Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan addressed Turkish migrants in Lyon, France after visiting Cologne and Vienna. These tours are definitely a propaganda tool meant to boost the popularity of the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) candidate for the presidential elections in August. Thanks to a new regulation, Turkish citizens living abroad will be able to vote in these elections and the public will directly elect the president for the first time in Turkey's history.
Turkish citizens abroad constitute about 3 percent of voters, which is a very critical rate. In a system in which the president will be elected by more than 50 percent of the vote, and while Turkey is witnessing such a high level of political competition, Erdoğan is making a very critical move no matter who the AK Party's candidate will be. Those visits were not only organized for Turkish citizens abroad. They were also for Europeans.
In all his three visits, he delivered important messages to Europe and the West, as the West played a significant role in the 12-year democratization process in Turkey, the Gezi Park crisis in spring 2013 and a judicial oligarchy coup attempt on Dec. 17 and 25. Within the democratic transformation process initiated following the AK Party's coming to power in 2002, the support of the EU became a significant source of security and legitimacy against military domination in Turkey.
It was required to prevent the elite oligarchy, which was parroting the learned clichés of modernization, from carrying out another coup through fabricated reactionism and threats.
At that point, the AK Party's willingness to adhere to the EU process as a religious democrat party provided important legitimacy to it. Discrediting and alienating the government was not so easy thanks to that.
Meanwhile, in the country, the liberals, democrats and a small group regarded as the liberal left-wing, who are secular but do not marginalize religious groups like Kemalist totalitarian seculars, were playing an important role. I was also in this group.
This important role was to object to the political engineering and coup calls of the former mainstream media, sectarian leftists, nationalists and fascists. During that period, the Gülen Movement was also a part of the democratic coalition with its effective media institutions - at least that's what we thought - and we took it upon ourselves to protect politics together. This is because Erdoğan was determinedly reacting against the taboos of the nation that were regarded as unsolvable problems for 100 years and the country went through a rapid process transformation.
We should also add the strong support of the EU to the picture since politicians, bureaucrats and journalists from the EU and the U.S. were in contact with the representatives of the democrat coalition of Turkey and they heard the news about the country from them. The Gülen Movement in particular lobbying heavily in the U.S. and Brussels.
Of course the EU's progress reports on Turkey were not only written with the data obtained from those negotiations. However, in regard to the perception of Turkey, those groups had serious balancing power in the face of the oligarchic alliance that was trying to overthrow the government and this cleared the way for the government.
This picture started to change on Sept. 12, 2010. And from the elections held in June 2011, the detachment became clearer. Actually the real detachment was between Erdoğan and the Gülen Movement, and liberals and democrats. The Gülen Movement and some liberal groups started to say that the government now longer had the potential to democratize and transform Turkey. Democrats stuck to their beliefs and real liberals and several liberal left-wing writers continued to side with them.
The group I was in did not think like the Gülen Movement and the writers that almost declared a war against Erdoğan. The government has made some mistakes and slowly progressed with reforms.
However, We thought the government still had the potential to democratize Turkey despite the heavy attacks being launched against it. Moreover, in 2012 and 2013, the government initiated a peaceful process for the resolution of the Kurdish issue that lasts for 150 years and the bloody civil war with the PKK that went on for 35 years. When the number of reforms is considered, it could be said that the government's performance is better than the previous years. Erdoğan's occasional harsh remarks were highlighted instead of his deeds and it was not considered that the government was under a constant disturbance and always had to defend itself.
The pens calling Erdoğan a world leader suddenly started to regard him as a dictator. In the U.S. and the EU, a campaign that could be summarized as "Erdoğan is a dictator now , he had better leave his seat," was initiated. The Gülen Movement and the group separating from liberals and leftists were added to the former mainstream media. Then they allied with the former elite oligarchic structure of society, which were sharply divided before.
It is true that the government should have managed the Gezi Park crisis more effectively.
But the new oligarchic alliance provoked this crisis and street protests so intensely that an environmental concern was transformed into political engineering. The judicial operations of Dec. 17 and 25, on the other hand, coincided with the preelection period with the investigations waiting for three years, illegal wiretappings and decisions hidden from the hierarchy. When the operations were initiated, even the indictment in the case was ready and Erdoğan was referred to as the "current prime minister" and included in some schemes as an organization leader.
It was clearly a political engineering attempt against Erdoğan jointly organized by the old elite oligarchy and a parallel structure that became autonomous within the free atmosphere of the last 12 years in the bureaucracy. Erdoğan stood on his feet, but the public's choice on March 30, 2014 local election was what really mattered. And public strongly reacted against this coup attempts with 46 percent of the votes.
Now the presidential elections are on the way. Strange things are happening again and it is again expected from the public to prevent non-political interventions by casting their vote once again. It would be useful to consider Erdoğan's Europe tour and the messages he delivered during those visits from this perspective.