As predicted, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had absolutely no intention of abiding by the results of the June 7, 2015 when, for the first time in more than 12 years, his Justice and Development lost its majority in parliament. Joining a coalition means compromising with opposition parties rather than continuing his own tyranny of the plurality.
Hence, Erdoğan has called snap-elections for November 1. Erdoğan is no gambler, however, and he will not trust his fate to the voters determining their party pick on an even playing field.
While Turkish diplomats and perhaps their American counterparts as well seek to spin recent military operations as renewed Turkish seriousness in the fight against the Islamic State, they are anything but. Turkey’s military disproportionately targeted the Kurds who have been fighting the Islamic State, and they have launched repeated airstrikes as well at the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) presence in northern Iraq, never mind the ceasefire to which Erdoğan had earlier agreed. Indeed, it’s all well and good to suggest that Turkey is fighting a renewed insurgency but the renewed outbreak of insurgency was largely Erdoğan’s political decision. In reality, it would be just as accurate to say that Erdoğan’s regime has killed dozens if not hundreds of Turkish citizens since his party’s relatively poor showing in the June elections. Simply put, Erdoğan believes a crisis works in his favor and undercuts the electoral hopes of Turkey’s Kurds.
But fomenting crisis is only one mechanism by which Erdoğan will seek to cement his power. He has also taken censorship inside Turkey to new heights to prevent his opponents from pushing out their message online. “Radical Democrat” blogger Gürkan Özturan gives a chilling new report on Erdoğan crackdown on Internet news sites:
[The] Turkish government has been involved in ‘online security’ policies as far back as 2007 with the law numbered 5651, Law Regulating Digital Publications, which has very quickly expanded from its original aim and started targeting political dissent and criticism. The law originally had been designed to punish those involved in child pornography, yet was later expanded to also protect national symbols… An estimated number of more than 90,000 websites have been blocked due to this law and many keep getting added on a daily basis. Turkey still is by far the worst country in filing content removal requests from world Internet giants such as Twitter, Google and Facebook. Since the general elections that ended 13-year-governing AK Party’s single-party rule on June 8th… Over a hundred news agency and newspaper websites have been closed down by government’s telecommunications authority and decision of Gölbaşı courts in Ankara. The court mandates blocking access to websites do not even mention a reason of the decision. However, due to latest update of the law numbered 5651, based on the article 8, the prime minister may request blocking access to a website due to national security reasons, and there is no further questioning necessary for the court.
Most of the newly censored websites service largely ethnic Kurdish areas of Turkey. In effect, what is unfolding is not a fight against terrorism, as Erdoğan cynically pitches it, but rather a two-pronged assault on Turkey’s ethnic Kurds for the crime of not voting for Erdoğan when he demanded it. Erdoğan’s game plan now is effective to disenfranchise Kurds so that he can again gain the majority and to legalize the agenda he has already decreed through a rubber-stamp.
The United States should not allow itself to be used to further Erdoğan’s agenda. If Erdoğan forces a choice between a Turkish dictatorship and the Kurds, perhaps it’s time to turn America’s back to Erdoğan, just as the Israel, Egyptian, Libyan, Palestinian Authority, United Arab Emirates, and many other governments have. If Erdoğan seeks to drown Turkey in political sewage, there is no reason for American diplomats to swear they smell roses.