticism and says that Turkey remains a stable 
democracy, while some of its supporters see Western plots behind the 
country’s recent woes. But in many respects, the country has started to 
look more like its troubled Arab neighbors. Some observers hoped that 
the 2011 uprisings across the Arab world would turn those states toward 
the seemingly successful Turkish model. Instead, Turkey seems to be 
falling into Syria’s vortex of sectarianism and proxy war. Turkish 
broadcast news now offers a daily diet of angry commentators and scenes 
of conflict between Turkish security forces and both Kurdish rebels and 
Islamic State cells.

Mr. Erdogan’s government “wanted to be a leader in the Middle East, and 
so we walked the country into a burning building…Now we’re getting 
burned, and we’re not leading anything,” said Ceylan, a 32-year-old 
Istanbul lawyer who refused to give her surname for fear of retribution.

U.S. and EU officials once hoped that the example of the AKP might 
encourage moderate Islamist parties to emerge as democratic allies. 
Those hopes now lie dashed (except in Tunisia). Indeed, Turkey’s 
downturn has boosted those who argue that Washington should back 
autocratic stability in the Middle East, rather than democratic groups 
allied with Islamist parties.

At the center of the shift stands Mr. Erdogan himself, who has become 
increasingly sectarian and intolerant in his rhetoric and actions, 
railing against foreign powers and domestic critics and muzzling 
opposition media.

Five years ago, the AKP could still be considered a 
conservative-dominated coalition that included liberals and technocrats. 
But Mr. Erdogan quietly but decisively retooled it to reflect his vision 
of conservative Islamism. “What started out as an impressive political 
journey is now heading toward disaster,” says Suat Kiniklioglu, a former 
AKP lawmaker. “A huge opportunity has been lost, and it didn’t have to 
be this way.”

Long-standing social rifts have been widened by the government’s 
response to perceived threats. Nationwide protests in 2013 and a 
corruption probe that implicated Mr. Erdogan’s family were branded as 
foreign plots and met with police crackdowns and wider judicial and 
security powers.

Paradoxically, the unraveling of the Turkish model hasn’t reduced 
Turkey’s role in a roiling region. Western powers still look to Ankara 
as a bulwark of stability, however alarmed they may be by Mr. Erdogan’s 
autocratic impulses.

Exhibit A is the EU’s response to the refugee crisis flooding outward 
from Syria. European leaders who chide Mr. Erdogan for his authoritarian 
rhetoric also embrace him as an ally in helping to halt the record wave 
of migrants. Meanwhile, U.S. war planners still see Turkey as a key 
actor in the battle against Islamic State, despite friction over 
Turkey’s targeting of Kurdish groups in Syria and Mr. Erdogan’s more 
accommodating stance with some radical Islamist groups.

Still, Turkey’s strategic importance can’t suppress worries over the 
country’s recent trajectory. The divisions were spotlighted earlier this 
month at a soccer match between Turkey and Iceland in the conservative 
Anatolian city of Konya. As the teams stood, heads bowed for a moment of 
silence to commemorate the victims of the recent Ankara bombings, parts 
of the crowd erupted in jeers and boos, shouting right-wing and 
religious slogans.

The attack in Ankara “was our 9/11, but it didn’t unite us,” said Soner 
Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research program at the Washington 
Institute for Near East Policy. “It divided us.”



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