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July 06, 2012, Friday

‘Faux liberalism’ versus the AK Party

It is like a bad dream. It is what shady underground networks of people planning to topple the democratically elected government; “road-blockers” trying to prevent the election of President Abdullah Gül; vociferous opposition politicians and a few others did not manage to achieve -- to remove Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) from power by whatever means.

 This might as well become reality, thanks to recent waves of commentators’ attacks aimed at whatever the AK Party undertakes, labeling it undemocratic and acting as if the party has broken almost all previous political promises.

The emergence of what I call “faux Turkish liberalism” is a domestic phenomenon. Let me go back a decade or so. Turkey stood on the brink of financial ruin. Civil society and fully-fledged civilian democracy were nothing but political fantasy. A president who actually feels as if he is one of the people instead of simply towering over them was unheard of. The name of a prime minister who dares to challenge all forms of tutelage and achieves his goal would not have featured prominently on any political scientist’s university curricula teaching Modern Turkish Politics, as there was none. Taken from a long list of alternative, positive developments, I wish to mention privatization and the redefinition of “how less state, how more individual initiative” is best. The financial support mechanism for Turkish small and medium-sized enterprises (SME); the internationalization of Turkey’s foreign policies; and the immensely encouraging support for NGO of all forms and sizes! Think rising per capita income, increasing home ownership. Turkey ended its isolationist policies and established “Turkish International Relations.”

Hence one wonders why those who normally would support reform attempts now withdraw their endorsements. Why did they ever lend their support to Erdoğan if they abandon ship at the sight of the first storm?

Let me scrutinize four issues. First, on media freedom I repeat what I wrote before: In the pre-AK Party Turkey good governance and writing about military tutelage, changing textbooks at primary schools or why individual citizen are more important than self-elected elites who steal the country from the citizen, my articles would never have seen the light of day.

On C-sections, I happily admit that I am a father myself and my wife gave birth in Turkey. Her otherwise excellent doctor did most definitely not “push” for a normal birth. It makes money for doctors, and due to US soap operas or former “spicy” British pop group members who think going into labor is simply too much these days, Turkish women think opting for C-section is “cool.” C-section is a medical condition, not a fashion trend.

On this week’s flash floods: when commentators challenge the goodwill of the government to build new houses and severe weather conditions lead to fatalities in one of them, it does not mean the government deliberately kills people. Why did no one challenge past governments not to have built earthquake-prone apartments? Why was the last big earthquake God-given, yet what happened this week government-made?

On education: I am sending my daughter to a Turkish school and not to an expatriate only establishment. I checked textbooks and spoke with teachers. I know how important it is to totally -- I mean totally -- overhaul the country’s primary and secondary educational system. It does not prepare Turkish children for today’s interconnected world. Who is about to remedy all that? Yes, the current government! Think FATİH, 4+4+4 and many other initiatives.

Let me play devil’s advocate: If faux liberals continue at best to ridicule, at worst dismiss as undemocratic whatever Erdoğan has achieved through use of the media, social media, conference panels and television, one day soon perhaps by sheer repetition, people will assume “liberalism” is good per se and the AK Party withdrew from what it promised back in 2002 NGO, and civil society and all enemies of democracy might as well join forces. Then faux liberalism will indeed have killed the AK Party star. A decade of political reform would have been wasted. Not only this -- who would ever dare to try once more! Let’s hope my worries are ultimately unfounded and indeed nothing more than a bad dream.

Previous articles of the columnist