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December 10, 2012, Monday

Egypt the old Turkey

Egypt descended deeper into political turmoil as its embattled president, Mohammed Morsi, vowed to proceed with a referendum on an Islamist-backed constitution that has prompted deadly street battles between his supporters and their secular opponents.

 Morsi has finally canceled the decree that awarded him wide powers. Turkish columnists mostly welcomed Morsi’s retreat for the sake of avoiding further chaos in the country and drew parallels between Egypt and Turkey of yesteryear.

Hürriyet’s Taha Akyol says he welcomed the news of Morsi’s concession. Akyol was pleased not because he opposed the Muslim Brotherhood but because he believes a politician must be able to take steps back when necessary. Akyol says he wishes dictator Hosni Mubarak had done the same thing in the past to enable an easier transition to democracy. It is normal and even healthy to have various views in democracies. And more importantly, in “mature democracies,” there is no polarization or violent opposition among the society. Instead, between disagreeing groups in societies where democracy is internalized, Akyol considers it “harmless opposition” more than “animosity.” That’s the exact problem with Turkey and Egypt, Akyol says. Despite our painful experiences in the past, we are still far from internalizing true democracy and we have a hard time stepping back from our views that we deem to be true. However, being able to “step back” is a virtue as well as a wise move in the sense of democracy, he notes.

Yasin Aktay from Yeni Şafak calls the incidents in Egypt a “déjà vu” of what happened in Turkey in the past. Although Egypt was long said to be aiming to adopt a “Turkish model of democracy,” it actually turned out to be imitating the Turkey of years gone by when military tutelage was alive and covertly controlling the whole of the country. Aktay says the Egyptian deep state is currently putting a show on in the country, aiming to control the government through military tutelage. To this end, it has tried to hamper every step of democratization or civilianization by Morsi through similar methods Turkey witnessed in the past. Just like Karl Marx once said of 19th-century India -- that it is the place where one should look in order to see the old England -- we should look at today’s Egypt to see the Turkey of old.

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