[email protected]

January 02, 2013, Wednesday

Getting rid of a state of siege mood

Turkey grasped relative political stability particularly beginning in the year 2003 after many years of instability under fragile coalition governments that bowed to the pressures of the military system of tutelage.

Relative stability was achieved in 2003 and onwards when the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power in the November 2002 elections and then initiated democratic reforms with a great appetite at the time to adhere to the democratic criteria set forth by the European Union, to which Turkey is a candidate member country. Democratization moves have curbed the military's power in politics while enlarging the space for free speech. This has also opened room to maneuver for Turkish Kurds, suppressed for decades through the denial of their basic rights, such as speaking Kurdish even in public.

As a result of reforms, Turkish Kurds have achieved some of their cultural rights, including the right to a defense in their mother tongue and optional Kurdish courses in schools. Turkey has also begun settling scores with the illegal elements of the deep state as many uniformed men and their civilian supporters have been facing trial over charges of staging coups or making coup plans to unseat the elected government. Yet, illegal elements of the deep state are still very active, as was recently admitted by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Since the AK Party backpedalled from democratic reforms, particularly following the June 2011 general elections, which brought it to power for the third time, relative political stability has begun to be replaced by deepening polarization and instability.

In parallel to a standstill on democratic reforms, we Turks have become pessimistic about our future.

Despite the gloomy political picture that Turkey has been drawing as a result of the absence of reforms to improve democratic standards, the economy is doing well, taking into consideration the worldwide economic crisis.

Turks who desire their country to move uninterruptedly toward the long and thorny road to achieve democratic standards are of the opinion that the AK Party has begun making concessions at the expense of reforms, playing into the hands of the quite active illegal elements of the deep state that Erdoğan complained about.

Despite this negative political trend in the country, there does not seem to be an alternative to the AK Party, at least in the foreseeable future. And perhaps that is the reason why Prime Minister Erdoğan has been overconfident, preventing him from seeing the implications of a political climate that has become gloomy as a result of the failure to move ahead with fresh reforms. He, instead, has focused on career plans to become president during the presidential elections scheduled to take place in May 2014.

Erdoğan reacts very furiously to any criticisms leveled against him due to the standstill concerning reforms, leaving an image of an authoritarian leader. He perceives those critics as if they are enemies or as if they are prejudiced against the AK Party.

Yalçın Akdoğan, Erdoğan's political adviser and a deputy from the AK Party, told the NTV news channel on Dec. 31 that the ruling party has been fighting against the deep state for the past 10 years -- in other words, since it came to power.

“The moment that we believe the deep state is dead, it reincarnates; it begins a new life in a new body and engages in different forms to grab political power. The deep state, for example, targeted citizens in the 1990s via extra-judicial killings. During the Feb. 28, 1997 postmodern coup, it targeted practicing Muslims,” he said.

Akdoğan says that democracy cannot be installed without cleansing the illegal elements within the deep state. Ironically, however, the government does not move ahead with reforms to clean illegal elements from the deep state. Nor does the government make symbolic but important gestures to ease the grievances of Turkish Kurds, such as apologizing for the deaths of 34 Turkish Kurds as a result of an F-16 bombardment in late December 2011 in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern town of Uludere.

Prime Minister Erdoğan, in particular, has been hijacked by a state of siege mood as if all critics are his and his party's enemies. This is despite the fact that his government still enjoys about 50 percent of public support. Erdoğan should get rid of the state of siege mood and focus on fresh reforms. This is the only way to beat the illegal elements within the deep state, preventing their reincarnation in different forms and restoring Turkish political stability.

Previous articles of the columnist