Why AKP should abandon Erdogan
June 13th, 2013
09:49 AM ET

Why AKP should abandon Erdogan

By Stephan Richter, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. You can follow him @theglobalist. The views expressed are his own.

For years, there had been troubling signs, not least the jailing of journalists (worse than in Russia!) But, generally speaking, Turkey still seemed to be successfully managing its modernization, blending religion with economic and social progress. Yet the outside world shouldn’t have been fooled, and the major barrier to Turkey’s continued development should have been clear – an arrogant and overbearing leader.

Faced with an eternally disorganized opposition, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s supreme confidence was perhaps understandable. But his strictly majoritarian approach to governing has come back to haunt him, and his tone deafness – demonstrated by his dismissive response to the protests across the country – risks undoing the progress the country has made. Meanwhile, what was once seen as a demographic advantage – namely Turkey’s young population – may prove a political and social disaster as the country’s economy stumbles and unrest grows.

How should the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) respond? Given the longstanding dominance of Erdogan over his party, and over Turkish politics in general, the prime minister is unlikely to loosen his grip. This is a shame, as Erdogan has failed to grasp that the current unrest is not about Istanbul vs. the rest of the country. Nor is it a question of religion vs secularism. Instead, the real battle is between modernity and tradition.

Erdogan's principal achievement is to have distributed economic power far beyond the industrial family clans of Istanbul, and the country’s economic growth has been driven largely by steering the Turkish economy away from the dominance of these firms. This in turn has generated greater optimism among his voting bloc, the rural poor from the Anatolian hinterlands.

But as Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek has noted in The Globalist, Turkey’s future is dependent on the success of educating the rural masses.

There are 17 million students in Turkey’s school system, a cohort as big as the entire population of some European countries, and regardless of where one stands on Turkey’s politics, it is surely clear that the country’s transformation or otherwise will depend on its ability to upgrade the skills of this vast pool of labor market entrants.

More from CNN: Past and future collide in Turkey

The problem for Turkey is that Erdogan’s vision of the future is too narrow, his views too inflexible to meet the country’s changing needs. Voters were satisfied previously because they saw economic growth spreading, growth that was largely driven by Turkey's medium and large businesses, which had integrated themselves into the global economy, particularly Europe and Asia.

But even before the explosion of unrest centered around the protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, Turkey’s economic progress was facing headwinds, including adjustments in Spain’s labor market that are set to make Spanish firms more cost-competitive compared with their Turkish peers. With the current unrest, European investors looking to save money on production are now increasingly likely to see Turkey as too risky to consider doing business there.

The reality is that Erdogan would be nothing without his country’s economic success story. Now that he has carelessly undermined it with his heavy-handed response to the recent protests, he has also started to sow the seeds for his own downfall.

The economic fallout is growing by the day. Consider the impact, for example, on tourism in Istanbul and the rest of the country of the images generated by Erdogan's police state, images reminiscent of the oppressive Midnight Express days.

This leaves Turkey – and especially the AKP – facing a fundamental choice. Without a political opposition able to take advantage of Erdogan's self-destructiveness, it will likely come down to the AKP to reassess its own long-term interests, and the party must choose between loyalty to Erdogan or protecting Turkey’s significant potential.

Dropping an electorally successful leader may be unheard of in this region. But it is precisely what it will take for Turkey to get back on track.

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Topics: Turkey

soundoff (67 Responses)
  1. deniz boro

    Yesterday night a realy funny thing happened on Facebook. I tried to download a Turkish Classical Music and put it on my page and I just couldn't do it. It kept on stopping at a certain word. The words of the song is "Yar Saclarin Lule Lule/ Yar Benziyor Beyaz Gule" meaning: Darling your hair is in tresses/ My darling is like a white rose. But than again President of Turkey is Mr Gul- Gul meaning rose and/or laughing. If they censur every word which has "Gul" in it, they will have their hands full 🙂

