What Defines Good Leadership? Is Faith Compatible with Democracy, or Do They Clash? The Quran states that a good leader should be forgiving and patient toward their followers when they make mistakes. The Prophet (PBUH) said the leader of a people is their servant, implying that the master of the people is the one who serves them. Has Erdogan misinterpreted the holy book?
After the mismanagement of parliamentary and presidential elections, which controversially granted a third term to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the centenarian Republic of Turkey is approaching local municipal polls in a few months. Regardless of the elections, is there any semblance of democracy and good leadership left in the homeland of Turkey’s Father, Mustafa Ataturk, and the respected theologian Said Nursi?
In everyday language, it is often said, “Tell me who your friend is, and I will tell you who you are.” Erdogan’s closest ally, Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin, is wanted by The Hague court. Is Erdogan an overstayed candidate? Prominent Turkish journalist living in Stockholm exile, Bulent Kenes (BK), granted an interview to Polituco’s FELIX KAIZA (FK), offering a candid view of what he describes as an “Islamofascist” regime.
FK: The Constitutional Court recently ruled that your freedom of expression had been violated. What’s your take on this? Does Turkey still have a constitutional court worth the name?
BK: First and foremost, it is crucial to underline the fact that under the rule of the corrupt Islamofascist Erdogan regime, Turkey could never be accurately described as a “rule of law.” The current judiciary in the country lacks independent and impartial courts and judges. All verdicts and decisions arising from the so-called judicial processes, or the kangaroo courts, are directly influenced by the political agenda or the identities of the individuals who are the subjects of these supposed legal procedures.
As an outspoken journalist, I have faced numerous court cases initiated against me by elements of the Erdogan regime. Some of these cases were filed by former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, once who was also a prominent figure within this reprehensible regime. The recent decision on the violation of my freedom of expression by the Constitutional Court pertains to a case opened by Davutoglu when he was the prime minister. If he had continued to be an active agent of this regime instead of posing as an opposition to it, I do not believe that the Constitutional Court would have reached this decision. Therefore, the only conclusion that can be drawn from this ruling of the Constitutional Court is that it is not impartial and independent, but rather a mere instrument of the regime.
FK: The world was made to understand that the last presidential and parliamentary elections were “free but not fair.” What is your opinion?
BK: I believe that this assessment, in and of itself, is unfair. The elections in Turkey have neither been free nor fair since 2014. An election cannot be deemed fair and free when a level playing field, as seen in the case of Turkey, is absent. It’s impossible to characterize elections as fair and free in the absence of free media, a genuine civil society, freedom of expression, freedom of association and assembly, equality before the law, impartiality of state’s oppressive entities such as the police and gendarmerie, a rule of law, and guarantees for personal freedom and safety, especially for political opposition.
Let’s reflect on the plight of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas. In my view, Demirtas stands as the sole authentic and intrinsic opposition within current Turkish politics, someone who could not be manipulated to align with the clandestine interests of the regime itself. He ended up imprisoned solely because he emerged as a rival to Erdogan in the 2014 presidential elections. Consider further the case brought against Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu before the May 2023 elections. This case was orchestrated to pressure him into potential legal exclusion from active politics due to his expressed interest in becoming a presidential candidate. It’s important to remember that he was one of the opposition bloc’s most favored potential candidates, both in the eyes of the masses and as a contender against Erdogan.
FK: Despite YSK’s hands-off order to then interior minister Suleyman Soylu for planning a parallel vote counting system to manipulate the results, he still said, “the presidential election will result in around 49.5 percent. We tried very hard, but we couldn’t take it half a point further.” And that is about what happened during the runoff. Could YSK’s order have been part of the plot?
BK: All public institutions in Turkey are actively involved, each playing its role in advancing the interests of the Erdogan regime when their turn arises. At the center of every political scheme orchestrated by the Erdogan administration lies the Supreme Election Board (YSK), a critical oversight body tasked with legitimizing election outcomes. The issue of the 49.5 percent vote share is merely a matter of manipulating perceptions. No force or impediment exists to prevent Erdogan from declaring victory in any election with a 70-80 percent margin of success. While Erdogan is indeed an autocrat or dictator, he is far from unintelligent. He recognizes the vital role of perception management in lending a form of legitimacy to his electoral subversions, and through that, to his despotic regime. Had he proclaimed victory outright in the initial round of elections, his reception, particularly within the international community, would have been less favorable. Through this meticulously calculated strategy, the Erdogan regime, capitalizing on the ineptitude and incompetence of the so-called opposition leaders, has achieved a level of legitimacy that has not been witnessed since 2015.
FK: A few months to the March 2024 local elections, there’s still no clear opposition roadmap. Could the crisis similar to the experience of announcing the candidate of the “Six Party Talks” two months before elections re-emerge?
BK: As is widely known, Turkish politics is leader centered. Particularly in local elections, a candidate’s leadership qualities can easily become a decisive factor and a game-changer. However, considering the immense populations of metropolitan cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Bursa, and others, we cannot regard the elections in these cities as typical local elections. Therefore, elections in these cities demand well-organized and well-financed campaign efforts. Relying solely on a candidate’s leadership traits might not be sufficient to guarantee success. In the previous local elections, opposition parties achieved a significant triumph through strategic cooperation. Without replicating this approach, I’m concerned they might face failure, particularly in Istanbul and Ankara. The disjointed nature of the opposition coalition has resulted in delayed road-mapping and the identification of a suitable candidate for presidential elections. It appears likely that they will repeat the same misstep, perhaps even struggling to sustain the notion of establishing an opposition alliance. Thus far, all indicators on the political landscape point toward favorable conditions for the Erdogan-led Islamofascist coalition.
To be continued…