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Erdo-Gone? Globalism Faces a Major Challenge in the Upcoming Elections in Turkey as Football Takes Again Becomes a Political Tool

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On June 24 2018, Turkey will head into a crucial election which will define the future of the nation. The reverberations of this election will be felt far beyond the borders of Turkey, as it is a battle between globalism and nationalism. Indeed, it seems that many Turkish politicians are aware of this battle as they have looked to use football to stoke nationalism in a bid to paint over the fact that Turkey has, for the last 16 years, been led by the globalists of the Justice and Development party (AKP). And, just like in the wider world, globalism is teetering on the brink in Turkey.

Some commentators, like the Washington Post, saw Donald Trump’s election as “the end of the world order”, with European Council President Donald Tusk claiming that Mr. Trump’s actions “play into the hands of those who seek a new post-West order where liberal democracy and fundamental freedoms would cease to exist”. While this fear mongering is unfounded—after all, it is arguable whether or not the post Cold War “New World Order” has truly brought “liberal democracy” or “fundamental freedoms” to the world—it is true that the world is going through a profound transformation; Turkey might just be the latest country to experience this transformation.

For too many years national leaders around the world have preferred their own pocketbooks to their peoples’ well-being as they “built bridges” with multinational corporations, ignoring national borders in order to benefit the flow of corporate dollars while individual citizens struggled. This state of affairs has gone on for so long that people have come to believe that this is the only way forward, that globalization can be the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is why we have seen Germany’s Angela Merkel—who has taken issue with Mr. Trump’s nationalist rhetoric before—so ready to support Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming elections. Despite recent diplomatic spats between their two countries, Ms. Merkel reportedly invited Mr. Erdogan to Berlin following the election (essentially seeing a victory for Mr. Erdogan as the only possible outcome). While Berlin refuted the invite (likely following criticism), Mr. Erdogan’s opponents seized on the invitation.

 

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Globalism Under Fire? Image Courtesy Of: https://qz.com/1301788/photos-of-trump-at-g7-and-xi-jinping-at-sco-sum-up-state-of-global-leadership/

 

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Germany’s Geopolitical Play In the Name of Globalism. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/europe/merkel-invites-erdogan-to-berlin-after-elections-/1160036

 

Opposition leader Muharrem Ince asked on 30 May 2018 “What partnership do you [Ms. Merkel] have that you’re trying make him [Mr. Erdogan] succeed? Will you benefit from his election? We are not butlers of Germany, we are the independent Republic of Turkey.” Similarly, the imprisoned leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas told Ms. Merkel that she would be inviting Mr. Erdogan as a retired President. Indeed, the actions by Ms. Merkel are hardly becoming of a leader who continually pledges support for “democracy” and Western liberal values, but they go far to show just how bankrupt such sentiments have become. Mr. Erdogan has also been shaken by this precarious state of affairs, and has repeatedly made false claims on the campaign trail while appealing to voters. His contradictions are to be expected; after all he is running on a nationalist platform despite being a globalist. Even the AKP’s 2018 election slogan is “Vakit Turkiye Vakti”, which translates roughly as “The Time is Turkey’s Time”. Of course, this is an absurd slogan and makes one ask: if this is now “Turkey’s Time”, then whose time was it for the past 16 years with the AKP in power? Implicit in this slogan, of course, is that the globalist time is now over. While many voters in Turkey might recognize this Freudian slip in the slogan, it is clear that AKP politicians are looking to use football in order to bolster their localist credentials while further dividing the electorate.

 

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Then…Whose Time Was It Before? Image Courtesy Of: http://ahmetunver.com.tr/2018/05/30/turk-milletinin-24-haziran-imtihani-7/

 

A picture circulating on the internet contains the badges of Turkey’s three biggest football clubs with the message “Let’s come together at the ballot box, don’t let this match go into overtime”. While the message is one of unity through sport in the face of the ruling AKP, football has become a main target of the AKP in their election campaign as well. On 9 June 2017, Mr. Erdogan closed out the famous 19 May stadium in Ankara with a political rally. In his speech, Mr. Erdogan promised Ankara a brand-new 55,000 capacity stadium; it is not the first time that Mr. Erdogan has used the promise of a new football stadium to collect votes.

 

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The Football Fans Are United This Election. Source Unknown.

