28east

Politics, religion, and culture where East meets West

Posts Tagged ‘AKP

Mutual dependency: The AKP and the economy

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The following is a very tidy, instructive read from the pen of a former Fulbright ETA on a topic that is all-too-often brushed over. Though the far more interesting corollary (for those of us not exposing our portfolios to Turkey anyway) is the unstated inverse—that “Turkish political stability depends on the economy”—the brief history lesson comprising the article manages to prove both points.

Click through.

Turkish economy depends on political stability
Eli Lovely; Global Risk Insights; Nov. 9th, 2013

Turkey has undergone tremendous economic development over the last 15 years, but protests earlier this year revealed underlying social fractures and areas of political risk. Investment opportunities abound in this emerging market but remain dependent on political stability.

. . .

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Written by M. James

November 12, 2013 at 11:19 pm

Posted in Politics, Turkey

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The Turkish state-construction complex

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I’ve made only passing remarks about the tentacles of the Turkish construction industry before, so here’s something more in-depth from an insightful Turkish ABD in Germany.

And having spent a good deal of time in Ankara, I can attest to the accuracy of not only the attitudes toward gecekondus, but also TOKİ’s cringeworthy, unaesthetic response.

The abstract follows. Read the whole article.

Islamists, State and Bourgeoisie: The Construction Industry in Turkey
İsmail Doğa Karatepe; Neoliberalism in Turkey (conference); Oct. 28, 2013

Abstract

This short study is designed to explore the three crucial elements of construction boom that Turkey has experienced since 2002, when the islamist/conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to the power. I claim that the construction boom and its impacts in general appear to be outcome of the certain composition of following elements. First element is the regarded relation between GDP and the construction industry with its supposedly strong linkages with other industries such as transportation, manufacturing etc. The second element is the waxing involvement of subsequent AKP governments. Since AKP swept the victory in Turkey’s parliamentary elections with an overwhelming majority, the governments’ direct involvement into the construction industry has been drastically expanded. Concerning the increasing government activities in the construction industry, a public agency, the Housing Development Administration of Turkey (TOKI) deserves special attention. The administration, which had been initially established to carry out social housing projects in the year 1984, became a significant actor in the construction industry. Last but not least, clientelistic networks between AKP and certain bourgeois fraction have been conducive to rapid construction wave. The clientelistic networks as such favor certain capital groups that are ideologically close to islamist/conservative politics. However, discussing these three elements does not mean that some structural elements are neglected while evaluating the boom. In contrast, it is argued that financially dependent accumulation pattern of Turkey, and increasing role of finance in the construction industry along with the tendencies towards restructuring/recommodifying of urban areas at global level has constituted the suitable structural circumstances for the boom.

. . .

Written by M. James

November 2, 2013 at 9:22 pm

#irritated Ankara

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The following, written on 6/8/13, is a follow-up on a prior post for Atatürk’s Republic, which sought to explain how Turkey’s multi-party system not only fragments the opposition of the ruling party, but also perpetuates Turkey’s illiberalalbeit democraticsociety. As part of this chronically fragmented society, the demonstrators of this last week will have a difficult time unifying to effect meaningful political change. Worse, they don’t even know what they are fighting against.

One week ago, at 2:30am, I dropped my duffel on a poorly lit street corner and hailed a cab for Esenboğa International Airport. My shirt was damp and my sinuses were still tingling, but I was oddly at ease. In three hours, I’d be on my way home.

I offered the remaining bills in my pocket80 liraand the driver’s face lit up. He asked what time my flight was, urged me to buckle up, and handed me his sweater-vest as a pillow. I sneezed; he laughed. For the next hour on the road, I pretended to sleep. The city was calm, but there was electricity in the air. The deliberate cacophony of pots and pans emanated from one apartmentwhat would become, over the next few days, a 9:00pm ritualbut the rest of Ankara seemed asleep. I couldn’t help wondering, though, if theylike mewere only hushed, with one eye open.

