Milan - Prof. Mine Eder doesn’t mince her words: “I do hope that they destroy each other politically, but I fear it may not be that simple.” Distinguished Political Science professor at Bogazici University in Istanbul, she is sure that there is a power struggle taking place in Turkey, which could be long lived.
Professor, what is going on?
“For the past 11 years, the Gulen movement coexisted in harmony with the AKP. The former, a well known Islamic community movement with several international connections, had shared power with the AKP. The understanding was that while the AKP would win elections, Gulen, very focused on education, would come up with the management and the bureaucracy personnel. This agreement seemed to workfor quite a while and everybody was happy. We must recognize that this caused the Turkish bureaucracy to be de-militarized, which was good. However, the balance began to shift once the last remaining general, basically, was taken out of circulation and imprisoned. Gulen claims that the AKP has become too dictatorial and corrupt, while for the AKP the corruption scandal was created by Gulen precisely to discredit the party.”
Do you think that the tension could really harm the Turkish economy?
“If it goes on long enough, yes. For now, however, they are fighting it out among themselves.”
Is the friction among these two factions due to political motives?
“Yes, in both domestic and international policies. One is the Kurdish issue: the AKP is more open to dialogue while the Gulen faction is more nationalistic. But in foreign policy, Gulen is rather open, while Prime Minister Erdogan is inflexible, particularly on the issue of Syria, which he regards as an almost domestic issue. Now that this latest scandal has emerged, AKP is accusing the United States and Israel of being behind everything.”
Could Erdogan be forced to resign?
“This crisis, in effect, has been the biggest threat to the legitimacy of his government, so far. First Ghezi Park and repression, now this. Erdogan is quite skilled in transforming attacks into consensus and he’s still very popular. While I don’t doubt he will be able to win the national elections, I am not so certain about the local ones in March. Should he lose the major cities it would mean trouble for the AKP and if he doesn’t, we’ll have to put up with another 4 or 5 years of Erdogan. The prospect doesn’t make me happy, as he is continually concentrating power in his hands. On the other hand, should the AKP lose the elections and Gulen exercize even more influence on the Judiciary, it would also be dangerous. As it is, they’re using the courts as political weapons.”
There isn’t a simple way out...
“No. It’s quite obvious how, in the judicial system, there is an internal struggle taking place among the magistrates, the police and the judges, each responding to different sets of pressure. It’s worrying because the result is a State that no longer functions in a healthy way.”