    June 18, 2013 at 4:32 am | Reply
  2. ErkinKoclar

    AKP Won Election in Turkey %46,58 in 2007 under Erdogan leadership and same AKP Won Election in Turkey with %49,90 in 2011. So respectfully Ak Party raised votes. RESPECT!!! Gezi Parki Protest which placed in restricted area and without any permission (so naturally Police interfere with the permission they have), will cause a significantly boost for AK Party's votes because that protest was turned to anti-government illegal action (which is supported by sad foreign forces who lost a lot in Turkey recently) and showing off some so-called actors and actresses who are recently unpopular and whole country saw what happened there. They called it as brutal force used by police. I am asking you what an American Police office will do if a citizen try to hit him? or even touch him intentionally? What rights does Police officers have in this country? So think about that and compare it with Gezi Parki Protesters. They were throwing rocks, stealing police officers equipments,burning them etc. Be reasonable. I also want to tell you one of my experience with CNN News during this protest which was proof of that CNN is broadcasting false news even without checking the accuracy that could be done easily. It was told in the broadcast that Turkish tv channels do not show Taksim protests on tv and right away after i saw this live news i surprised with that new and i turned 3 major Turkish TV channels to check immediately, all of them were broadcasting same picture with CNN. Maybe CNN was taking broadcast from them who knows. So i will never turn on CNN channel again after this incident.

    June 19, 2013 at 3:53 am | Reply
  3. EMINE

    usa and europe plays dirty plays to turkey! turkey has enough proves! ERDOGAN IS THE BEST! usa and europe will accept this! ERDOGAN is the best leader the world ever has seen! 70% of turkey supports him! with reason! usa news don't show the truth in its news! wake up folk! usa is false! and europe is false! we will prove everything world wide! TURKEY IS THE BEST! ERDOGAN IS THE BEST! so many american,european diplomats has been arrested because they were send by these countries to stir up the folk! but they didn't know almost whole turkey supports erdogan! the turkey know is not the turkey 50 years ago! we will beat you stupid usa,stupid europe! it is done with your plays!

    June 22, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Reply
    • Ezra

      Emine you are % 10 in Turkey.stop telling liars.....true is already every any newspaper....not talking about Erdogani son alone SABAH:)

      June 24, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Reply
  4. Michael

    First of all, at the middle east Turkey has the most democratic system. So our explaniations and theories should include these.. What happened in İstanbul is ( now all ended) emerged from disproportionate force to first demonstrators and it widely spread out; because there was strict implementations as demonstrators claims. As mayor of Istanbul said : "It's all over. " And As the government said "message received". It will improve and sustain democracy in Turkey. I have travvelled whole Europe and I haven't seen more restful and natural area more than Turkey. It's not spring of Turkey but it is the democratic progress.

    June 25, 2013 at 2:26 am | Reply
    • Umit

      Thank you Michael for your objective comment. Unfortunately, Erdogan's opposites' could not find any democratic solution to get rid of him so they exaggerating everything and picturing it as a spring in Turkey. Tear gas is commonly used by police forces in Europe everybody knows that despite this Turkish opposites of Erdogan carried a posters as "chemical Tayyip" in US. Unfortunately these people do not believe to overthrow Erdogan democratically, because he has massive public support so all opposites hand by hand stirred up the city. Average people never supported these vandals and people who were not satisfied with some decisions of Erdogan started empathy with Erdogan who were unrealistically blamed and targeted.

      June 29, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Reply
  5. cezmi duru

    The man who shouldn’t be a king!

