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Erdogan must look in the mirror

Jul 30. 2016
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By The Nation

Instead of fuming about the coup, turkey’s president must introspect his own conduct

It is easy to point fingers at other people and not look at your own conduct. This is the story of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has been lashing out at foreign leaders, especially those from Western countries, for failing to show solidarity with his government over the recently failed coup attempt.

Perhaps it is time for Erdogan to realise that the he must take the blame for the lack of sincere backing for his government in surviving the attempted coup, and for the predicament he has placed his country in.

This is not to say the coup was justifiable; but the world leaders’ unwillingness to give him a big bear hug basically says they do no not consider him a good guy.

And after seeing the coup plotters, the purge that followed and the crackdown in the aftermath, there seem to be no good guys in Turkey at the moment, at least not one in the top position anyway.

Hats off to the people of Turkey for their bravery to go up against tanks and machine guns in their attempt to say no to military rule. Thai people can relate to that given the number of coups and the heartaches that these “strikes against the state” have created.

But Erdogan shouldn’t be too quick to translate the people’s anti-military action as a demonstration of support for his administration. Civilian rule has done a great deal for Turkey, and Erdogan was very much a part of that. The people’s opposition to military rule does not mean they want Erdogan to be an emperor.

The same could be said about the misleading argument that the general public came out against the coup in full force because they were supporting an Islamist government. Yes, Erodgan is leading an “Islamist” party – the Justice and Development Party. But like all politics, it has to be understood in the local context. As the famous saying goes, “All politics is local” and this includes political Islam.

Erdogan said foreign leaders who worried more about the fate of the perpetrators than democracy cannot be Turkey’s friends. In the same breath, in response to their criticism of his hunting down of political opposition, Erdogan is telling them to mind their own business.

Erdogan can play his game in his home country but he cannot expect the international community to dance to his tune just because he got the most votes in his country.

Thailand knows very well a man who likes to boast about the vote count – fugitive Thaksin Shinawatra – and look what he did to this country.

Democracy is not just about how many votes a party or a leader gets; it’s also about the institutions that carry out the checks and balances, as well as the freedom to monitor governments and a guarantee that freedom of expression will be respected.

Erodgan may have an axe to grind with his political rival, the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who he accused of being behind the coup.

But then again, that is his business. He should not expect to ride on the back of others for his political agenda.

In a way, the coup was a blessing in disguise for Erdogan. It gave him an excuse to do what he probably wanted to do all along – purge people who supported Gulen.

So far, about 45 newspapers and 16 TV channels, as well as 23 radio stations have been closed. About 40 per cent of military generals and admirals have been dismissed or detained, not to mention academics and deans of universities.

But if Erdogan’s claim is correct – that Gulen’s penetration into the country’s bureaucracy, society and various institutions is so deep – perhaps he should also take a good look at himself and ask why so many people have gone to the other side. Does Gulen have something better to offer or perhaps they no longer like the way his government operates?.

And the fact that the country’s powerful spy and security agencies failed to detect – or turned a blind eye – to the plotting of a coup that had the support of so many military and government officials speaks a great deal about the president himself and the state of things inside Turkey.

Perhaps one of the reasons why the world has not rushed to him with open arm is because they might want to see the final outcome of this conflict.

After all, people want to court the winner and they don’t see Erdogan as the winner, not now anyway, because the battle, it seems, is far from over.

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