İHSAN DAĞI

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İHSAN DAĞI
June 05, 2011, Sunday

Why is The Economist afraid of democracy?

It is very unusual for an international journal to name a political party to be voted for in a parliamentary election. The Economist has done this, asking the people of Turkey to vote for the Republican People's Party (CHP).

Is this a joke or a plot against the CHP? Yes, I do mean “a plot against the CHP,” though many supporters of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) would argue that it is their party that has been targeted. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has already put it bluntly, saying that a “global gang” is conspiring against the AK Party.

Well, this can't really be the case, simply because such a statement will only harm the one who is supported, not the one who is targeted. I think the AK Party will be grateful to the Economist for this favor. It came at just the right time, as some polls have shown AK Party support declining over the past two weeks. I am now sure that Erdoğan will use this “golden pass” to win right up until the elections and even into the first speech after the elections.

No doubt it will have an impact on the debate and choice of some people in the last week of the election campaign. The AK Party will portray The Economist's open support for the CHP as an international conspiracy not only against the AK Party but also against Turkey and the will of the people.

Even the supporters of the CHP, who are the most nationalist and anti-Western among the Turks, will be confused after The Economist's editorial. For nearly a decade they have accused the AK Party of selling out Turkish interests to Westerners, making unacceptable concessions to the EU, giving in to Greek demands on Cyprus, allowing foreigners to take over Turkish companies and properties, and so on. Now suddenly it has turned out that one of the most powerful magazines in the West not only supports their party (the CHP) with an editorial piece but also calls on people to vote for it in the elections.

 

This is really hard to understand for the ordinary CHP voters who are nationalists and isolationist fearful of “Western designs” over Turkey. Knowing the public mood, the CHP grass roots and the nationalistic tendencies among the public at large, I am certain that The Economist has done great harm to the CHP's cause.

But strangely enough, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is happy with The Economist's request, saying that the international community understands the true nature of the AK Party. Let me tell you, after their third electoral defeat at the hands of the AK Party, he may utter quite the opposite and accuse The Economist and the West as a whole of saving the AK Party. Believe me, they will do this because they said exactly the same concerning the military's April 27 e-memorandum before the elections in July 2007. Remember that when the military issued the ultimatum, the CHP applauded and placed itself behind the republican rallies that followed, but after it was proven that the people reacted strongly against the military's intervention and voted for the AK Party, Kılıçdaroğlu himself argued that the e-memorandum was issued in order to secure an electoral victory for the AK Party; a plot organized by the military and the AK Party together. Yes, such logic, reasoning and argumentation cannot be taken seriously, but what about The Economist's editorial and the CHP's response to it?

Do the editors of the Economist really think that when they point to a political party, in our case the CHP, a party that throughout its entire history -- which is equal to the history of Turkey -- has never won a single democratic election, the people of Turkey will listen to them and vote for the CHP?

They must be joking, or naïve or totally ignorant of the dynamics of politics in Turkey. Such a tactless move may also come out of desperation. Knowing that the AK Party is certain to win one more time and that its leader is angry with İstanbul-based capitalists like İnan Kıraç who interfere in the election process and heard from Erdoğan that he was “taking a risk” by openly supporting the CHP, The Economist is throwing itself into the ring. But desperate moves do not usually produce the expected results.

The Economist says, “we would recommend that Turks vote for the CHP.” Who are “we”? What would you recommend for the Kurds? And why should we not vote for other opposition parties? Can you please enlighten us on these questions, as well? Quick please, only a few days are left. I cannot vote without your “recommendation.” Or should I have said the recommendation of “İstanbul's secular establishment”?

Since the publication of the editorial in the Economist I have been asked what happened. My answer is clear: If a government fights with big capitalists like the Koç group and İnan Kıraç, the Turkish Industrialists and Businessmen's Foundation (TÜSİAD) circles and Aydın Doğan, it will get a response via such news and editorials in The Economist.

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