Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s list of miscalculations is growing by the hour. He is blundering towards self-destruction and he is taking the country down with him.
Mr Erdoğan’s cavalier attitude towards the separation of powers has now reached a point of disregard for the rule of the law and all accepted norms of democracy. The attempted changes to the judicial police regulation, the removal of police officers from their duties, public statements undermining the independence and impartiality of investigations as well as further restrictions on the freedom of the press are the most obvious manifestations of this.
Faced with serious allegations of wrongdoing, the Prime Minister has adopted a policy of confrontation not only with his Islamist rivals but with the world at large.
Mr Erdoğan has already declared a new “war of independence”. “Foreign forces and dark alliances trying to undermine Turkey” are no longer limited to the usual suspects, the United States and Israel. The latest addition to those plotting against the Turkish government is the United Arab Emirates, according to pro-government daily Yeni Şafak’s Ankara Bureau chief Abdulkadir Selvi. It would not be surprising if the European Union and others would soon join the list, too.
Even more worrying, the Prime Minister is once again calling his supporters out into the streets. In an orchestrated rally in Istanbul’s airport late on Friday, Mr. Erdoğan addressed thousands of his party faithful, followed by another speech the same evening outside his home in Uskudar. Former minister for European Affairs, Egemen Bağış, who was forced to resign after allegations of corruption earlier this week, stood beside him.
While Erdogan’s supporters were cheering him with chants of “Allah-u Akbar”, crowds elsewhere in the country, including in towns close to the Syrian border were demanding the government’s resignation. Once again, heavy handed-police action greeted protestors and journalists. In scenes that were reminiscent of the Gezi protests, riot police used water cannon and fired tear gas and rubber bullets. In Istanbul’s Taksim square, the last summer’s “everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance” slogans were replaced by chants of “corruption is everywhere, bribery is everywhere”.
By whipping up emotions among his supporters, Mr. Erdoğan is playing with fire in a country that is already dangerously polarized. The risks of dragging the population into the void alongside his administration are greater than he thinks. He was warned by the opposition parliamentarian Aykan Erdemir to restrain his followers after one person declared on Twitter his readiness to become a suicide bomber and to attack the US embassy.
Mr Erdoğan says Turkey is not a third class tribal state nor is it a banana republic. But the recklessness and lawlessness displayed by him and his government during this latest political crisis suggest otherwise.
This post is also available in: Turkish