 

Later, on 18 June, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim attempted to ride the football wave in Izmir by pointing out to supporters of Karsiyaka SK that while other clubs in Izmir (such as Goztepe) have gotten new stadiums, Karsiyaka has not. While Mr. Yildirim may have thought that this move would gather votes from a district of Izmir that has consistently shown high rates of support for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)—up to 80 percent—his presentation left much to be desired. In his speech, Mr. Yildirim incorrectly recited the famous Karsiyaka chant “Kaf Kaf Kaf, Sin Sin Sin, Kaf Sin Kaf Sin Kaf” as “Sin Sin Sin, Kaf Kaf Kaf, Sin Kaf” before trailing off (for a correct rendition, please see here). For many commentators, this has become a topic of ridicule. Karsiyaka SK’s famous chant is something that not only every football fan in Turkey knows, but also something that almost everyone from Izmir knows. It is deeply embedded in Turkish culture, and the fact that the nation’s Prime Minister—and native of Izmir—could butcher this chant shows just how detached the AKP politicians have become from the public they claim to represent. By attempting to appeal to local pride, Mr. Yildirim instead revealed the extent to which globalism—and the pursuit of foreign capital—drives AKP policies in Turkey while also encouraging the division of the electorate, in this case along the lines of football support.

 

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From Stadiums to “National Gardens”. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.aa.com.tr/tr/turkiye/eski-statlar-millet-bahcesi-olacak/1156543

 

Interestingly, the AKP’s appeal to football has included not only stadium construction, but also stadium destruction. On 25 May 2018 the AA announced President Erdogan’s plans to turn old stadiums in ten cities—along with the Ataturk Airport—into “national gardens”. Work has already begun in both Konya and Eskisehir on this new project. The idea of “national gardens” is certainly a shrewd political move by the AKP. It simultaneously caters to the globalist position of “environmentalism” while also distracting voters from the rampant deforestation in Turkey that has occurred during the AKP years. Millions of trees have been cut down in Turkey to make room for the development projects—like the third Bosphorus bridge—that the AKP has used to further the rentier state. The “national garden” project also means that the AKP can double its gains off of stadium construction; having already won voters by constructing stadiums they are looking to again win voters over, this time by destroying stadiums.

 

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The True Enemy of the Environment is The Globalist Rentier State. Image Courtesy Of: http://globetamk.weebly.com/blog/deforestation-in-turkey

 

While the AKP look to confuse voters by oscillating between globalist and nationalist positions, recent polls do not look good for the ruling party. Opinion polls from May 2018 found that the AKP enjoys the support of just 34.8 percent of voters. By comparison, the opposition CHP, IYI Party, and HDP enjoy 23.4, 17.2, and 14.1 percent support, respectively. With support for President Erdogan in the presidential election at just under 40 percent, it is likely that the election will necessitate a run off on 8 July (https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-43907962 , which Mr. Erdogan may not win.

 

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From Top:
“Which Party Would You Vote For In a General Election Were it To be Held This Sunday?”
“Which Candidate Would You Vote For In a Presidential Election Held This Sunday?”
Predicted Combined “Coalition” Votes.
Images Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/foto/foto_galeri/992691/4/Son_ankette_Erdogan_ve_AKP_icin_sok_sonuclar.html

 

With globalism teetering on the brink in Turkey, it will not be surprising if the headlines in the Western media after the election read “Erdo-Gone”. Of course, if the AKP’s years of uncontested rule are to finally end, it will first require the Turkish electorate to put the divisions fostered by globalism aside and truly unite as a nation. If football fans are able to unite, then there is no reason that the electorate cannot unite as well. The days of supporting political parties like one supports a football team—the mentality of “takim tutar gibi”—must first end if there is to be any hope of escaping the dystopia of globalism in Turkey. Only by defeating the imperialism of globalism can there be true development–and prosperity–in nations around the world.

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Turkish Football Fans Unite After Suruc Bombing Amid an Alarming Escalation of Violence

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When an ISIS suicide bomber killed 32 and wounded 104 young men and women in Suruç, Turkey—near the Syrian border—on Monday July, 20 2015 everything changed forever. Some say that it means Turkey has now been sucked into the Syrian violence as a result of the Turkish leadership’s failed policies and thinly veiled support for ISIS in Syria; ten years ago, during the US-led war in Afghanistan, who would have thought that anyone would be able to say that “In many respects, Turkey has provided a safe sanctuary for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra, playing a similar role as Pakistan does in support of providing safe haven for the Taliban in Afghanistan.” But the Independent did, and that is what is alarming, disturbing, and infuriating to me as both an American and as a Turk.

