Monday, July 08, 2013

Anti-government protests in Turkey

This is an article from last month on the protests against the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan: Dani Rodrik, Turkey's Protests Send a Strong Message, But Will Not Bring Democracy 06/04/2013. It appeared in the Financial Times under the title, "Turkey's protesters have been let down by all sides." Rodrik notes at his blog, "I should add that neither the title of the FT piece nor the subtitle is mine. The subtitle in the print edition "A political class has turned violent to mask its weaknesses" is misleading and has little to do with the content of my piece; I have no idea why the FT found it apt." It is actually the online edition, not the print, where the subtitle appears.

He addresses a couple of important aspects of Turkish politics under Erdogan which have received positively in the West:

civilian control over the military was achieved through a series of show trials involving massive violations of due process – with rampant use of planted and fabricated evidence against accused officers. (My father-in-law is among those imprisoned.) [That parenthesis from the print edition does not appear in his blog version.] Rather than close the book on the military, Erdoğan’s tactics have opened up new wounds that will continue to fester.

Finally, the Kurdish opening has more to do with Erdoğan’s efforts to amend the constitution and ascend to (a more powerful) presidency, than with any genuine desire for reconciliation. As his previous flip flops on the Kurdish conflict shows, he would quickly change tack if short-term political calculations required otherwise.
He notes:

The main beneficiary of Erdoğan’s weakness may well be the Gülen movement, the powerful network led by the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen. Erdoğan and the Gülenists made common cause until recently to defeat their common enemy, the military and the secularist old guard. But with that task accomplished, they have been increasingly at odds. The Gülen movement does not want Erdoğan to become too powerful, while Erdoğan is wary of Gülenist machinations within the police and judiciary. The movement likes to promote President Abdullah Gül, who is much closer to it, as a tolerant, more democratic alternative to Erdoğan.

That the Gülen movement watches Erdoğan take the rap for the protests carries more than a hint of paradox, as Gülenists are known to be particularly well represented in the police. Supposedly moderate, the movement has been closely linked to some of the worst police and judicial abuses under Erdoğan.

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