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Opinion- Turkey: The fifty shades of a grey dictatorship

Natasha M. Ezrow & Erica Frantz, on their book entitled “Dictators and Dictatorships: Understanding Authoritarian Regimes and Their Leaders“, which tries to identify the extent to which regimes are democratic or authoritarian,  they placed regimes along a democratic-autocratic scale. A regime which lies into a grey zone is a regime that lies between democracy and dictatorship. Regimes, as the post-coup Turkey, that lie somewhere in the middle of this scale are essentially “pseudo-democracies“.

As a referendum in which a highly polarized Turkey will vote on whether to adopt the presidential system draws near, pressures coupled with demonization against naysayers seem to be on the rise.

Those who would vote no in the plebiscite have often been identified with being on the side with terrorism and behind a coup attempt of last summer by leading ruling party figures.

Two prominent journalists were recently fired from the Dogan Media Group, the country’s leading media conglomerate, for having spoken against the proposed executive presidency. Other journalists have been jailed or quit tge country.

Irfan Degirmenci, a presenter of morning news with Kanal D TV channel, was dismissed for announcing over his personal Twitter account that he would vote no in the referendum slated for April 16.

Hakan Celenk, a columnist with the Posta daily, was sacked after arguing on television against the switch to the presidential system.

I am almost more concerned, however, when earlier this month a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) provincial deputy head resigned from his post upon the party’s demand, after delivering remarks warning of a “civil war” if the government-supported constitutional amendments fail to receive approval in the upcoming referendum. Some Turkish politicians called him crazy.

“If we end up unsuccessful in this referendum, get ready for a civil war. We should know that either from among us or from outside of us, the cards will be reshuffled and the plotting will start all over again. … Just as we sacrificed our blood and our lives [on July 15], this time we must give with our votes. But not just for ourselves; for God’s sake, please call and tell everyone in your address book,” Erdem said.

  • The new conservatism

At first glance it looked like a strategy to terrorize the Turks, but after a second reading while taking into account some negative polls and even the fact that this takes place in a country where the media is controlled, in reality the situation could be much worse, maybe the deputy was trying to describe also the unfavourable development of democracy in Turkey and the nightmare vision for the future of “democracy” in Turkey that Erdogan tries to implement after the failed-coup that took place the 15th July of 2016.

The coup gave Erdogan the opportunity to cleanse the army and the country from opposition members (pogrom) while we don’t forget that Turkey’s strategy  might be more stable regarding the Greeks or Kurds and less stable regarding Russia/Syria or US and this tend to give more and more “internal” interpretation of the continuous challenges of the Turkish armed forces in the Aegean sea.

Political perceptions in Turkey today have become directly associated with Erdogan’s persona and ambitions. This is especially true in conservative quarters, where policies, visions, aspirations and fears all revolve around Erdogan, a standard indicator of the personalization of power and the authoritarian tilt that comes with it. This state of affairs is producing two opposing effects.

Perhaps most worrying for Erdogan and his supporters, the president’s own Justice and Development Party (known by the Turkish acronym AKP) appears to be increasingly divided over the reforms. In one public opinion poll, 35 percent of AKP members said they would not vote yes. Even Turkey’s former prime minister under Erdogan, Ahmet Davutoglu, said publicly in January that he had “concerns” about the planned constitutional overhaul.

The concept of democracy in nowadays Turkey is considered as an object to promote fear and  nor ideology, nor symbols, nor the leadership brought democracy to the country and even suggest that it might be established it in the future. After all, democracy does not constitute and is not the purpose of any Turkish political leadership. Just these leaders, including President Erdogan, using democracy as a means to achieve their goals.

  • Security

Like many countries, Turkey is finding it difficult to meet the security challenges emanating from the bloody, internationalised five-year war across its border in Syria. But Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has also itself to blame, having recklessly acquiesced to jihadist groups entering Syria across its borders and establishing a presence in Turkey to arm and fund their campaign to overthrow the Assad regime.

  • The Grey Wolves, Greece-Cyprus and Kurds Erdogan’s political triangle.

