Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Europeans on Wednesday that they would no longer be able to walk safely in the street if Western politicians continued with perceived provocations against Turkish leaders, The New York Times reports:
Erdogan’s warning turned out to be awkwardly timed, coming hours before a deadly attack outside the British Parliament. In a Twitter post written in English, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, quickly condemned the assault in London, noting that Turkey had “suffered similar attacks many times.”
Mr. Erdogan’s comments were a response to restrictions placed on his surrogates in European countries including Germany and the Netherlands, where they have been barred from holding political rallies in support of a referendum in which Turks will decide whether to expand their president’s powers….The outburst was his latest attempt to rally nationalist voters before the tightly contested referendum.
Journalist and author Andrew Finkel, who has covered Turkey extensively, told Al Jazeera the spats with Europe play well to the electorate back home.
“As far is the Turkish government is concerned, they couldn’t be happier than they are today. It’s clearly an attempt to escalate the conflict,” said Finkel (right), a former Reagan-Fascell fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy.
“It’s a case of clear short-termism. They’re trying to play this national card – much in the way that Geert Wilders is playing the nationalist card. But of course what happens the day after that … Nobody is really thinking about that, because Europe is very important to Turkey.”
Should [the proposed constitutional] amendment be approved on 15 April, Erdoğan will assume all parliamentary powers, including the ability to suspend parliament. He will rule over the council that appoints prosecutors and judges, which means total control over the judiciary, journalist Can Dündar writes for The Guardian.
“In other words, he wants to remove any hope of Turkey being a secular democracy, instead transforming it into a religion-based dictatorship,” he adds.
Turkey’s jailed journalists tell of solitary confinement and maltreatment after being caught up in ‘Kafkaesque’ media purge, the paper reports.
On paper, Turkey looks like an ideal country to serve as a bridge between Europe and the Middle East, notes Javier Solana, formerly EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy and NATO Secretary-General. But it has now taken an alarming turn away from Europe, with Erdoğan even accusing the German and Dutch governments of acting like Nazis, he writes:
Since withstanding an attempted coup last July, Erdoğan has taken advantage of a national state of emergency to go on the offensive and shore up his power. A surge in popularity has buttressed his new strategy of governing by decree. So far, more than 100,000 civil servants have been fired or suspended, and many of Erdoğan’s political rivals have been jailed. Numerous civil-society organizations and news outlets have been shut down, and Turkey now holds the dubious honor of having a record-breaking number of journalists behind bars.
Some observers suggest that recent trends are exposing the underlying ideological orientation of Erdogan and the ruling AKP.
The rhetorical actionism now being demonstrated by President Erdogan and his AKP government is based on the aggressive propagation of a nationalistic Islamic ideology,” Turkish analyst Gulistan Gurbey, a visiting lecturer at the Free University Berlin, writes for Qantara.
Erdogan is pursuing “hegemony by establishing (a) neo-Ottoman empire using the Muslim Brotherhood ideology, not just within Turkey,” said former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon said.
If the package of constitutional amendments passes the nationwide referendum, Turkey’s long-standing parliamentary political system would be transformed into something more appropriately called a presidential system, in which an “executive presidency”1 amasses unprecedented power in the hands of one man, analyst Alan Makovsky writes in a new report from the Center for American Progress.
The following are among the other significant features of the proposed new presidential system explored in the report:
- The president could shape the executive branch as he chooses, as long as Parliament approves his budget for that purpose, and could hire or fire all senior officials as he chooses, without parliamentary or other review.
- Bypassing Parliament, he would also be able to issue decrees with the force of law in many areas of Turkish life, particularly regarding economic and social concerns—unless Parliament acted to override the decrees.
- Contrary to long-standing tradition, the president could be a member, even the leader, of a political party, casting aside the notion of the presidency as a symbol of national unity set above political parties.
- When the president’s party holds a parliamentary majority, checks on presidential power would be virtually nonexistent.
Turkey’s ties to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas are once again in the spotlight. Israeli authorities claimed this week that two charities with close ties to the ruling elite in Ankara were providing financial and military support to the Gaza-based Islamist faction, analyst Jonathan Schanzer writes for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (HT: FPI).
An article in the current issue of Sentinel, the journal published by West Point’s Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), gives a sense of just how dangerous the Turkish security situation is becoming, analyst Christopher Dickey writes for SLATE:
Its author, Ahmet Yayla, formerly was the deputy chief of the counterterrorism department of the Turkish National Police (the post he held when I first met him several years ago). …As Yayla told me when we met recently in Washington, D.C., “If Erdogan had not let those foreign fighters go through Turkey to Syria, there would be no ISIS as we know it today.” Yayla is now in exile, teaching at George Mason University in northern Virginia, and he recently co-authored a book with Anne Speckhard, an expert on the psychology of extremists, ISIS Defectors: Inside Stories of the Terrorist Caliphate.