The evening had been, in some ways, a bust. Intruding on my last, nostalgic night of draft beer and good company was the unwelcome irritation of expired Brazilian tear gas. I consulted Reutersthese were already, allegedly, the biggest protests to rock Turkey in years. And so, through the pungent smell of propellant, the tinny sound of the canisters, and the sight of sprinting protestors through the windows, I wondered aloud at what the next step would be.

The Turk seated across from me shrugged. He wanted garlic bread, but the bar had been too busy cutting lemons for its gas-afflicted patrons to complete the order. We called a few friends and urged them not to join us after all. Once the garlic bread arrived, we could talk. “It’s about time,” seemed to be his outlook on both the bread and the protests. “Won’t get good media coverage, though.” Being that he would start working at a Turkish newspaper in three days, I trusted his judgment. Would anything really change, though? We disagreed on that point.

We did agree, though, that our allergy symptoms were improved by the CS gas. The asthmatic bartender wasn’t as pleased. I blew my nose into a napkin and squeezed lemon into my eyes.

News and social media were already exploding. It was the “summer of discontent” in Turkeyobvious echoes of the Arab Spring. I laughed. It wouldn’t catch onthis was not anything like the Arab Spring. Soon, it would be re-branded as part of #occupy. Closer, but not quite. A few days later, I would begin to see the locally originated #diren, the imperative of “to resist,” oreven better“to put your foot down.” Much closer.

The question, of course, was whether or not those sprinting figures outside the window agreed on what they were resisting. Some came into the bar and, like many of the staff, sported tree-shaped stickers to demonstrate their solidarity with the Istanbul Gezi Park protesters. But everyone knew that this was not about a park, or greenspace, or even environmentalism. When I asked, the first word I heard was “fascism.” Adequately vague, but adequately powerful. The point was that these people had preexisting grievances with their government, and this was a timely outlet.

We walked outside just as the displeased throngsmarching from park to park since the afternoonreturned to John F. Kennedy Ave., carrying banners and chanting slogans. There were only three hundred, at the most, but within ten minutes, they drew a reckless police TOMA truck and plenty more tear gas. I was pulled into the next bar after being “warned” by the TOMA trucka quick water cannon across the chest. I ordered another beer. Someone threw a chair at the truck.

Half an hour later, still bemused and sniffling, I decided to head back to the apartment and grab my luggage. Part of me was happy to be leaving these streets, but another part was irritated enough to want to stay. And the more I sneezedsuch an unbecoming complement to indignationthe more irritated I got. Did what I was doing tonight really warrant that police response?

I suspect that many who witnessed that night on JFK Ave., or earlier that day in Gezi Park, walked home with similar thoughts. Fascists. What has made matters even worse is PM Erdoğan’s typically inflammatory reaction: A recitation of his perverse idea of what “democracy” means, i.e., nothing beyond election day. Many marginally displeased Turks have certainly been drawn into the ranks of the irritated by these authoritarian responses to what would have otherwise been truly marginal protests. And they have clearly been irritated enough to withstand the systematic irritation of their collective sinuses.

I have posted already, on Atatürk’s Republic, about how Turkish politics is only “democratic” in the strictest sense of the term, lacking anything that could be called liberal. The “liberal” use of tear gas in the last week only underlines this absence.

The problem is systemic, and can be blamed squarely on Turkey’s ill-conceived multi-party system, which all-too-naturally begets tyranny. Ironically, the men and women who have taken to the streets in the last week will try to work within their constitutionally illiberal democratic system, believing wrongly that the person of Erdoğan or the AK Parti is exclusively to blame for the “fascism” that they perceive. Even more ironically, the young secularists who make up a large portion of the disaffectedthemselves quite liberal-mindedwould be the last to advocate the two-party system that Turkey needs if it is to become a tolerant, rights-based, secular nation. Not only does the multi-party system prima facie seem more liberal, but the constitution that prescribes it came from Atatürk’s hand.

