Chronic misunderstandings about the realities of Turkey

Published 25.07.2018 21:28
Updated 26.07.2018 01:45

A new era began in Turkey with the June 24 elections. Indeed, the presidential system marks the replacement of an old, ineffective, tutelage-prone and unwieldy system, which had essentially stopped being a parliamentary system, with a new one that is better suited to Turkey's conditions. Though this model was approved by citizens in a referendum on April 16, 2017, the June 24 elections worked to cement support for the new system.

If the nation had not approved of the new system, it would not have supported the People's Alliance or the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which introduced it for a referendum. Nor would it have elected Recep Tayyip Erdoğan with a huge margin as the first president of the presidential system. The change won popular approval in all three elections.

The analyses I have read in foreign media on the elections emphasized that Erdoğan and the People's Alliance won the elections but that voters did not act "rationally" but out of fear. Interestingly, the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has approached its 13 election defeats with the same logic.

Early on, furious with election defeats, the CHP used to scorn the masses voting for the AK Party. Thus, it concocted an excuse for its failure.

The CHP interpreted the results of the June 24 elections with a similar approach. Furthermore, it has virtually lynched its own candidate Muharrem İnce for accepting the election defeat civilly. İnce faced fury when he said, "There is a difference of 11 million votes. So, how can I object to the results? How can I call people to the streets?"

It's obvious that those lacking a rational mindset are not AK Party voters but the CHP itself. If the CHP had avoided deriding its own nation after the initial election defeat 16 years ago and made rational conclusions and derived lessons instead, the picture would have been very different now, but it carries on with its unrealistic stance.

One of the most offensive accusations leveled at voters is about their "ignorance." Articles in foreign media claim that voters acted out of fear and felt they had no other option than to vote for Erdoğan due to concerns about security and stability. The overlap of the CHP's arguments with the comments in foreign media creates a picture that is completely divorced from reality. What is happening in Turkey has not been analyzed correctly. Common to both is arrogance, probably. That is to say, when a disappointing result emerges from the ballot box, it must be invalid. In order to describe it as invalid, claims are raised that voters are "incapable" of making sound judgement. Once again, a campaign is launched to spread the impression that the elections were "rigged."

The CHP has adopted both approaches. During the June 7, 2015 elections, people in eastern and southeastern provinces, especially in the countryside, were forced to vote en masse for a pro-PKK party under the threat of violence at the hands of the terrorist group if they refused to vote for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Those who said nothing about this occurrence have waged a campaign about the state of emergency declared on July 20, 2016 in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt and described the near elimination of the terrorist group's pressures as a "democracy problem." Thus, they tried to set the stage for protests if results were close. İnce's remarks following the June 24 elections virtually amount to a confession of that. In other words, if the difference had been small, like that of 75,000 votes in the Brexit referendum, would they have taken to the streets?

Honestly, I do not think İnce is the type of politician that would incite protests. He demonstrated honor by accepting the defeat in a democratic manner; however, it is hard to say the same about the rest of the CHP. If asked, would İnce say he was contacted and asked to tell people to protest the results that night? Such allegations appeared in the media.

Of course, there are sincere voters and CHP cadres. There are also those in the West who have been misled by the propaganda targeting Turkey, who know little about the issues and interpret events with common assumptions. It would be helpful at this point if these people at least considered the possibility that the truth may be different. Turkey is not a dictatorship. Turkish voters are farsighted, rational citizens with democratic maturity. Indeed, in the latest elections, they elected Erdoğan by a huge margin as the first president of the new system, while denying his party parliamentary majority. What now? As members of the AK Party, should we accuse voters of ignorance? In what dictatorship is the alleged dictator elected by 52.6 percent of the vote when his party loses majority?

Instead of blaming the voters, we must acknowledge that they cast their votes with care. Why did voters separate Erdoğan from the AK Party? Why did they leave a 10 percent difference, with the AK Party only receiving 42.56 percent of the vote? Is this not a rational approach? The CHP has yet to question why it lost votes against the party that has been ruling the country for the last 16 years, while still considering itself successful with 22.65 percent of the vote. Meanwhile, CHP's candidate regarded himself successful, despite his electoral defeat, because he received more votes than his party, by winning over 30.64 percent of the voters.

Either deliberately or out of indifference, the full picture of Turkey's democracy and sociology has failed to receive the fair analysis it deserves. Some of our Western friends and the CHP have been unable to read Turkey accurately and unwilling to accept the democratic outcomes; hence, they base their strategies for Turkey on wrong assumptions.

However, as a key country in its region, Turkey repelled the Gülenist Terror Group's (FETÖ) heinous coup attempt on July 15 through a peaceful, civilian resistance, while 250 citizens were brutally killed by putschists. If democracy and stability in Turkey had collapsed on July 15, how would have our region, Europe and the world been affected? What crises would have engulfed Europe as millions of refugees rushed over its borders?

Turkey has dealt severe blows to both religious fundamentalism and secular terrorist groups. Its Operation Euphrates Shield was a turning point in defeating Daesh as nearly 4,000 militants were neutralized. That operation was carried out on Aug. 24, 2016 by the very Turkish army that was claimed to have lost its combat capability due to FETÖ. In other words, just 40 days after the July 15 coup attempt.

So, how long will this selective blindness and ignorance aimed at Turkey continue? How long will it take for them to realize that Turkey is unique by being a secular, Muslim, democratic state of law with a young population, strong army and big economy, located between the Middle East and Europe?

Democratic developments in Turkey, Ankara's policies, its growing power and independence may disturb some power circles. The world is not a bed of roses, either; but is it also too naive to expect democratic societies, organizations and independent media to realize that they are being used in this dirty struggle? Don't we have a right to expect this?

In fact, Turkey will continue to reach its macro targets and successfully protect itself no matter what. Moreover, it will keep doing that, not through the dark methods it is facing, but with a win-win formula, within the law and rules, in a transparent and legitimate manner. I believe that Turkey will be vindicated soon, and the world will realize that FETÖ is a very destructive terrorist group that threatens every country, and particularly the U.S., that harbors and protect it. Of course, the same is true for the PKK and its Syrian affiliate, the People's Protection Units (YPG).

Those fearful of Turkey's rise are wrong. Turkey is a reliable friend and ally that positively impacts its region and the world in many ways. Leaving colonial-era codes for interstate rivalry behind and moving forward based on a win-win approach is necessary for the future of the world. At a time when we are transitioning to a multipolar world but still haunted by the ghosts of World War I, a new paradigm and standard of ethics is required to prevent the world from becoming more insecure, unlivable and dangerous.In short, hostile and hypocritical approaches toward Turkey indicate a trend that extends beyond Ankara. Certainly, Turkey has problems, flaws and makes mistakes. Turkey can learn from criticism and from its allies' advice. However, the incidents over the last five years stem from a decline of democratic culture, not from Turkey itself. In my opinion, it's crucial distinction to make.

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