- Created: Saturday, 28 January 2017 18:25
- Written by Trevor Rayne
Turkish goverment temporarily bans all protest activities in capital Ankara.
On 21 January 2017, 339 out of 550 MPs voted in Turkey’s National Assembly for constitutional changes that are to be put to a referendum, to be held no later than the third week of April 2017. These changes are described as transforming the 94-year-old republic from a parliamentary to a presidential system; this misrepresents what will be the establishment of autocratic one-man rule.
The draft constitution, drawn up in secret by President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), removes all checks and balances on presidential power. If the electorate approves the changes, the president will be able to dissolve parliament at will, unilaterally declare states of emergency, appoint half of the top judges, all senior civil servants, heads of police, the military and university vice- chancellors. President Erdogan will be able to rule until 2029. The referendum will be held with ten opposition MPs from the Kurdish-led Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in gaol on terrorism charges and 76 Kurdish co-mayors imprisoned. All critical media have been shut down or silenced by fear in Turkey. The referendum will take place against a background of the Turkish armed forces waging war against the country’s Kurdish population and conducting operations in Syria and Iraq. Erdogan and his allies will try and win support by accusing foreign powers of attempting to carve Turkey up and backing terrorist attacks. Turkey’s political and civil institutions are being hijacked. Meanwhile the British government gives Erdogan diplomatic and military support: Britain has sold Turkey £330m worth of weapons since 2015, including bombs, missiles, drones, helicopters and body armour. British Prime Minister Theresa May had no intention of raising his human rights abuses during her meeting with Erdogan in Ankara on 28 January; she agreed a new deal worth £100m for BAE Systems to design fighter jets for Turkey with Turkish Aerospace Industries, and May and Erdogan discussed future ‘security cooperation and counterterrorism’.
Erdogan is behaving as a fascist. Following the bombing of a police vehicle outside a stadium in Istanbul on 11 December 2016 that killed 38 people, Erdogan commanded his supporters: ‘Attack with the spirit of mobilisation…we must be ruthless, since we are waging the second war of independence. Those that do not join will be viewed as FETO [terrorist] members and prosecuted in our independent courts.’ He called on the population to inform: ‘report whoever you see’, he said. The result was Kurdish shops and other premises burned down, buildings run by the HDP set ablaze. The racist and fascist arsonists posed for television cameras making the Grey Wolves’ fascist salute, while the police stood by. The Grey Wolves are associated with the MHP; they were a notorious death squad in the 1970s and 1980s, targeting the left.
The Contemporary Journalists’ Association issued its quarterly Media Report for Turkey for the months of October, November and December 2016. The report details three journalists killed, 80 arrested, 299 detained, five media offices attacked, 157 media and nine publication firms shut down and broadcast bans placed on coverage of 24 events. The Interior Ministry says that over 1,600 people have been arrested for social media posts and that over 10,000 more people are being investigated. This is what the British government is supporting.
Erdogan and the Turkish state face continuing resistance from the Kurds and their supporters in Turkey; the People’s Defence Forces (HPG), armed wing of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), reports 3,404 Turkish soldiers and police killed in 2016, at a loss of 585 guerrillas’ lives. Civil Defence Units (YPS) continue to mount guerrilla operations against Turkish state forces in the predominantly Kurdish towns and cities.
Erdogan also faces a fight he cannot win against the Turkish economy, which threatens to undermine the support that has allowed him to win elections since 2002. On 11 January 2016 the Financial Times editorial said, ‘Turkey appears closer to a full-blown currency crisis than at any time since the ruling AKP took power in 2002.’ The Turkish lira fell 12% against the US dollar in the first two weeks of 2017, having already fallen by a fifth in the previous three months. Erdogan raged against credit rating agencies that ranked Turkey as having junk status and at currency traders: ‘You know the economy is manipulated for the objective of attacking Turkey. There is no single difference between the terrorist who carries a weapon in his hand and the terrorist who possesses a dollar or euro in his pocket. Both aim to divert Turkey from its targets. They use currency as a weapon.’ Turkey’s recent economic growth was fuelled by foreign money. As the lira falls the debt burden is becoming unsustainable. Erdogan opposes raising interest rates that might slow the lira’s fall, but the longer Turkey delays, the harsher the measures required will be. As the Financial Times put it, ‘the suggestion that investors will regain confidence if Mr Erdogan can only secure the executive powers needed to complete his grip on power is absurd. He threatens the basic functioning of Turkey’s institutions.’
The scope of repression in Turkey threatens to isolate Erdogan from powerful sections of the ruling class; ‘Three executives of Dogan Holding, owners of Hurriyet newspaper, CNN-Turk, and the Trump Towers in Istanbul, were detained recently’ (Financial Times 13 January 2017). Dogan Holding is one of Turkey’s biggest conglomerates. Erdogan’s core support comes from the small and medium sized businesses that aspire to national and international status, not the monopolies tied to international capitalism. His Defence Minister recently threatened NATO that he would end its use of Incirlik airbase in south east Turkey. Erdogan beware: Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
End all British arms sales to Turkey.