2012: Divisions exacerbated ` democracy not consolidated

26 December 2012, Wednesday

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The end of the Gregorian calendar year is fast approaching and we have
not surprised anyone by creating yet another controversy by what we
see in the aftermath of the launch of the Göktürk-2 satellite last
The country has been divided between those who favor a heavy response
to the approximately 200 Middle East technical University (METU)
students and those who feel the police response has been excessive. A
good number of universities have made declarations, fully
demonstrating the deep divisions about the fundamentals of this

As we are drawing to the end of the year it is most pertinent to make
a brief assessment of what 2012 meant for our political body. The year
2012 has been full of disappointment and frustration. Contrary to the
public's expectations Parliament was unable to draft a new
constitution. Progress has been at a snail's pace. The ruling party
does not understand that a consensus can only be reached when it deals
with the opposition in a dignified manner. The `wedge politics'
strategy may produce 50 percent support for the AK Party but it does
not bode well for a social contract that we desperately need.

Strangely, the style, manner and content of the current political
discourse do not reflect a government that won three consecutive
elections. For a long time, the ruling party has managed to be in
government and against the system at the same time. As all fortresses
of the regime have been `conquered' there seems to be lack of purpose
evident in the government's actions. Hence, a withdrawal to core
Islamist issues, such as a mosque to Çamlıca, criticism of a soap
opera, heavy emphasis on the Middle East versus little interest in
carrying Turkey into the EU.

In 2012 the divergence between President Gül and Prime Minister
ErdoÄ?an has become more visible. Gül made it clear that he does not
intend to retire or get a job abroad. He is not losing any opportunity
to make his views known and share his vision with domestic and
international audiences. Ankara is very tense due to the
unpredictability of the succession issue in 2014.

The Kurdish issue has gone into an awfully wrong direction. The
tension between the government and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP)
has reached enormous proportions. Tomorrow will be the first
anniversary of the Uludure/Roboski incident and we will probably again
see how debilitating the incident in itself has been on the psychology
of Turkey's Kurds. The government clearly miscalculated and
underestimated the impact of this incident. The psychological
distancing of Turkey's Kurds is continuing at the expense of our
social peace.

The rare positive story of 2012 which must be registered is the calm
and predictability in the Turkish economy. Deputy Prime Minister Ali
Babacan continues to project confidence and disciplined management of
the economy. Thanks to him and his team the Turkish economy is doing
well during such turbulent times. It would be a very different
political discussion if the economy was also in a mess as our
political climate currently is.

The fact that we see increasing signs that the Assad regime is losing
the civil war in Syria is of course a positive development. However,
so much blood has been wasted, so many lives turned upside down, so
much regional and sectarian tension unleashed it is hard to be
celebratory about the gradual decline of the Assad regime.

All in all, 2012 has been a year I am most eager to leave behind. I
wish I could be optimistic for the year ahead. I am afraid we will
continue to see the polarization and tension continue in 2013. When
Samuel Huntington defined Turkey as a `torn country' in his seminal
work in 1993 I fervently objected. These days, I tend to agree with