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HomeHeadlineErdogan's 'Softening' Facade Masks Intensifying Proxy Wars in Turkish Politics

Erdogan’s ‘Softening’ Facade Masks Intensifying Proxy Wars in Turkish Politics

M. Ahmet Karabay

After the CHP leader Özgür Özel requested a meeting with President Tayyip Erdoğan and the meeting took place, the ‘softening’ rhetoric articulated by ‘The One Man’ quickly transformed into proxy wars. Erdoğan’s chief advisor Mehmet Uçum claimed that the Gezi protestors were “engaged in betrayal.” The response came from CHP’s Namık Tan.

Before discussing the proxy wars conducted by Mehmet Uçum and Namık Tan, I want to talk about this seemingly pleasant but suspiciously deceptive concept of “softening.” Firstly, politicians engaging in constructive dialogue is of vital importance for a country. Even in the toughest times, the ability for leaders to discuss and exchange views on national issues brings hope to society.

When it comes to Erdoğan, each concept carries a separate meaning. Remembering his words about using democracy as a tramway to reach his goals, Erdoğan appeared as democratic as possible during times he felt weak.

Allow me to correct a misunderstanding here. Erdoğan did not become ‘The One Man’ after July 15. The path to his autocracy was paved by the constitutional referendum on September 12, 2010. The process beginning with July 15 was merely about fulfilling and formalizing his autocracy.

However, up until the 2010 referendum, Erdoğan was one of the most democratic-looking leaders in the world. He not only appeared democratic, but he also seemed to fulfill the requirements of democracy. On the other hand, he was building the infrastructure for his autocracy.


Erdoğan’s true character began to emerge with the Gezi Protests. The dialogue he entered on the third day of the protests with Reuters reporter Birsen Altaylı was quite striking. His statement that “At least 50% of this country is currently forced to stay at home by us” marked the date Erdoğan started dropping his masks.

Erdoğan, who ignored everything his colleagues said and managed the Gezi Protests as he wished, has since closed all doors to dialogue. He began to believe he no longer needed dialogue and that he had to do whatever was necessary. And he did exactly that.

Turkey in 2013 relived a year much like 20 years prior. Just as the country changed course after the death of the 8th President Turgut Özal in 1993, the Gezi Protests became the new milestone for such a shift.

After that, Erdoğan appeared to soften without naming it once. This occurred when he lost the majority power in the June 7 elections. Under the guise of “exploratory talks,” he appeared to soften until an early election was decided upon. With the early election decision on August 24, the well-known Erdoğan reappeared.


Presidential Chief Advisor and Vice President of the Presidential Legal Policies Council, Mehmet Uçum, has recently been notable for speaking as if he were the voice of the Beştepe Palace. He has been broadening his message tone and areas of interest for some time. If you think he is doing this without Erdoğan’s knowledge and covert approval, you are mistaken.

Uçum made a lengthy post titled “A Sunday Note” on social media on May 5. Uçum worked hard to steer the conversation towards the Gezi defendants, who are held captive by the political power.

In his post filled with Turkish errors, Uçum explained what civil disobedience, as introduced by American writer and activist Henry David Thoreau, is. He claimed that the concept of civil disobedience has become a tool for imperialist expansion after the Cold War. Erdoğan’s chief advisor tackled the topics with a socialist-flavored, sloganist perspective. Uçum argued that actions under the guise of civil disobedience began to be used as devices to overthrow regimes, listing the “Orange Revolution” and “Arab Spring” movements in this context.

Uçum asserted that collaborative civil disobedience actions are chaos-oriented activities and acts of betrayal against the targeted country and society.

Here Uçum says: “These acts of betrayal create traumas in society and individuals that are unforgivable and intolerable no matter how much time passes. These types of actions can never and will never be under the protection of law.”


In response to Uçum, Istanbul MP Namık Tan, who recorded the minutes of the Erdoğan-Özel meeting, provided a detailed reply under the title “A Monday Note.” The reply summarizes the political history of the second half of the 20th century, starting with how the Soviet Union brutally suppressed peaceful actions in Hungary in 1956, shaping the Cold War era.

In contrast to Uçum’s logically and grammatically flawed “A Sunday Note,” Tan’s comprehensive post was meticulously written in terms of expression and grammar.

He described how the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 opened the doors to a new era in the world. The note touched upon developments in various regions from Europe to the Middle East and Far East, bringing the topic to Turkey. Namık Tan wrote that the government is betraying the republic by suspending the constitution:

“The AKP-MHP coalition, by not implementing the decisions of the Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights, and by suspending the constitution, is betraying the republic.”

Underlining that the constitution has no significance if not adhered to, Namık Tan clearly stated his views on the actions Uçum called “betrayal”: “As CHP, we will never bow down to coffeehouse philosophers with a thuggish style in the Gezi Case, the Kobani Case, celebrating May 1 in Taksim, strengthening local governments, respecting the will of the voters, against censorship, against corruption, and against attempts to stray from reason, science, and secularism in education.”


Despite Erdoğan’s statement, “Let’s start the softening process in Turkish politics. We will take this step,” no concrete steps were taken, and CHP leader Özgür Özel responded harshly. Özel, who attended the commemoration ceremony for Deniz Gezmiş and his two friends who were executed on May 6, 1971, said that accepting the ban on celebrating in Taksim on May 1 and not allowing the Spring Festival at METU was not possible:

“My duty is to gradually reclaim the constitutional losses. If there is a ban against the Constitutional Court decision in Taksim, if METU Stadium is banned, then no one should think about normalizing and ending with the constitution. If today, despite the Constitutional Court decision, our friends are still incarcerated for Gezi, then no one should talk about normalization.”


If Erdoğan wants to implement the softening he mentioned, there are very simple steps he needs to take. The duty to take these steps falls on The One Man.

Returning to the law Adhering to the constitution Preventing the judiciary from stifling the law These steps must be taken first. Without Erdoğan killing the One Man monster he has unleashed, there can be no softening. Otherwise, the exploratory talks after the June 7 elections will remain as merely occupying the public while cooking up something else in the kitchen.”

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