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Erdogan Becoming a Dictator: Who is Responsible?

To tell you the truth, the regime has changed in Turkey. The parliament lost its power. Prime ministry is superseded, the media is just a slave, and the independence of judiciary is turned upside down. Separation of powers is lynched. Erdogan is responsible from everything and he is the sole authority. Safety of life and property does not exist anymore.

The masses, which did not prevent Erdogan becoming the boss he is today, are extremely disappointed. Everybody is blaming each other. How realistic are these hopeless complaints? Even if they are realistic, does the solution lie in everybody blaming each other?

In fact, everybody, who blames the other, tells one piece of the truth.

For example, the people who blames the Gulen Movement state, “You were once together with Erdogan, you were the ones who gave him power.” If we look at the matter from a superficial angle, it indeed lends credence to this assertion. Correct; Fetullah Gulen and his community indeed supported Erdogan significantly. But, was it only the Gulen Movement who supported Erdogan back in that period of time? Of course not.

Erdogan came to power in 2002 and promised before the people that he was going to make democratic reforms. He did not only promise, but also he took serious and necessary steps towards democracy and all of the reforms made between 2002 and 2010 raised the standards of democracy in Turkey, which allowed significant developments towards human rights. Under these circumstances, nearly all of the groups supported Erdogan. Left wingers, right wingers, liberals, conservatives, Kurds, Alevis, non-Muslim minorities… All sections helped Erdogan because of his democratic actions.

A similar scene also happened outside Turkey. Check out the progress report of the European Union. While the reforms were ongoing, you will see how Erdogan was applauded. If it is a crime to support Erdogan while he was taking steps in favor of democracy, is there anybody left who did not commit this crime? European Union, and the United States to begin with, everybody thought that Turkey would represent democracy together with its Muslim identity. Political reforms were being made which backed up this assertion.

Everybody considered the fact that Erdogan could change and use democracy as a tool of course, but the actual performances pushed these thoughts into the background. Nobody could think it would be fair to say “Don’t be fooled by the steps he is taking, he is lying.” to a man, who had taken positive steps towards human rights and said “I changed, I took off my national vision suit.”

After Erdogan became the dictator he is today, asking “Why did you not see this coming?” means evaluating the history in a wrong way. Attempting to interpret the history after everything had already happened means to decontextualize the period of time which we were once included in. History is not to be interpreted as such. It is necessary to consider and see the conditions and the events at the time in that environment in order to allow the people to reach a conclusion properly.

The proposition of “When there was conflict of interests, the support for Erdogan was withdrawn.” against the community is not true neither. The community existed when Erdogan did not. Meaning, it did not owe his existence to Erdogan. If there would have been a relationships of mutual benefits, the community was well able to continue the relationship by making concessions towards the cooperation. This continuation would allow the people to avoid the oppression being faced today. Nevertheless, other communities chose to bow, thus none of them paid any price.

There was a core audience who were ultra-nationalists, secularists, statists, and supporters of the status quo, and they were against Erdogan from the very beginning. Nowadays the same audience blames everybody who supported Erdogan and say “we have never supported him”. So this audience had all the clean hands while Erdogan was turning into a dictator, is that so?

AKP (Justice and Development Party) came to power in 2002. Remember the conditions during those days. TSK (Turkish Armed Forces) had made an anti-democratic intervention, which they called a post-modern coup, on 28 February 1997, overthrown the political power, and the new one was decided by the commanders in the barracks. Military domination was the main power in Turkey. Extreme statists and extreme secularists were choking down, despising, degrading, and suppressing the public out of habit built for tens of years.

There are two main factors which allowed Erdogan to come to power in 2002. First, military and bureaucratic domination discouraging the public, and second, economic crisis impoverishing the public and making them hopeless. After these two realities, Erdogan rose up to power. The masses who supported Erdogan were in fact avenging the defeat and the suffering.

From the head-scarf ban being carried out in university to the closing down of the political Islamist parties, from the oppression against the Kurdish community to the discrimination against the religious masses, a lot of people faced violation of rights. Erdogan embraced the anger with his promises of freedom. The public even increased their support to Erdogan after seeing the supporters of the status quo was opposing Erdogan. If it was not for the patronizing and status quo favoring oppressions, the political Islam would have never managed to come to power alone.

Eventually, Erdogan used democracy as a step and embraced all of the masses who had suffered in the past. However, when the corruption crime surfaced back in 2013, Erdogan parted Turkey’s ways with the Western democracy. He thought he must run away from the universal law. There is a huge corruption and bribing case which had caused the resignation of four ministers. Unfortunately, those crimes had a dead end when it was Erdogan and his family’s turn. It is not a coincidence for Erdogan to approach the triangle of Russia-China-Iran. It is a fact that Erdogan and his relatives will be called to account while the independence of judiciary and the parliament remain. This is exactly why he chose to be the one man and destroy the superiority of law.

Who is responsible for Erdogan becoming a dictator?

Nobody is innocent. Everybody wanted to do something in good faith but Erdogan betrayed the people’s trust, and he was exposed to the hubris syndrome, crushed under his arrogance, and chose being the one man against democracy.
As a matter of fact, the question “who is responsible?” is of no account anymore. What difference would it make to find the responsible ones or not? Would this discussion save the people from the present-day troubles?

The real question should be “how can we overcome this crisis?”

The masses who opposed each other, blamed each other with prejudice, were mistaken that they were proven innocent while they were blaming each other must cooperate by asking this question: “How should Turkey return back to democracy?”
We are not witnessing the first time where democratic system is being used to destroy the democracy. All of the fascist regimes in Europe had risen to power thanks to the votes and elections. Also today, all of the fascist authoritarian regimes use votes, elections, and people. The popular language they are producing and their challenging attitude allows them to receive even more supporters from the masses.

The reactions against the authoritarianism favoring parties and leaders generally continues with the opponents blaming each other. Is this the real solution? Of course not. It is time and nearly out of date for taking take the pulse of the people with democratic ways, and explain them how the fascist regimes lead the people into different adventures. While there is still time to reunite around the concepts such as human rights and the supremacy of law, the ones, who blame each other and suffer a power loss, could only end up playing into the tyrants’ hands.

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Ekrem Dumanlı is a journalist, author and the former Editor-in-Chief of Turkish Daily Zaman.

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