Is Turkey becoming a one-man state?
Watching the Prime Minister Erdogan’s recent moves against his Islamist rivals, this is a question many people have been asking.
Turkey has long been ruled by an arbitrary and self-serving government where the last word on every crucial issue belonged to the prime minister.
It has just taken some people longer to see how the institutions that make up the cornerstones of a free society have been systematically undermined and weakened in Turkey.
It took a while to recognise that without accountability and transparency, elections and the will of the people alone are not enough. In democracies, governments need to be scrutinised and to be made accountable, too.
In Turkey, the public’s right to information has been severely restricted by pressure on the media. Use of anti-terror, libel and defamation legislation, economic and political pressure and at times the threat of violence meant that the mainstream media largely failed in its core duty of providing an oversight to keep the government accountable.
Civil society organisations such as trade unions, business groups and human rights campaigners have also been prevented from speaking against the government.
A should- be autonomous institution of accountability, the Ombudsman, is headed by a judge with a questionable record on human rights cases.
Opposition parties have been side-lined and ridiculed. The Justice and Development Party dominated- Parliament did not fulfil its duty of checking on the power of the executive.
The judiciary which has a duty to hold the executive legally accountable has been infiltrated by an Islamist community. What should have been an opportunity to rid Turkey of its murky past, the Ergenekon and the Sledgehammer trials with their questionable evidence and long detentions turned into a witch-hunt of opponents, further shaking the confidence in the justice system.
A government that turned a blind eye to the failings of the judiciary and abuses of the security forces now finds itself the target of the very same institutions.
The powers that should be separate in order to oversee and check each other, are now engaged in an all-out war to dominate each other.
What we are witnessing in Turkey today is the violation of the law and abuse of power by all sides to their own advantage.
In this process, the old allegiances are shattered and the new ones are formed.
A few days after the Prime Minister gave the go-ahead for the re-trial of hundreds of military officers convicted of plotting to overthrow the government, the military prosecutor rejected the prosecution of anyone implicated in the Uludere case. Two years after the December 28 2011 bombings of the civilians near Turkish-Iraqi border, killing 34 people, the military decided there was no case to answer. It was “an unavoidable mistake in the course of duty”.
As Human Rights Watch Dispatches: Impunity and Cover-Up in Turkey put it “once again, in Turkey the state can kill civilians and get away with it.”.
So, going back to the question of whether Turkey is becoming a “one man-state”.
What is happening now is even more dangerous than the so called “Putinification of Turkey”.
As the union of the two power-hungry Islamist factions crumbles, a new and a potentially more oppressive power is emerging.
It is the coalition of those with much more to hide.
This post is also available in: Turkish