December 13, 2012, Thursday

Prime minister’s anesthetic effect

Currently, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is trying to deliver two messages: that he controls politics and that he is responsible for protecting the moral sensitivity of the people.

Some would argue that this is necessary and that the prime minister is taking measures in an effort to address potential tensions in his party. On the other hand, these messages could be attributed to the prime minister’s self-confidence and strong emphasis upon his personality. But it is visible that the most important effect of this strategy upon Turkish politics can be seen in the opposition, which has been interestingly paralyzed by this. The Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP) and the secular media were tempted by the erosion of Erdoğan’s image. In the end, they paid attention to what the prime minister said instead of what the government did. A popular discourse and style of opposition focusing on Erdoğan has been enthusiastically promoted.

This approach led to discussion of a number of important issues, including the Office of the Ombudsman, with clichéd arguments to undermine the image of the government. It was already evident and obvious that the person picked as ombudsman was not a man of integrity and did not have the competence to become the first ombudsman in Turkey. However, everybody waited for his appointment and then remembered that this person undersigned as judge of the Court of Appeals the judgment by which Hrant Dink was convicted. However, it was not hard for the CHP to initiate a social campaign to elect a different person. It was realistic for the government to pick somebody who would not become a burden to avoid any troubles in relations with the EU.

However, the main opposition party and the secular media did not take this path. They preferred a different style of opposition by which they hoped for the emergence of a state of affairs where it would be fine to criticize the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), and the government would be undermined. However, the result of this would not be a change in the Office of the Ombudsman. Days will pass, and Turkey will acknowledge this preference. In this way, the sphere of politics has been left in the control of the government for the sake of desire for justified criticisms, whereas the opposition will remain as a complainant bystander.

It appears that the prime minister is aware of this approach of the opposition. For this reason, he offers something that they could be occupied with through the entire week and replaces the popular identity discussions with politics. The reference to a soap opera, which allegedly distorts history, after discussions on abortion and the death penalty, will not lead to any result. The motion referred to Parliament by an AK Party deputy asking for the production of soap operas that respect history will remain a humorous item. The prime minister, on the other hand, will raise another discussion when this issue is no longer appealing.

The current state of affairs suggests that the prime minister is a lightning rod for the entire political opposition. Perhaps this is the period where the ministers feel most comfortable doing their jobs because nobody is going after the ministries’ decisions and actions. The opposition is entirely focused on Erdoğan, and the media acts as if it would not perform its job unless it raises regular daily criticism. It is obvious that Erdoğan has an anesthetic effect upon secular circles. He is aware of this, and for this reason, he makes periodic interventions to keep this effect alive.

The opposition needs to see that none of the provocative discourses and statements of Erdoğan have become a political decision, and they will not. The statements themselves perform the desired political function anyway. They address the concerns of some people and show who represents the average moral sensitivity. Being trapped by Erdoğan’s plot satisfies the feeling of superiority of some people within secular circles; and in this way, Erdoğan’s ability to represent the people becomes stronger and more visible.

The secular opposition should stop acting like a complainant and arrogant bystander. It is an indication of a lack of wisdom to think that wasting time with rumors and gossip is politics at a time when Turkey is going through a process of reconstruction.

Previous articles of the columnist