One Cumhuriyet columnist, Orhan Bursalı, outlines eight reasons why Turkey could become an ISIS state. Again, who would have thought that anyone could say that because of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s pro-Sunni sectarian stance—while occupying the highest political positions in the secular Turkish Republic—that Turkey could possibly go this route? Certainly no one would have thought it possible back in 2012, when US President Barack Obama named Mr. Erdoğan one of his top-five friends among world leaders. But Mr. Obama did, and this miscalculation is as great as Mr. Erdoğan’s in following a sectarian foreign policy, and that is what is alarming, disturbing, and infuriating to me as both an American and as a Turk.

Now the divide-and-rule policies of the AKP’s 13 year one party rule have brought back a similar political divide to what was seen in 1970s Turkey, where fighting between members of right-wing and left-wing groups killed ten people a day for a decade. But 2015 is not 1980. The world has changed. There can be no military coup to stop the bleeding. The conflict is not confined within the context of the Cold War. The battle is no longer between right-wing Turkish nationalists and left-wing Turkish nationalists. It is between normal religious citizens—some who are supporting the Sunni Islamist militants of ISIS—and various left-leaning Turks—urban intellectuals and students—and Kurds, some liberal and some supporting the terrorists of the PKK—looking for a more inclusive democracy and a move away from divisive politics. But as the conflict rages the divisions get blurred. To see just how complicated the delicate situation is I will present the stories of a seven different Turks who were lost in this heinous attack and its aftermath.

 

Hatice Ezgi Sadet and Polen Ünlü were 20 year-old girls studying in Istanbul and fellow members of the Sosyalist Gençlik Dernekleri Federasyonu (Federation of Socialist Youth Organizations). The living tell a story of the dead that shows two girls who went everywhere together—whether it was to campaign for the HDP in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district or to attend Beşiktaş matches; friends from the stadium attended the funeral services in Beşiktaş jerseys and scarves. They went together to Suruç in order to help build a children’s park in the Syrian Kurdish town of Kobane, instead of to party on the beaches of the Mediterranean like so many other twenty-something girls in Turkey during the summer. Now they lie buried together in the same grave, inseparable forever.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.sozcu.com.tr/2015/gunun-icinden/polen-ve-ezgi-yan-yana-defnedildiler-890340/

 

Koray Çapoğlu was a thirty-two year old “revolutionary” in the sense that his friends say he always stood up for right in the face of wrong, faithfully attending every protest with the flag of the team he supported, Trabzonspor. The fan group he helped found—Devrimci Trabzonsporlular (Revolutionary Trabzonspor Supporters)—made an announcement following his death noting that though he was bringing toys to Kobane this time, he was in Suruç just as he had been at Gezi, as he had protested the building of a Nuclear Power Plant on the Black Sea coast, as he had remembered the murder of Armenian journalist Hrant Dink. These are the same things Beşiktaş’s Carşı group has protested in standing up for right in the face of wrong. Now all that remains are memories of a young man and a photo of his bloodied clenched fist wrapped in the claret and blue of Trabzonspor.

Koray-Çapoğlu

Image Courtesy Of: http://gencgazete.org/koray-gibi-olmak/

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/bedeni-bayrakla-ortulu-bordo-mavi-gundem-2090473/

 

The left-wing mainly Turkish students were killed by a fellow Turk from Adiyaman province who had joined ISIS; Şeyh Aburrahman Alagöz. The twenty-year old suicide bomber was studying mechanical engineering at the university, but he was no normal university student. He was neighbors with fellow Adiyaman resident Orhan Gönder who set off two bombs on June 5 2015 in Diyarbakir at a rally for the leftist and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), killing 4 and injuring 402, despite the fact that police had—suspiciously—released him from their custody a day before the bombing. Alagöz had taken a break from his studies and was running a teahouse in the center of Adiyaman; the front of his Islam tea house was decorated with passages from the Koran and had an ISIS logo inside, and here he provided a place to recruit young Turks to the terrorist group. During the Kobane events the teahouse closed for a few days; locals say the owner and his patrons had gone to fight for ISIS against Kurdish militants. His teahouse was closed down three months after it opened last October but the Koranic passages remain on the storefront, just as those recruited from this terrorist cell remain anonymous and at large. More than 200 young people from Adiyaman province have left their homes to join ISIS.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/327893/iste_islam_Cay_Ocagi.html

