News You Really Need To See: “Turkish Politics: Taken Hostage”

“Turkish Politics: Taken Hostage”

The Economist, April 11-17, 2015, p.48

“On March 31st two members of DHKP-C, a Marxist revolutionary group, strolled into Istanbul’s main courthouse disguised as lawyers and armed with guns and hand grenades, and took a prosecutor hostage.  Hours later the prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, boasted that security forces had conducted a ‘successful’ operation, killing both gunmen.  No matter that the prosecutor, Mehmet Selim Kiraz, had been killed too.  Three days later 166 websites, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, were blocked for publishing images of Mr Kiraz held at gunpoint by his killers.  Only when they complied with a court order to remove the pictures did they come back online.  Such crackdowns have become routine under Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist president, who calls social media ‘the worst menace to society’. … Reforms passed by AK during its first two terms in power, from 2002 to 2011, are being rolled back.  A new security bill permits police to shoot at demonstrators and detain suspects for up to 48 hours without a court order.  It also increases internet censorship.  If Mr Erdogan succeeds in attempts to rewrite the constitution to give himself what he calls a ‘Turkish-style’ executive presidency, it would concentrate power in his hands. … To push through constitutional change, AK must win at least two-thirds of the seats in parliamentary elections on June 7th.  Whether it will is not clear. … AK’s list of candidates includes Mr Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, who has previously worked for a pro-AK conglomerate, Calik.  Other protégés are also running for safe seats.  But Mr Davutoglu’s influence is palpable as well.  This suggests that Mr Erdogan’s grip over AK may be loosening.  A silent power struggle between president and prime minister was evident when they clashed over the conduct of peace talks with Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of Turkey’s autonomy-seeking Kurds.  Mr Erdogan wants to link any concessions towards Kurds to backing for his executive presidency.  Mr Davutoglu, AK insiders say, wants the issues to remain separate because he too wants to keep Mr Erdogan’s power in check.”

Quickie analysis:  It’s good to see that not everyone in AK is on board with Mr. Erdogan wielding power indefinitely.  

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