April 6 2014

Erdogan's victory a warning to West

Posted April 6, 2014

Despite the corruption allegations, Twitter ban and seemingly
incriminating leaked tapes, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won approximately 44% of
the popular vote in municipal elections on March 30, according to the
official tally.

Summary?' Print Despite his party's win in the municipal elections, the
Turkish prime minister's policies, including toward Syria, are likely
to lead to further political polarization and distance from the United
States and Europe.
Author Week in ReviewPosted April 6, 2014

Erdogan's victory speech offered no olive branches or open hands. It
was instead a clenched fist. The prime minister's remarks conveyed his
sense of righteous vindication and included a warning to his political
opponents that `we will enter their lair. They are going to pay the

As Cengiz Candar writes: `Among the difficult-to-forget moments of
election night were Erdogan's emergence onto the balcony, waving his
hands and raising the four-finger salute of support for the Egyptian
Muslim Brotherhood and his declaring the situation between Turkey and
Syria a `state of war' (which, of course, had nothing to do with
international law).'

Candar and most analysts expect Erdogan to be even more emboldened to
make a presidential run in elections scheduled for August 2014, while
launching a public vendetta against the Gulen movement, which Erdogan
blames for the corruption allegations and leaks.

Even though Erdogan said his government would comply with the decision
of Turkey's Communications Directorate (TIB) on April 3 to lift the
nearly two-week ban on Twitter, the prime minister added that `I don't
respect' the decision.

Mustafa Akyol explains that Erdogan `keeps winning' because he has
fashioned an unprecedented coalition between Turkey's Islamic right
and center-right factions. The secular-right Republican People's Party
(CHP) is still held in low regard because of some of its previous
anti-Islamic excesses, although it is trying to change under the
leadership of Kemal Kilicdaroglu. One of the CHP's stars, Mansur
Yavas, is contesting the results for mayor of Ankara, as Tulin Daloglu

Akyol considers Erdogan well-positioned for a presidential run, if he
goes for it, and concludes: `The bottom line is that Erdogan keeps
winning Turkey's ballots, and he is not likely to lose anytime soon.
Yet, while these persistent victories make the pro-Erdogan camp happy
and cheerful, it makes the rest ' almost the other half of society '
desperate, angry and resentful. That is why Turkey will be prone to
more polarization, if not instability, should Erdogan not take steps
to win the hearts and minds of his opponents and aim for a national

Barin Karaoglu writes that the elections are more of the same dismal
trend in Turkish politics. The CHP has been unable to score an
electoral upset, and the prime minister has compromised people's faith
in political institutions, while poisoning the prospects for
compromise between parties. The country, and society, are more
polarized than ever.

Erdogan's approach to Syria could add to the further political
turbulence. His victory speech included a proclamation of a `state of
war.' But there is a cloud around his declaration. The leaked tape, if
true, implies a `wag the dog' scenario where Turkey would consider
sparking a provocation with Syria over the Tomb of Suleiman Shah ' 24
miles inside Syria, but claimed by Turkey. The Islamic State of Iraq
and al-Sham (ISIS) has threatened the tomb, but the official Turkish
line is that ISIS is in a `behind the curtains' alliance with the
Syrian government, according to Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet

The leaked tape followed the Turkish shooting down of a Syrian jet on
March 23, which Al-Monitor's Kadri Gursel writes many considered to
have been linked to domestic politics and the election campaign.

Amberin Zaman reports this week from Hatay province that the agitation
along the Turkish border has only heightened anxiety and sectarian
tensions, with Alawite residents in this mixed community saying that
Turkey supports Islamist rebels and may be seeking a provocation with

It is worth noting that Davutoglu, who attended the NATO Summit in
Brussels this week, presented no evidence of a Syrian threat to
Turkey, as Tulin Daloglu reports.

As Semih Idiz writes, the fall of the Syrian village of Kassab to
Islamist rebel forces led by Jabhat al-Nusra is adding to Turkey's
fractured ties with the West:

`Attacks against the Armenian community in the Syrian town of Kassab
by the jihadist Jabhat al-Nusra group, which the Erdogan government is
accused of supporting ' an issue that has already been taken up in the
[US] House of Representatives ' could also fuel tensions between
Washington and Ankara. Another development that will have angered
Erdogan and his supporters was an inquiry ordered by British Prime
Minister David Cameron into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood,
which has resulted in speculation that the group could be banned in
Britain. Erdogan is a strong supporter of the Brotherhood, of which
many consider the AKP to be an honorary member.'

Kassab has now become a cause celebre for the Armenian diaspora, as
Pinar Tremblay writes, provoking responses from the US State
Department and members of Congress. Tremblay also reminds readers that
Erdogan's Syria policies are generally considered a failure, are
unpopular with most Turks and have been the focus of demonstrations in
the country, mostly unreported in the Western media.

Although Turkey is experiencing blowback from terrorists for its
failed Syria policies, for some reason the Turkish government has not
yet been compelled to shut down its borders to the traffic in
terrorists and arms that seem to enter Turkey with impunity. Kassab
may now spark a more intensive US focus on Turkey's role, and the
seemingly fantastical notion of an Assad-ISIS alliance as an excuse
for Turkish military intervention probably won't cut it, as the
humanitarian and terrorist situation worsens by the hour for Syria and
its neighbors.

As this column has argued several times, the new pulse of Geneva II is
toward a focus on facilitating humanitarian and counterterrorism
cooperation, both regionally and internationally. Turkey does itself
and the region no service by resisting this trend. Its role should be
as a leader in these areas, not by pursuing discredited and failing
policies to drag it and its allies further into the war in Syria.

And there are already divisions between Erdogan and Turkish President
Abdullah Gul on Syria and other issues, including the bans on social
media. As this column said last week:

`The question will be whether President Abdullah Gul, who has already
gently yet clearly distanced himself from Erdogan on Syria, social
media controls and other issues (as has been reported by Al-Monitor),
may consider taking a stand on those actions of the prime minister
which are dividing and destabilizing Turkey. If Gul takes such a
stand, then attention will be on the reaction of the United States and
Europe, which are seemingly running out of patience with the prime
minister's erosion of Turkey's democratic institutions.'

From: A. Papazian