Tag Archives: Turkish democracy

After the failed coup: a second chance for Erdogan or the final end of the Turkish liberal democracy?


A failed attempted coup happened while President Erdogan was in holiday on the Aegean Sea. Erdogan said was organized by Gulen “parallel state”, other parts suggested it was a hoax organized by Erdogan himself to increase even more its power. We don’t know who is right but one thing is certain: if it was not staged it was bad organized. With one surprising element: the image of military surrendering to civilians was a show of the strength of Turkish population. We don’t know yet though if it was also an image of the democratic health of Turkey or just an image of the increasing massive support that Erdogan has (not necessarily good for democracy, as past multitudes supporting strong leaders democratically elected teaches us).

Now, after the military purge, Erdogan and the AKP have two paths: improve the democracy in Turkey creating a national reconciliation with the secular and leftist forces, giving back liberal freedoms to the press and the civil society and taking the lead again for a peace process on the Kurdish issue, or follow the Putin style: expansion of power towards the absolute (including a strong Presidential system), an increased social and political polarization and the elimination of any element of a liberal democracy (if there is still some in Turkey) apart the elections.

The democratic retrocession of Erdogan is evident already since some years, first of all with the failure of the solution of Kurdish issue, that arrived to target not only civilian Kurdish population besides the PKK in the Eastern regions, but also the first pro-Kurdish party entered in the Parliament, the HDP. Second with an “autoritarianization” of his executive, with the increased exclusion of secular forces in the government and in the bureaucracy of the state, from eliminating few years ago the last Kemalist elites, to eliminating the alternative Islamist approach to politics represented by Gulenists, considered today terrorists in Turkey, to also moderate parts of the AKP more recently, including the only diplomatic Prime Minister Turkey had until now, Ahmet Davutoğlu. Finally with the repression of civil society, from the journalists to the NGOs and the people assembled to protest in the streets to even incarcerating academics that signed petition to ask the government to defend civilians in Kurdish regions (being compared to the same level of terrorists).

So did the AKP moderate political Islam experiment also failed, pushed by external factors but also because of not being able to be inclusive, as it has been for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the Ennahda in Tunisa, or will it be able to survive and improve with more inclusiveness and liberalism in the near future?  One decisive factor in this will be if Turkey will soon win against Jihadist terrorism of ISIS, allowed to grow at the beginning by Erdogan as a tool against Assad and the Kurds, but that finally turned against him too (as usually happen with terrorism, Al Qaeda docet). Because if a government cannot guarantee basic security and safety to its population for a protracted period of time there is not much future for that government, even if it keep expanding the middle class and the economic development, unless it changes its policies both inside and outside the country. Will be Erdogan and the AKP able to create a more efficient and effective foreign policy with at the same time more inclusive and united government?

A more efficient and effective foreign policy should be based on one side on a real fight to ISIS and on the other on a new diplomatic approach to the solution of the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars (as the excluded Davutoglu tried to do) including accepting the presence of Kurds at the negotiating table on Syria. Outside the country terrorism can be won with military and financial fight against the cancer born in the states and pragmatic diplomacy towards the states that host that cancer. Instead Erdogan until now kept the same narrative of showing muscles inside and outside, asking Turkish society and institutions to be strong and Western countries “to take a firm stand against terrorism”. He refused to start a real military intervention against ISIS with the support of some allies – not in the sense of NATO forces as Article 5 has never been invocated for terrorist attacks after 9/11 having become a routine unfortunately today – but in the sense of world powers like Russia, US or France, mostly affected by the Jihadist terrorism, and the regional powers more closely involved, in particular Saudi Arabia. And at the same time he gave complete power to the Army to repress the Kurdish movement, empowering the military even too much with the risk of possible backlashes, including the last coup as some analysts had foreseen.


A more inclusive and united government is what a country instead needs at domestic level, to win against terrorism, as it can be really won only with national unity. Governments need to be strong but they need to be also inclusive if they want to be effective in the fight for a country survival in the long term. Governments need to have a broad political representation and also the support of a civil society that feel listened and included in the polity. This is the lesson we had in Italy for example in the 1970s and in 1990s, when we won both the Communist terrorism and the Mafia terrorism, because of political compromises and massive civil society participation. Instead Erdogan and the AKP regime are until now representing an increasing exclusive government.

Will Erdogan and the AKP be able to create such shift in the foreign and domestic politics after the failed attempted coup or will they insist in the repression of oppositions in all level of society, from politics, to military, to civil society to foreign actors considered as scapegoat like the Gulen movement? Will a new form of “moderate political Islam” born soon in Turkey, taking from the lesson learned of the past AKP mistakes and bridging the gap between secular and traditionalist Muslims? Future will say but will not be easy, as even in Tunisia the balance between secularist forces and Political Islam is not able to curb the backlash from Islamist radical forces producing so many foreign fighters. But for now Turkey survived another military coup attempt. All opposition parties, including the pro-Kurdish HDP and Gulen movement, condemned the coup attempt and the supporters of Erdogan went to the streets blocking army tanks. We hope that also civilians opposing Erdogan will be able to demonstrate freely in the streets soon again.


The strategy of securitization of Kurdish issue could turn against Turkish democratic and unitary future


Erdogan thought that the only way to make the pro-Kurdish party, guided by Selahattin Demirtaş, lose the incredible support received last June was to call for new elections and in the meantime reinstate the war against PKK. But someone or something suggested him that it could not be enough to win this life-or-death political struggle with the HDP. The Ankara massacre has to be read with these lens.