Until they realize what it really is that they should be resisting, the demonstrators will only be confused and irritated. And even if they do realize, and continue to seek change, they will soon understand that full-scale revolution is the only answera step that very few would be willing to take. Unfortunately, I do not see any other way out. The only solution is to challenge the very nature of Atatürk’s republic.

As we pulled up to the international departures terminal, I thanked the driver for his sweater-vest, dragged my duffel from the trunk, and handed over the 80 lira, and 75 kuruşall my bills and change. He thanked me. I smiled and nodded.

Kolay gelsin seemed the best parting words. Literally, “may it come easily.”

Written by M. James

June 10, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Posted in News, Politics, Turkey

Tagged with , ,

Öcalan’s letter

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Likes dogs, long walks on the beach....

Likes dogs, long walks on the beach….

From Abdullah Öcalan‘s much-awaited ceasefire letter, read symbolically in Diyarbakır, by BDP ministers, and on Nevruz (here):

“We have reached the point where the guns must be silenced and where ideas must speak. A new era has started, where it is politics, not guns, which is at the forefront.”

Which is all well and good, but calls into question whose politics, exactly, will be at the forefront. A sensible prediction is that with Öcalan’s letter begins a hurried process of horse-trading between the Kurds and the AKP government, which has reined in the military in preparation for such talks. Though significant concessions regarding Kurdish rights — such as language — may be made, of real significance will be the means by which such concessions are made.

Likely, this will be the start of the AKP’s efforts to reform the constitution in its favor — a bid for the much-spoken-of presidential system. With cooperation from the Kurdish ministers (nobody else wants to help), constitutional referendi become a real possibility. Either way, the Kurds will remain a minority in parliament, so this is their chance to bargain for whatever they conceive of as “ethnic rights.” Meanwhile, the AKP will try to seize a guarantor of its own power stability through a more suitable constitution.

Written by M. James

March 22, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Prospects for a liberal Turkish society

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The following was written as a guest post for Atatürk’s Republic, a collaborative blog that seeks to follow Turkish news, politics, arts, and culture.

Most liberal-minded individuals, if asked to choose between a multi-party and a two-party system, would choose the former. After all, liberal democracy is all about freedom of choice, and choosing between chocolate and vanilla is simply not satisfying when one might prefer pistachio, cookie dough, or “Karamel Sutra.”

But what most people do not seem to understand is that representative democracies are designed to be deliberative bodies, the essence of which is “settling.” Without “settling,” the liberal concept of value pluralism goes out the window, and with it, the very basis for our conception of a free and fair society.

If the voter refuses to “settle” on chocolate or vanilla, and instead prefers everyone to have a broader range of options, one of two things will happen:

(1) Once the voting is over and done with, the vast array of flavors will seek to mix themselves with whatever will give them a strategic advantage in legislation. Pistachio will mix with “Karamel Sutra,” and the sweet-and-sticky combination will satisfy neither pistachio- nor caramel-lovers. The concept of political parties as principled factions is lost completely when the principles are cast aside for expediency, as inevitably occurs in this case.* What’s more, banana and rocky road will be ignored completely.

(2) Chocolate will acquire a tyrannical rule owing solely to vanilla-lovers’ slight preference for a variety of other flavors, which will never attain a majority—and if they do, it will be dishonestly, by coalition. The party that is capable of organizing itself and sowing discord among the opposition will acquire, and keep, power.

In the first consequence, the purpose of the political party (democratically forwarding principles at the state level) is lost in a mindless scramble for power by majority. In the second, the state becomes as tyrannical as in a de jure “one-party system.”

This is one arena in today’s politics in which we cannot practically hope to expand the scope of individual freedoms. In order to maintain the classical liberal, laissez faire idea of “freedom from” (which is necessarily prior to the expansion of “freedom to” in a liberal state), the multi-party system must be shunned in favor of a two-party system and the citizen must take it upon himself to begin the “settling” process by choosing from a limited number of representatives.

Paradoxically, the severe limitation of choice necessitated by a two-party system is characteristic of a much more liberal, democratic system. It not only protects the people from tyranny and maintains the possibility of value pluralism, but it also entrusts the people with beginning the all-important, essentially liberal “settling” process that continues in the legislature.