Regarding now the Cypriot problem, as analysed this week, Erdoğan is hoping to consolidate his powers in order to win the April referendum on a reform of the Turkish constitution. This is the reason why he needs the support of nationalists, who fiercely oppose the idea of Turkey ceding its control over Northern Cyprus. As nothing is agreed in the Cyprus deal until every element is agreed, Erdoğan’s stance risks scuppering the negotiations and sinking a golden opportunity to reunify one of Europe’s last divided nations. While many involved in negotiations believe Erdoğan’s stance will soften after the referendum — meaning reunification will be simply delayed, not derailed — this is too optimistic.

Erdoğan’s ambitions have long imperiled Turkey’s domestic stability and its relations with the EU and other neighbors. Sadly, it now seems they will sink Cyprus’ historic opportunity to reunify as well.

In order to convince the Grey Wolves to vote also for him, Erdoğan will have to mount an aggressive campaign and mobilize all of his usual levers — control of the media, influence in state institutions, populist economic measures, and worries about the Islamic State, the Kurds and the Gülen movement — to clinch a Yes vote. The Cyprus issue poses a risk to the nationalist votes he desperately needs.

Last week, during his speech at a meeting of the ruling party in the country, the “last?” Prime Minister Yildirim lifted his hand, forming a “gray wolves gesture” that had previously been regarded as a terrorist organization in Turkey. One scenario is that the Grey Wolves might take the government positions held by Gulen society in the

And is a sign that the Turkish prime minister a move that could increase tension in Turkey, especially with the Kurds, and promised that signal as a tip for cooperation between the Justice and Development Party with the Nationalist Party to approve constitutional amendments

And the organization of the gray wolves, which are also called the ideal of youth, extreme right-wing Turkish organization, considered the armed wing of the informal to the Nationalist Movement Party, opposes any political settlement with the Kurds.

After the AKP lost its parliamentary majority in the June 2015 election – owing to the surprising breakthrough of the progressive pro-Kurdish HDP, which won over 13% of the vote – the war in Kurdistan was reignited quite deliberately. Erdogan adopted the strategy of constructing the powerful narrative of a nation at war both from within (against the PKK) and from without (against Daesh). This narrative provided the justification for enacting a series of measures designed to limit, constrain and demonise opposition, ostensibly “in defence of the nation” under attack.

The electorate in the mainly Kurdish southeast has traditionally consisted of two main groups — conservative and pious Kurds, and the secular, nationalist Kurds — although floating voters are not uncommon. In the November 2015 elections, roughly half of the region’s vote went to the HDP and the other half to the AKP. Today, a large segment of the Kurdish electorate appears likely to sit out the referendum, according to Al-Monitor. The alliance with the nationalist MHP (Grey Wolves) makes the Kurds more reluctant to vote for Erdogan as the absence of measures to address Kurdish aspirations in the constitutional package and the AKP’s policy of suppression in the southeast since the settlement process collapsed in 2015.

After the coup fears are mounting that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is hell-bent on expanding his country’s territory and to revive the Ottoman Empire after giving a string of provocative speeches referencing Turkey’s claim to more land as Mosul in Iraq and Greek Islands. For several months, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been complaining about the Lausanne Treaty that was signed on July 24, 1923.

But his expansionist rhetoric may simply be an effort to appeal to Turkey’s nationalist factions, increasing the chance they would vote for his constitutional reforms in the referendum, expected to take place around April.

Sinan Ülgen, a former Turkish diplomat and visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, said:

“Erdoğan is a savvy politician who understands very well the sort of emotional chords of the Turkish public. This is part of an overall strategy to shore up national support that started in the wake of the elections last June.”

During the last weeks, Greek and Turkish warships are involved  in  brief faceoffs near a group of disputed Greek islets in the Aegean, coinciding with renewed tensions between Athens and Ankara. Ankara has vehemently increased provocations against Greece, challenging the Greek sovereignty in the Aegean.

*Sources: Al-Monitor, Keep Talking Greece, Hurriyet Daily News (2), Foreign (2),,