Sunday, December 29, 2013

Turkey, Erdogan and the Kurds

Some reflections on the crisis in Turkey.

Turkey is one of the few friends Morsi and the MB have left in the region. Here we might be seeing the collapse or implosion of another Islamist government, but before we cheer too loudly, remember that the alternative could be the return of the "deep state", i.e. the army, which might be some way off in Turkey, but is certainly back with a vengeance in Egypt.

Secondly, Okan Altiparmak and Claire Berlinski (via Jeff Weintraub), on the views of the U.S. Ambassador in January 2004, as revealed by Wikileaks: 
These observations [such as the influence of Islamic brotherhoods and groups (including the followers of Fethullah Gulen)] would, logically, give a rational observer pause, but instead lead Edelman to assert [..] that the AKP is therefore the only party capable of “advancing the U.S. vision of a successful, democratic Turkey integrated into Europe.”
According to this analysis from Yavuz Baydar
the friction started to develop between the two men in 2010. And it has always had to do with two clashing views within the sphere of Islam stemming from the old traditions of Turkey. The first element had to with Erdogan's deviation away from Turkey's European Union membership aspiration. When Gulen, who has been vocal in supporting a civilian constitution, saw delays in the process, his patience grew thin.
Thirdly, the Kurds. In Syria - this is a largely unreported dimension of the war - it seems Turkey will support the most extreme jihadist elements of the opposition fighters, just as long as they fight the Kurds. But it appears that it does this for "Turkish", not "Islamist" reasons. With regard to the Kurds in Turkey itself, Yavuz Baydar argues that this lies at the heart of rift between the AKP and the Gulenists:
 a deep division emerged on Erdogan's choice to conduct the so-called "Kurdish Peace Process". Erdogan's methodology was to negotiate directly with the PKK, both with its leader Abdullah Ocalan, and its "military command" in Iraq's Qandil Mountains.

But, Gulenists, who see the PKK as the main adversary in the mainly Kurdish regions - as the PKK considers them - were discreetly dismayed. They argued reasonably, that Erdogan could and should focus on broader political reform, push for a civilian constitution and grant all the rights the Kurds of Turkey demand, such as recognition of ethnic identity, education in their mother tongue, and endorsement of local governments - without talking to the PKK. This approach, Hizmet's supporters argued, would weaken the PKK, because it would "disarm" the armed movement from all the reasons it continued to wage guerrilla warfare.
Also  Erdogan Agonistes – Is this what a panicked Erdogan looks like? (Michael Koplow)

Update: 2 Jan 2014
I had a quick skim of another opinion piece from Al Jazeera, by Yüksel Sezgin, Erdogan-Gulen-Gul rivalry: All the Sultan's men. From this, it appears purely as a struggle for power (without any great ideological issues).

Jeff Weintraub, in another post, has some comments about the previous piece from Al Jazeera, including
I couldn't help noticing a curious little detail about the photo at the head of Baydar's article [..]  Someone on the Al Jazeera staff (who probably didn't know Turkish and wasn't paying close attention) decided to illustrate this article with a photo of demonstrators from Turkey's Communist Party, carrying posters with pictures of both Erdogan and Gulen and condemning them en bloc.  Some people who do know Turkish were kind enough to help me out with a translation of the slogan on the poster. What it says (roughly) is:  "We will destroy the reign of thieves."

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Thailand, Ukraine, ... Egypt

A bad example can be dangerous.

Kasit Piromya, a former Foreign Minister, who also makes his anti-government views clear here, on Al Jazeera English (2/12 13:33), or Tunisia, and speaks of what The Economist calls "zombie democracy" or majoritarianism. The Economist did indeed have a piece, 22/6, called Zombie democracy, but it references not or Tunisia (let alone ), but Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey.

On the BBC's  "World Have Your Say" somebody says that he is more an expert on rather than , but he sees striking parallels between the two: "you have to make up your mind, do you want democracy or not?" (podcast, 2/12 listen).

In  the protests aim to replace the government with an unelected "People's Council" (  , ). One protester said, "We don't want to dissolve parliament, we don't want new elections because we will lose anyway. We want [the Shinawatra family] to leave the country."

The case against the Shinawatras (Yingluck and Thaksin) seems to boil down to this: that they enacted populist policies to "buy votes". One commenter on Piromya's piece responded, "please, stop insulting your fellow Thai rural poor that they are so stupid and so cheap that they can be so easily bought off with Thaksin money."

seems to be a similar case, he opposition not only have a stronger cause for complaint - President Yanukovych promised to take the country closer to the European Union and then backed away from a trade deal under pressure from Vladimir Putin; they also seemed willing to enter into talks proposed by the speaker of parliament and sought a no-confidence vote against the government (now lost). Their aim seems to be to get the government and president to resign, to be followed by early elections which they are confident of winning. Even if that does not happen, reports indicate that Yanukovych has lost support, which would lessen his chances of reelection in 2015. But the "Orange revolution" opposition is notoriously divided and has rapidly lost popularity once in office.

Not much has been heard so far in this crisis of Viktor Yuschenko. Wikipedia reminds us that Yushchenko gained 5.45% of the vote in the 2010 presidential election and his  party won 1.11% of the vote in the 2012 parliamentary elections; In 2008 his popularity as president plunged to less than 10%.

Yuschenko, along with 2 other former presidents, has now backed the anti-government protests (4/12).

 Updated 6 Dec 2013.