Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Turkish Regime's Domestic Headaches Leads to Demagogic Desperation

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By Barry Rubin

I’ve written a lot about Turkey’s policy behavior and here want to add some details that have been generally absent from the coverage. For my main article on this issue, see HERE.
A number of domestic factors have made the Islamist-oriented regime frightened for its political future and the outcome of the June 2011 elections.

For the first time since the ruling AK party took power it faces a serious opponent. The new head of the CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, is a very attractive candidate. He looks like Gandhi, is soft-spoken, witty, and personally very honest. He is focusing on the complaints of the people like the poor economy. He is also an Alevi, a Muslim group (which you can think of as being like the Druze) that is staunchly secularist in politics and comprises more than ten percent of the population.

And guess what? The Gaza flotilla was steaming toward confrontation just as he was starting his first campaign tour of the country.

Another problems for the regime is the fact that the even harder-line Islamist Saadet party, out of which the AK party emerged, is getting stronger under a charismatic professor, Numan Kurtulmus. It threatens to take votes away from the regime as well. So Erdogan has to prove how Islamist he is. A lot of those who committed violence on the ship had links to the Saadet party.

Then there’s the growing corruption issue. There are now jokes (or sightings) of women with headscarves driving expensive cars, women with “Moslem-style” bathing suits on yachts, etc.
But there’s more! Turks are concluding they will never get into the EU. During the early years, the government’s commitment to EU membership gathered support for it but now that card is gone.

The regime has to worry that the Constitutional Court will rule that some of its actions are unconstitutional.

Its policy of integrating the Kurds on the basis of the idea that “everyone is a Muslim” so nationality doesn’t matter, has collapsed because many Turks think it’s going too far.
And now a quarrel with the well-known and powerful Islamic cleric (some think he’s a terrific moderate; others an Islamist in disguise)

Fethullah Gulen threatens to further undermine the regime’s base of support. Some say that 10 to 15 percent of the AK voters (say, 3 to 5 percent of the overall electorate) will follow Gulen’s voting preference. Gulen has criticized the Gaza flotilla at times for courting confrontation.

What does the regime have on its side? Religious and nationalist fervor, along with anger over the death of Turkish citizens who—they have been told—were assaulted without real provocation. That’s why it is important not to insult the Turkish nation or hold it responsible as a whole for what the regime has done. That only plays into the hands of the stealth Islamists.

PS: More information is coming out about how Israel has helped Turkey, programs now coming to an end. For example, Israeli experts have been operating robot small planes to observe and report on Kurdish terrorists in southeastern Turkey. The experts have left and the planes are no longer operational. And here's a warning to Turkey from the U.S. Congress about the cost of its policy.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (PalgraveMacmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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