Because this is not obvious to the average voter, a two-party system must be somehow (overtly or otherwise) established from above by strong tradition, or a constitution, in order to establish a liberal, democratic state. Only if a liberal tradition is pre-existing, if the power of the legislature is severely tempered, or if a country is ideologically homogeneous, can a multi-party system survive as “liberal.”

Of course, my interest in exploring this problem lies in the Republic of Turkey, which has a large, heterogeneous population, a powerful parliament, no tradition of liberalism to speak of, and a multi-party system. Predictably, Turkish society and government are grossly (visibly) illiberal.

From two different Turkish liberals in a period of two days, I heard the complaint that Turks vote on (a) emotions and (b) “lifestyle.” Kurds vote for Kurds (actually they don’t, but that’s a different story—they do still vote based on lifestyle), Anatolian Sunni Muslims vote for Anatolian Sunni Muslims, nationalists vote for nationalists, etc. Because of this fragmentation—this variety of flavors—no responsibility to compromise is ever placed on the voter. The result is an instance of consequence (2) above, where one party dominates the state. Half of Turkey may not want to have vanilla, but they couldn’t—and will never be able to—agree on chocolate.

And with a party in power that benefits from the disorder of the multi-party system, it is fairly unlikely that a two-party system will be enforced from above in the form of a new constitution, or otherwise.

What’s more, because the last decade has shown Turkey’s material success to be tied to economic, but certainly not social, liberalism, it is to be expected that Turkey’s near future will be characterized only nominally by “liberal democracy.”

If Turkish citizens are never confronted with the spirit of “settling” between the many flavors that they prefer, and are never themselves faced with the idea of value pluralism, they will never become liberal democratic citizens. And what more is a liberal democratic society than the collective conscience of its citizens?

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*Some would aver that an effective two-party system is necessarily unprincipled if the opposing parties wish to shape themselves according to shifting public sensibilities. There are two responses: (1) That this is acceptable because their principles shift in order to garner votes, but do not shift while they hold offices, and they are able to remain honest to their principles for a given term. (2) That the only principle that truly matters is a faithful attempt at maintaining a two-party system for its own sake, as a safeguard against tyranny.

Written by M. James

November 2, 2012 at 9:09 am

Gülen declines invitation

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Gülen says prefers staying longer in US to avoid ‘harming positive things’
Today’s Zaman; Jun. 17th, 2012

Turkish and Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen has said he prefers staying in the US longer to avoid damaging positive developments in Turkey in a first public response to Turkish prime minister’s invitation to Turkey.

Written by M. James

June 17, 2012 at 4:34 am

Hizmet: “Important Clarifications Concerning Current Debates”

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gyv.org.tr

At the suggestion of a reader, here is a statement from the Gülenist “Journalists and Writers Foundation” (the folks who organize the Abant Platform) on “current debates in Turkey.” It is concise, and highlights what appears to be the matter of greatest contention about the Hizmet (Gülen) movement—is it really apolitical?

Their response:

Hizmet, as a civil society movement, operates with a strictly civic character. It is not an organor an affiliate of a government program, political party or agenda. Likewise, this civil movement is not an opponent of any political party.

But here is another critical point: As in any other social movement, some participants in the Hizmet movement may act contrary to the movement’s core value of civic volunteerism. However, these mistakes cannot be attributed to Hizmet.

Establishing this, the statement goes on to address more “concrete matters”:

  •   What are Hizmet’s expectationsof politicians and political parties?
  •   What is the nature of the relationship between Hizmet and the Justice and Development Party(AKP) government?
  •   Does Hizmet have “people” within the state?
  •   Is there a crisis between the movement and the AK Party?
  •   What is the response of Hizmet to its alleged manipulation of ongoing judicial and bureaucratic processes?
  •   What is Hizmet’s position regarding freedom of the press?

Read more.

Written by M. James

May 21, 2012 at 7:35 am

Posted in Politics, Religion, Turkey

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