    Turkey is passing from a turmoil created by demonstrations started nearly month ago, after environmentalists are stormed from Gezi Park by PM Erdogan’s police force. Now, why we call security force as Erdogans police? Because he repeatedly said so: ‘my police!’ This is not a common democratic standart. Only dictators have their own policemen.
    In addition he yelled: ‘The policemen wrote legend at Taksim!’ A myth for what, wartime enemy?
    Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan’s huge ego, always increased the tension from the beginning.He did nothing to settle the situation but used hard words against the protesters and opponents which are apolitical in fact!(The opposition is weak and did nothing at the protests! The protesters are coming from educated and talented generation, borned in 80’s and 90’s which are intellectually powerful when compared with rulers rhetoric.Erdogan and his supporters are very far away to answer what the protesters said at the social media. When compared with protesters clever and creative slogans, the banners which AKP used at meetings were so vulgar and naive!)
    Also Erdogans usual anger is reflected with his threats. He threated to punish demonstrators (and the businessmen who have shown emphaty to the protesters.).
    In addition to well known excessive police power use against people during the protests, hundreds of people are kept under custody or arrested. The popular fan club of Besiktas soccer team Carsi, which made many humourous type of protests during the demonstrations, is under pressure.Many of the leaders arrested of being in terrorist acts!
    PM Erdogan does nothing to change this condition and allegation, he organized several meetings to show his muscle power and continued to insult opponents by calling them with ‘these people,those people’ phrases which reflects hostility according to the people. He openly threated the business owners like Divan Hotel and several offices at Akaretler,Besiktas where the wounded demonstrators are sheltered when they were escaping from gas and water cannons.(Those companies already exempted from goverment tenders and some agencies lost their contracts with goverment controlled bigger companies.)
    During the meetings he also used religion freely, to keep his conservative supporters politicized. He said protesters drunk beer in Dolmabahce Mosque which they entered with shoes. Free minds cannot understand why entering mosque is so critical especially when people came here to save their life. Also the beer can allegation should be provocative act made by some dark force.Because the Imam said he didn’t noticed anybody drinking beer in the mosque.(The imam is questioned by police and attorney nearly 24 hours!But he still insisted he had seen nothing!Brave man!)
    Another rumor which PM used at the meetings is, he accused demonstrators of attacking his fellow AKP mayors bride who was wearing turban and she was brutally beaten. Until then, no evidence is found despite the area is surveyed by CCTV cameras constantly and there is no witness already in this very crowded area.
    She said, 70 to 100 half naked men with leather gloves and odd head scarves, attacked to her.(This is unusual, people she described is look like American motorcycle gang members and writers think this should be a fantasy! Possibly she created a scenario to give strength to her side.)
    Here is an example for PM Erdogan’s nervous behaviour:After Gezi Park demonstrations, he was forced to listen protesters by some writers advices.
    The first group was composed of neutral intellectuals and create no problem to him. In the second group, one of the members was Mrs.Arzu Cerkezoglu(general secretary of Disk union) is attempted to say: ‘This events are not limited with architectural limit of Gezi Park,but everything is turned into sociological and pyhsicological event.’ This talk made Erdogan very angry, he stand and shouted: ’You cannot teach us sociology and physicology!Its not your business!’ When Ms.Cerkezoglu said: ‘We cannot solve the problem until you soften your reaction!’ But the PM’s anger is so increased that his daughter Sumeyye Erdogan (who is working as a consultant to his father officially) had taken Erdogan to out of the room. People reported that the remaining people shocked by this manner. All these acts are considered as dictatorial behaviour by the many of the people.
    Last comment:the democracies will work well,when there is a real leader who do not divide the people into two, like: ‘my supporters and others!’ The leader should be caring, tolerant, forgiving, understanding, smiling, unrevengeful, securing the justice and representing all the segments of the nation!
    Is it too much to expect?

    June 27, 2013 at 8:31 am | Reply
  6. turkishprotest

    Reblogged this on Turkey-Canada Platform for Democracy.

    June 29, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  7. Umit

    Few words to the author: Why you can only show another way other than Democratic choices for Turkish people. You are talking about dropping "electorally successful leader". As far as we learned in school to be an electorally successful is one of the requirements in democratic regimes. Democracy is changing the definition based on some peoples' interests and from country to country? I am so sad for your democratic perspective!

    June 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Reply
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