Labour Party (EMEP), Turkey emep.org

Step by Step; Moving Towards a Dictatorship

The failed attempted military coup of 15 July, orchestrated by the so called ‘Gülen Movement’ – the pro-American Islamic organisation that shared power with the AKP government for 10 years – was called “a gift from God” by the Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan.

The crushing of the coup was quickly followed by the declaration of a state of emergency (OHAL). OHAL enabled the government to take administrative and political decisions and to introduce regulatory legislation without the need for judicial and/or parliamentary approval.

Under the leadership of President Erdoğan, the AKP government issued emergency decrees (KHKs) one after another; leading to suspension and dismissal of tens of thousands of military and police officers, judges, prosecutors and civil servants. Almost 40,000 people, including academics and teachers were also arrested. The number of jailed journalists rose to a record high of 140. Meanwhile, 37 thousand petty criminals were released on the account that there was not enough space in prisons. Whereas the government initially claimed that dismissals and arrests were carried out only against coup plotters of the Gülen movement; soon it became clear that democrats and socialists were also targeted. Through only one decree, more than 10 thousand teachers, all members of Eğitim-Sen (Education and Science Workers Union), were laid off. A great majority of them were democrats, socialists and supporters of Kurdish national movement.

Following the attempted coup, overriding of rights and freedoms – traditionally deficient in Turkish political democracy – have increased; bourgeois law is at a standstill and has been replaced by arbitrary treatment of the executive/government. Replacing legislation with the state of emergency and rule by emergency decrees, and subordinating the judiciary to the executive through special courts and appointment of new judges and prosecutors; Erdoğan and AKP are trying to establish a fascist dictatorship regime of one-man, one-party.

The government issued unconstitutional and illicit decrees, while by law it only could issue ones that are constitutional and related to the events that lead to declaration of state of emergency. With the help of these decrees targeting the critics of AKP, demonstrations are banned, dissident newspapers, journals, radio stations and TV channels are shut down; their property and equipment are confiscated.

The municipalities led by HDP, third largest party in the parliament with 40 MPs and representing the Kurdish democratic movement, were raided by the police and more than 20 mayors arrested. Trustees were appointed to their posts without a public vote.

Finally, a total of ten HDP MPs – including the party co-chairs – were jailed. At the same time, 10 executives of the Cumhuriyet newspaper – founded 93 years ago with the establishment of Turkish Republic and politically aligned in recent years with social democracy – were also arrested.

Publications defending the revolutionary line of the working class – such as Hayatın Sesi TV, Evrensel Kültür (a culture and art magazine), Özgürlük Dünyası (a journal of political theory), Tiroj (bilingual Kurdish-Turkish cultural magazine) were among the television stations and publications closed down by the government.

Unconstitutionally, without breaking his association with AKP for nearly two years and consolidating all executive power in his hands, the de-facto president Erdoğan is trying to change the constitution in line with the aforementioned situation and pushing for a presidential system.

Furthermore, while insisting on a foreign policy based on expansionism and sectarian war, intimate with Islamist terrorist groups, the Erdoğan-led government is taking further steps. Over the last five years, it has supported radical Islamist gangs in Syria and their organisation, to overthrow the Assad regime. In a new attempt, Turkey launched a military operation in Northern Syria at the end of the summer, to back a few thousand Islamist terrorist militants it put forward initially. The intervention was under the pretext of fighting against ISIS, but its main target was Syrian Kurds. Turkey, along with Islamist gangs, controls/invades an area of almost 2000 km2, stretching from the banks of the Euphrates river to the Kurdish canton of Afrin, including cities and towns such as Jarablus. Nowadays, the government pursues the propaganda of conquering al-Bab. However, a spike was put in Turkey’s wheel due to US support for Syrian Democratic Forces – the backbone of whom is YPG – in the operation to liberate the “capital” of ISIS, Raqqa; and the support of Russia for the Assad regime, trying to capture al-Bab because of its strategic importance as a gate to Aleppo.

The AKP government, while fighting the PYD-YPG in Syria, is also in conflict with the Iraqi government due to its military presence in the Iraqi town of Bashiqa; Iraq is demanding the withdrawal of the Turkish forces. The Turkish Air Force is regularly bombing Northern Iraq, claiming to attack PKK camps.

In the last year, Syria and Iraq policies of Turkey have increasingly changed; as well as relations with the US and the EU cooling, due to the Turkish belief that they supported the attempted coup of 15 July.

Following the agreement for Turkey to stop the migration from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and the EU to pay Turkey three billion Euros, as well as give Turkish citizens visa-free travel rights within the EU, both sides failed to keep their promises and the relationships between Turkey and the EU are strained. The AKP government is claiming that they’ll wait two more months before cancelling the agreement and that they’ll go to a referendum on EU membership due to its criticism of Turkey; EU, citing the imprisonment of journalists and the like, has started talking about halting discussions on Turkish membership.

Since its establishment, Turkey had close economic, trade and financial ties with the West and very strong military ties with the USA; as such it is undoubtedly very hard for Turkey as a NATO member to change its ‘axis’ or ‘boss’. Nevertheless, President Erdoğan, having visited Pakistan recently, has stated “…why not? It will help Turkey feel at ease” on the issue of membership to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.

Besides the policies and steps taken by the AKP government, the Turkish economy is not going in the right direction either. The rate of growth has been falling for the last four years, the deficit and unemployment increasing. According to official figures unemployment is at 11% but the real figure is higher. The dollar has risen 10% against the Turkish Lira in the recent days; as if the Turkish Lira has devaluated and lost 10% of its value. The government is cutting the interest rate and increasing available credit in an attempt to stimulate the economy but stagnation has set in all sectors – primarily building and textile sectors. A capitalist crisis that is not limited to, and not necessarily starting in the financial sector is raising its “head” and this is the soft underbelly of the AKP.

Despite all bans and police oppression, strikes at workplace levels continue. The powers of the executive are ever increasing; students are demonstrating against the decision that university rectors will be appointed by the President. Solicitors and intellectuals are demonstrating to condemn the imprisonment of their peers. Opponents of AKP are trying to create new alliances. Unity for Democracy with its components of democratic, socialist, social-democrat and Kurdish national movements, including our party, is taking further steps to organise following a series of meetings.

New magazines are published in place of others.

Is the future of Turkey going to be a fascist dictatorship run by one man? Or the struggle for democracy and freedom will widen and strengthen to achieve new successes; the dimensions of the struggle and the level of organisation will determine this. Of course the international support and solidarity will have a great contribution to the outcome.

Labour Party (EMEP) Turkey
International Bureau

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