 

But such visions of martyrdom in the name of Islam are not only confined to young males. Seçil T. is a young 18 year-old girl with her life in front of her. On July 8, 2015 she ran away from her home in central Turkey’s Kırşehir province leaving just a note reading “I’m going to Afghanistan of my own accord, I am going to become a Martyr. Don’t worry about me.” She also texted her brother: “I am going to blow myself up and become a martyr. Vallahi victory is Islam’s”. Luckily the Turkish police stepped up their search for this young girl at her family’s behest and she was caught on July 22, 2015 in Hatay Province’s Reyhanlı district on the Syrian Border. But Seçil T.’s story is not unique. Her picture shows her in a headscarf, and some young conservative girls—just like their young male counterparts—have visions of fighting for ISIS in the name of Islam. James Traub, in a book review for the Wall Street Journal, reminds us that “Many of the European “lone wolves” who carry out attacks at home in the name of either ISIS or al Qaeda are . . . bored and alienated young men with giant chips on their shoulders who find in Islam a rationale for their violence.” It is in some ways similar to the young people, male and female, which were willing to risk their lives protesting for liberal democracy in Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Young people in the prime years of their lives are lining up to fight for their political ideologies across the political spectrum, a very dangerous development that could be sowing the seeds for a violent civil war in Turkey amidst the global struggle of youth in the face of rising unemployment and frustrations with their governments and lives.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.sozcu.com.tr/2015/gundem/kendimi-patlatip-sehit-olacagim-890287/?_sgm_campaign=scn_b80427cad0440000&_sgm_source=890287%7Csozcu&_sgm_action=click

 

Some people have noted this sharp rise in violence and can see the writing on the wall. On Wednesday July 22, 2015 two police officers were found dead in their home in Ceylanpınar, killed in their sleep. Terrorists from the Kurdish PKK said the killing was in retaliation for the Suruç bombing because Turkish police officers had been collaborating with ISIS (on July 29, however, the PKK denied responsibility in a strange development). The link between Turkish security forces and ISIS has been posited before, but I personally doubt that these two young men had anything to do with it themselves. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. But it doesn’t matter, now 25 year old Okan Acar and 24 year old Feyyaz Yumuşak are dead before they could even marry, victims of the failed policies of the country they served.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.sozcu.com.tr/2015/gundem/sanliurfada-2-polis-sehit-889987/

 

This is just a small sample of the steadily increasing violence that threatens Turkey and the region. In the nine days since the Suruç bombing things have gone from bad to worse and 42 people have died—students, soldiers, generals, and police officers:

20 July: Suruç suicide bombing kills 32 dead and wounds 104.

20 July: Specialist Corporal Müsellim Ünal died in a firefight with PKK militants in Adiyaman.

22 July: Police officers Feyyaz Yumuşak and Okan Acar were murdered in their home in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa.

23 July: Sergeant Yalçın Nane was killed by ISIS militants in an attack in Elbeyli, Kilis. Two other soldiers were wounded.

23 July: Police officer Tansu Aydın was killed in Diyarbakir.

25 July: Gendarme Sergeant Major İsmail Yavuz and Gendarme Specialist Sergeant Mehmet Koçak were killed in Diyarbakir.

26 July: Police officer Muhammet Fatih Sivri was killed during unrest in Istanbul’s Gazi neighborhood.

27 July: Major Arslan Kulaksız was killed in Malazgirt, Mus. His wife was wounded in the attack.

28 July: Sergeant Ziya Sarpkaya was killed while talking to his father in civilian clothes in Semdinli, Hakkari.

 

The situation is confusing with everyone putting forth different opinions, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. The government seems to want chaos so as to prove that only it can provide security both domestically and regionally; a Cumhuriyet story showed how, over the last fifteen years, as violence increased so too did support for the AKP. By now bombing PKK positions in Syria and restarting the Kurdish-Turkish war of the 1980s and 1990s the AKP is trying to project an image of Kurds as terrorists so as to win back the votes they lost to the Kurdish HDP in the June elections. And, unfortunately, this means the United States may have miscalculated as well.