The break of the truce with the PKK, the Kurdish nationalist organization, after the last elections had a clear goal to make Turkish people afraid of instability and even a possible civil war, and so vote in big numbers for the nationalist and Islamist AK party. Erdogan, since got the power in 2002, has the plan to build a new powerful regional Middle Eastern Turkey, on the old Ottoman style example. He needs the support of the majority of the population to do that, with the creation of a strong presidential system through a Constitutional reform. But his plan has been blocked by the surprising success of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) a leftist secular and inclusive party, born in 2012, that supports the Kurdish cause and has anti-capitalist, environmental and pro minority rights identity. This party represents a real threat to the AK party goal, as it challenges basic foundations of the new strong Turkey with an Islamist identity, that Erdogan wants to create. Among other things the HDP guarantee a 50% quota to women and 10% to LGTB community, and geopolitically supported the peace process with the PKK party for more autonomy to the Kurdish region. The secular and modern soul of Turkey, the same soul that helped Tunisia to avoid the creation of an Islamist state, completing the only successful democratic transition in the Arab Spring, could not have died in just a decade of AK rule. The winning of HDP demonstrates it.

When this party became the third parliamentary force in Turkey last June, Erdogan understood that he could not make his goal real. He started to revive the war between Turkey and Kurdish militants in order to break the alliance between liberals and Kurds that allowed the HDP party victory. But something or someone told him that this was not enough. The recent attack in Ankara against HDP supporters (also two HDP candidates died in the attack) could show that he might have turned to a strategy that in Italy we have known for long time, since the 1970s (when the state used it against the risk of a strong Communist Party): the “strategy of tension”. Actually the Ankara massacre remembers me the famous Bologna massacre at the train station in 1980. There is a difference with Italy though: after the Bologna massacre the broken clock of the station that stopped at 10.25am was left as a symbol of the massacre. After the Ankara bombings the government rushed to clean the place and fix the destructions of the station to go back as soon as possible to normality, and erase any sign of the attack avoiding any possible memorial symbols. Will a memorial monument be built in the place of the massacre? This is the parameter to understand if Turkey will have reached a social peace in the future.

The “strategy of tension” occurs when the “deep state” of a country give the “go ahead” to some acts of violence and terrorism in order to create a climate of fear in the population, bringing it towards more right wing and nationalist positions, to support parties that guarantee the status quo with a strong hand. For Erdogan would not be difficult to allow DAESH cells to act on its territory, as Turkey has been helping in some way DAESH to form in Syria and Iraq (against the Shia ruling in both countries). But this strategy, if is the one Erdogan is really pursuing, could not work in Turkey today, and on the opposite could even turn against not only the AK plan but also against the Turkish future.

The reason is that the situation of Kurdish minority is not a Turkish national problem: it is a regional problem. Since the Treaty of Lausanne Kurdistan is divided between four states: Syria, Iraq, Iran and Turkey. And today the DAESH’ success on the dismemberment of the Syrian and Iraqi states works in favor of a possible final creation of a Kurdish state. When (in few years or in a decade we don’t know) Iran, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with the presence of Russia, the US, the EU and may be China, will finally seat at an international conference to decide the destinies of the Levant region, after the end of post-Ottoman order, a Kurdish state will have to be built, to answer to the need of self determination of a population since more than one century. And Turkey will have to accept it, and deal with it may be even giving some part of its national territory to the new state, as more than half of the Kurdish population lives in Turkey today. What could be done otherwise, a forced migration of 15 million people? Fortunately a genocide like the one against Armenians one century ago is today unthinkable.

Therefore the strategy used today by the AK party to securitize the Kurdish issue and cut the support to the HDP party, could represent a mistake for the future of Turkey. To block the HDP from having rallies for fears about security, to restrict media freedom and to exacerbate the conflict with Kurdish population can only go against Turkish democratic and unity interest. While starting a new inclusive policy, in which also the Muslim Kurdish minority would be integrated in the state besides the non-Muslim minorities that have already a legal status in Turkey since one century (the Armenians, Greeks and Jews) would facilitate a social peace that is the only path for a stable future. Unfortunately leadership with long vision is what is missing today, also in the Middle East (a part may be from Iran, who not by chance has been called back by the international community to help to solve the Middle East quagmire).

We will see what will happen in the next elections in November in Turkey, unless Erdogan will stop them for some more months, as he has the Constitutional right to do so in case of unrest and insecurity. What will be the result of those elections? What will do the Army in case of a too polarized result, intervene like they already did in the past? Is Turkish democracy a healthier one today? The Turkish people could demonstrate this in two weeks, voting for the parties that look for national dialogue and inclusiveness instead than for the ones that call for divisive nationalism and strong state. One thing is certain: the blood spilled in Ankara will not be forgotten soon, neither by the Kurdish nor by the Turkish youth. And this is not a good news in the long term for the AK party.

PS It is better to call the Salafi jihadist extremist militant group present in Syria and Iraq with the correct Arabic acronyms for this criminal organization based on a destructive cult that wants to create a Caliphate: DAESH. This because to use the English terms ISIS/ISIL/IS or “Islamic State” supports the propaganda of DAESH, who aspire to represent the Islamic world (that nobody of common sense in both Islamic and non-Islamic world would agree on) and aspire to have a state (that also nobody of common sense should support).