Political Instability in Turkey – Why A Shared Identity Is So Important
On the 24th of June, voters in Turkey will go to the ballot box to elect a president who’s intending to expand his own powers as a leader and minimize the democracy of Turkey in the process.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current president, is the one to change the rules for himself, creating a position that is closer to one of a dictatorship rather than a democracy.
And Erdogan is hoping to take advantage of the fact that he currently has 50% of the voters. The same voters who have had his back in past elections.
The Opposition Parties Combined To Stop The Consolidation Of Power
Fortunately for Turkish citizens, the opposition parties have come up with a combined strategy to thwart his attempt at the consolidation of power.
Erdogan’s party, “The Justice and Development Party,” or the AKP, has power over the media and frequently use it to blame their problems on others and target upcoming enemies and threats to the establishment.
Trumped Up Charges And Accusations of “Terrorism”
According to the New York Times, the government has used its power to arrest, dismiss, and incarcerate approximately 100,000 people in the last two years. This came after the failed attempt at a coup d’etat in July 2016.
(a coup d’etat is the attempt to overthrow a government, usually through the use of a military)
Similar to the way authoritarian regimes operate, the government typically targets perpetrators with trumped up charges, including accusations of “terrorism.”
And, like the former Soviet Union, sometimes official jails people on a hunch. Or merely because of an off-hand remark heard by one of their neighbors, co-workers, or possibly even family members.
Place The Blame On Opposing Parties
The Justice And Development Party have blamed the attempt at overthrowing the government on a group called Hizmet, or the “Gulen Movement.”
It’s an association “dedicated to universal education, civil society, and peace.”
Hizmet has created an “educational, media, and commercial empire,” and many graduates of their schools have found work in government institutions. For years, they collaborated with the Justice and Development Party.
However, in 2013, the group found itself in trouble with the AKP when they brought corruption charges against friends of Mr. Erdogan – the leader of the AKP (Justice and Development Party).
Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused them of trying to establish a parallel government within Turkey, obviously posing a threat to his regime.
And in May 2016, he formally labeled them as a terrorist group, calling them the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization,” or the FETO.
Ever since they started using that term, it became a slur used by the media, as a means of shutting down people with opposing opinions, especially those of atheists and left-wingers.
Political Divisions Are A Result Of The Lack Of A Shared Identity
Interestingly, Turkey hasn’t been able to foster a shared identity among its peoples since its creation back in 1925. And the chances of it establishing a sense of political and social unity may be slim.
One of the reasons for Turkey’s lack of political stability is because of the way the country was created back in 1923.
Since the Ottoman Empire collapsed, Turkey, as a nation, hasn’t been able to create a national identity that includes everyone in the mix.
What’s meant by “National identity,” is a set of principles, ways of living, and faiths that everyone has in common.
And this is a common feature among nations that were once under an umbrella of an empire or political organization.
When A ‘Power Structure’ Falls Apart And Competing Groups Rush To Fill It
For instance, the term “balkanize,” refers to that area known as the Balkans. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, all of the different ethnic, religious, and political groups in that region rushed to fill the vacuum of power that was once filled by the USSR in Russia.
This sort of thing happens frequently, not only on the national and international level but at the individual level.
For example, in a corporate hierarchy, there may be a boss or CEO at the top of the chain of command. But let’s say that something happens to him, and his replacement isn’t clear.
If there isn’t a successor lined up to take over his/her duties, people in that corporate hierarchy will start fighting to take that person’s role.
This same sort of thing can happen at the national level. If a hierarchy is currently not functioning properly because the head of it disappeared for whatever reason, successors quickly want to fill that gap.
This principle exists everywhere, whether it be in corporate structures, government affairs, or even drug dealing cartels.
And the collapse of an empire, where it formerly had many satellite states under its umbrella, is an example of that on the international level.
Every Country Or Nation Has Fragmentation At Least On Some Level
While many countries have their political factions, like the Quebeçois in Quebec, Canada, some nations have them considerably worse. Americans, for instance, have a very strong national identity, despite the amount of political tension in the nation at the moment.
According to the Times, Turkey has experienced massive political upheaval or coup d’etat attempts nearly every single years since the creation of the state back in 1923.
State Of Emergencies Are Used For The Expansion Of Power
And the State of Emergency that the government implemented back in 2016 after the last coup is still ongoing.
A State of emergency typically grants the government additional powers to detain citizens more than usual, like in Paris, France, after the Paris attacks, although, in the case of Paris, the State Of Emergency was for a good reason. Although, some may debate this.
More On Political Divisions And Infighting Because Of No Shared Identity
Turkey, on a number of occasions, has fragmented on ethnic, ideological, and religious lines throughout their history. And there have even been more divisions in those same groups.
It’s not uncommon for people in those associations to have feelings of hatred and demonization of the other side.
Even though Turkey has made significant improvements over the last forty years, there are still sharp divides among opposing groups.
As it was mentioned above, Turkey experiences a lot of this hatred and opposition to opposing sites due to the fact that the institutions of the state (including the government) protect the interests of the state, rather than the citizens.
And because individuals aren’t able to look to the government or the state to resolve some of their issues, instead, they rely on individual associations including their families, communities, religious brotherhoods, political parties, or any other ways of organizing.
Human Beings And Tribalism
Every human being and human society separates into different tribes because of our tendency to do so as tribal creatures.
However, certain types of culture are conducive to more intense tribalism than others.
Turkey is one where people, in their associations, have feelings of rivalry and hostility to other groups. And the result of this, of course, is factionalism.
It goes without saying that political stability is brittle because of that fact. If citizens don’t have a shared ideology or like mentioned above, a “national identity,” they look to leaders of their individual groups.
And the idea of even having a “leader” in the first place is a precarious one, especially when the “leader” isn’t held back by institutional checks and balances.
So, for example, if you disagree with the leader of the group, they brand you as a traitor. Then, that “traitor” leaves the group and takes their followers with them and forms their own political association.
Examples Of Division In Turkey
According to the Times, back in 2001, followers of Necmettin Erbakan broke away from their respective political party and formed the one that’s in power today, the AKP, led by Mr. Erdogan.
And Meral Aksener, the leader of the nationalist party, Nationalist Movement Party, broke away from her party in a similar way.
Many of the political parties in Turkey have unified in an effort to thwart Mr. Erdogan’s attempt at consolidating power in the country. And the upcoming Turkish election is an unusually combined opposition against Mr. Erdogan.
And the leaders of the parties making up the opposition to Mr. Erdogan, have told their followers to support any candidate who is against him.
The Threat To Turkish Democracy Is Real
The reason that people in Turkey are so dedicated to facing off against him is that the threat to Turkish democracy is real.
And in response to Erdogan’s use of traditional media, the opposition has used the internet and social media.
One of the parties, The Good Party, ingeniously used Google AdWords to send messages through Google searches. So, for instance, if you Google the term, “freedom,” an advertisement follows you around the web that says, “Search result not found; try again on June 25th.”
Interestingly, 50% of the Turkish population is under the age of thirty, and 18 is the legal age to vote.
Young people, using the technology of the 21st century, are fighting back against 20th-century totalitarians, like the Arab Spring in 2010.
Hopefully, if the opposition wins, they’re able to create a unified society, rather than merely conjure up another enemy.