But what isn’t confusing, what is very clear, is that this needs to stop. The divisive policies of bringing back the left-right fighting of the 1970s, of fomenting Turkish-Kurdish mistrust and bringing back the war of the 1990s, of supporting ISIS on the battlefield as a bulwark against Kurdish gains on the ballot, will not get Turkey anywhere. It only means that more young people will die just so that the AKP can stay in power of a slowly disintegrating nation. It is reassuring that some people can see the dangerous path Turkey is heading down: On July 28, 2015 the fan groups of Turkey’s three biggest football teams came together again, as they did during the Gezi protests. Beşiktaş’s Carşı, Fenerbahçe’s Genç Fenerliler, and Galtasaray’s UltrAslan published a joint declaration on their websites, I have translated it to the best of my abilities and have presented it below in its entirety.

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KAMUOYUNA

Barışın, kardeşliğin, sevginin ve saygının gönüllere hitab eden, birleştirici diline olan inancımız vesilesi ile derdimizi sözcüklerle anlatabileceğimize sonuna kadar inanıyoruz. Beraber ektiğimiz toprağı, beraber içtiğimiz suyu, beraber soluduğumuz havayı bizden sonra gelecek olanlara kirletmeden teslim etmek insanlık borcumuzdur. Bunu başaramadık belki, bari birbirimizi sevelim ve saygı duyalım.

Formalarımızın arkasında hepimizin gizli adı “BARIŞ” yazsın. Hepimizin sponsoru hayat olsun.       

Dünyayı devredeceğimiz çocukların renklerini, seslerini birbirinden ayırmadan o çocukların gözlerine utanmadan bakmak istiyorsak insanlığımızı yeniden hatırlamamız gerekiyor. Medeniyetlere beşiklik yapmış bu toprakların hamurunda şiddet ve ona karşı gelecek kardeşlik ve merhamet duygusunun bu günde var olduğunu biliyoruz. Bize benzemeyenlere ve hayatlarına insan oldukları için saygı duymak zorundayız. Bu aynı zamanda kendimize saygının da bir gereğidir. Dilin bir anlamı da gönüldür. Kalpten kalbe yolun olduğuna inanıyoruz. Dilden ve insandan umudu kesmediğimiz için derdimizi sözcüklerle anlatabileceğimize bu günden yürekten inanıyoruz.

Bu geçici dünyaya insani güzel huylar eşliğinde kırıp dökmeden, kesip biçmeden insana yaraşır, onurlu izler bırakmak istiyoruz.

Taraf olduğumuz yarışmalara, müsabakalara, maçlara olimpiyatlara evet, yenmeye yenilmeye, beraberliğe evet. Ama öldürmeye ve bir insan eliyle ölmeye, “ŞİDDETE” HAYIR.

Bu yüzden çeşitli sebeplerle sürekli olarak haksız ve acımasızca şiddet ve ayrışmaya örnek gösterilen tribüncüler olarak biz söz konusu vatanımızın milletimizin birlik beraberliği, huzur ve güveni olduğu zaman gerisi “TEFERRUAT”tır!

 

TO THE PUBLIC

Due to our belief in unifying language appealing to hearts with peace, brotherhood, love, and respect we believe without question that we can make ourselves understood with words. It is our human responsibility to surrender the soil we have plowed together, the water we have drank together, and the air we have breathed together to those that come after us without polluting it. Maybe we didn’t succeed in this, at least let us love and respect one another.

Our secret name, “PEACE”, should be written on the back of our jerseys. Our sponsor should be life.

If we want to look without shame into the eyes of the children we will hand the world over to, without separating their colors and voices from one another, we need to once again remember our humanity. We know that these days violence and, on the other hand, feelings of brotherhood and compassion exist in the essence of this land that formed the cradle of civilization. We have to respect those who are unlike us, and their lives, because they are people. At the same time this is also a requirement for respecting ourselves. One meaning of language is also heart. We believe there is a road from one heart to another. From this day on we believe from our hearts that we can make ourselves understood with words because we haven’t lost hope in language and people.

We want to leave honorable traces worthy of humanity on this ephemeral world in a kind and humane way, without destroying or killing.

Yes to the competitions we are part of.

Yes to the games we are a part of.

Yes to the matches we are a part of.

Yes to the Olympics we are a part of.

Yes to winning. Yes to losing. Yes to tying.

But NO to “VIOLENCE”, no to killing and dying at the hands of human beings.

Because it is us as football supporters who have constantly—for various reasons—been unfairly and mercilessly depicted as examples of violence and division, we say that when our country is secure, peaceful, and united the rest is just “DETAILS”!


Even a casual fan of Turkish and European football knows the deep divisions between the fans of Istanbul’s fierce rivals. But that doesn’t mean they can’t come together when something bigger than football is at stake. All football fans are not violent thugs intent on destroying everything in sight just like not all Muslim Turks are ISIS sympathizers and not all Kurds are PKK sympathizers and not all Ataturkists are anti-religion. Such blanket labels on groups of people only serves to further divide them into rival camps making cooperation impossible; one Turkish political commentator put it well when he described the one division that does exist–are you, as a person, one for peace or one for fighting? Answering that question will go a long way toward uniting people and saving human lives, preserving the future of a country, and determining the future of a region.

Remember the words of ISIS’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi when proclaiming the caliphate, “RUSH, O Muslims, to your state. Yes, it is your state. Rush, because Syria is not for the Syrians, and Iraq is not for the Iraqis.” ISIS’ Caliphate “constitutes an exercise in nation-building and a viable alternative to the apostate regimes otherwise covering the face of the earth,” according to James Traub in the Wall Street Journal. Clearly ISIS has an ability to appeal to frustrated Sunni Muslims across the Middle East and beyond, uniting them across the imagined boundaries of the imagined states created in the aftermath of the colonial regimes. By using Sunni Islam as the unifying identity they are able to recruit a vast number of members from many different national backgrounds.

If this global culture war is not to become a violent regional war—or worse—then those of us on the side of democracy, peace, and justice—both political and economic—must unite as well. Whether American or Turkish or Kurdish or any other nationality or religion or ethnicity it is important to remember—like the football fans did—one thing: United we stand, divided we fall.

Turkish Football Federation Elections: Gaziantepspor Vote to Re-Elect Yildirim Demiroren But Might Lose Their Youth Team Facilities To The Government

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On June 25, 2015 Yıldırım Demirören was re-elected as president of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) with 214 of 219 votes; 5 votes were invalid. Mr. Demirören’s tenure started in 2013 in the wake of the match-fixing scandal that Turkish football has yet to recover from and he was able to stave off the challenge of former TFF president Haluk Ulusoy who, in announcing his candidacy, criticized the federation for the controversial Passolig system. Mr. Demirören himself is a controversial figure and his time as Beşiktaş president was marked by extravagant spending—in his eight years at Beşiktaş 84 players and 8 managers were signed—that left the team swimming in debt; as an example Spanish coach Vincente Del Bosque’s tenure at Beşiktaş lasted just 233 days but he and his assistants left with a severance package worth 7,961,767 Euros after interest. Still, despite his perceived shortcomings and known rapport with President Erdoğan, Mr. Demirören was re-elected by an overwhelming majority.

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Mr. Erdogan (L) and Mr. Demiroren (R). Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/306765/TFF_Baskanligi_secimlerine_Erdogan_damga_vurdu.html

Some commentators, including the daily Cumhuriyet, noted that President Erdoğan’s influence on the federation showed through. To be honest most of the article is pure speculation, such as the point about current Beşiktaş President Fikret Orman who—despite protesting Mr. Demirören earlier in the season due to the financial mess he left Beşiktaş in—gave his support to the current TFF president anyway during the elections. One of the few concrete points made is that former Ankaragücü president Ahmet Gökçek (who compounded the club’s debts from 15 million Turkish Liras to 95 million Turkish Liras), son of Ankara’s outspoken AKP mayor Melih Gökçek, will appear in Mr. Demirören’s administration.

 

What is interesting about this election, however, is the division between football clubs and—seemingly—the inability of the clubs to stand up to either the Football Federation or the government (if it is indeed influencing the federation). On June 10, 2015 the Külüpler Birliği (“Union of Clubs”)—a foundation consisting of all the teams in the Turkish Super League—met and 14 of the 18 top flight teams voiced their support for Mr. Demirören; 4 clubs including Trabzonspor, Gençlerbirliği, Kasimpaşaspor, and Osmanlispor abstained. Gençlerbirliği have always preferred to be independent, with their chairman Ilhan Cavcav having formed the foundation, and with a mainly leftist fan group (Sol Cephe) their abstention wasn’t surprising. On the other hand Kasimpaşaspor and Osmanlispor are teams known to be close to the ruling party (one is from the president’s neighborhood and plays in a stadium named after Mr. Erdoğan, the other was formed out of a team run by the Ankara municipality, Ankara Büyükşehir Belediyespor), so their abstentions were surprising. Trabzonspor’s abstention was also a surprise since their president, Ibrahim Hacıosmanoğlu, is very close to the ruling AKP. Indeed, after it became clear that Mr. Hacıosmanoğlu ended up supporting Mr. Demirören, local media in Trabzon was up in arms calling it “shameful”. 5 members of the Trabzonspor board resigned in the wake of the elections, and former club vice president Sebahattin Çakıroğlu took to Twitter to say “If I don’t spit in your face Haciosmanoğlu I have no honor”. These are harsh words in Turkey, and the division created by the election within Trabzonspor is indeed shocking.

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Choice Words For Mr. Haciosmanoglu From Mr. Cakiroglu. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/306765/TFF_Baskanligi_secimlerine_Erdogan_damga_vurdu.html

But what about the teams that supported Mr. Demirören? Despite the ongoing enmity between the government and Beşiktaş’s Carşı fan group Beşiktaş stood behind the current TFF president. Gaziantepspor, from the southeast, are another team that supported Mr. Demirören despite recent developments that warrant a mention. TÜRGEV, Türkiye Gençlik ve Eğitime Hizmet Vakfı or Turkish Youth and Educational Service Foundation, are a foundation known for its closeness to President Erdoğan’s son Bilal Erdoğan, who is one of the foundation’s directors. In the wake of the December 17 corruption scandal it became clear that many officials in TÜRGEV, including the president’s own son, were involved in a scheme to buy government land for low prices. The government describes the foundation as a charity.

Now TÜRGEV has set its eyes on land belonging to the Gaziantepspor football club. A 90 thousand square meter plot of land that was rented to the Gaziantepspor football club for 49 years in the late 1990s by the Gaziantep Municipality as grounds for the club’s youth team system is being claimed by TÜRGEV. According to reports a smaller plot of land will be given to the club in return, but even that land is not slated to be for the team’s private use. Apparently the land was promised to TÜRGEV by Fatma Şahin, the only female member of Prime Minister Erdoğan’s cabinet from 2011-2013 and AKP mayor of Gaziantep since the 2014 local elections.

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Gaziantepspor’s Youth Team Facilities. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.zaman.com.tr/spor_gaziantepspor-tesisleri-turgeve-mi-verilecek_2300695.html

Of course Gaziantepspor have yet to say anything in order to not ruffle the feathers of the AKP, so perhaps their silence also explains why they pledged their support to Mr. Demirören in the TFF elections. Celal Doğan, Gaziantepspor’s president from 1993-2006 and Gaziantep mayor from 1989-2003, was a member of the CHP for ten years before being elected as an MP from the leftist Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in 2015, spoke out about the attempted land seizure:

“Gaziantepspor’un elinden alınmak istenen bu tesis için Antepliler neden ses çıkarmıyor, anlamak mümkün değil? Burası Bilal Erdoğan’a çok mu lazım? Altyapıda yetişecek çocuklar için bu tesis daha önemli değil mi? TÜRGEV’in milyar doları var, bu yere ne ihtiyacı var? Bu kadar hırs niye? Sanırım seçimden önce verilmiş. Trene bakar gibi bakıyoruz. Verenler utansın”

“It isn’t possible to understand why people from [Gazi]Antep are staying quiet regarding this facility that is wanted to be taken from Gaziantepspor. Is this space so necessary for Bilal Erdoğan? Isn’t this facility more important for the kids who will grow up in [Gaziantepspor’s] youth system? TURGEV has millions of dollars, why do they need this space? Why is there this aggressive desire? I think it was given before the elections. We’re watching this as if watching a train. Those that gave [the facility away] should be ashamed.” 

Indeed Mr. Doğan can only watch the proceedings as if watching a train (wreck), and the analogy is fitting. Under the AKP the Turkish government has followed an aggressive policy of securing valuable land in and around city centers and sell it for a profit to various developers. This is the same trend that sparked the Gezi Park protests in 2013 and forced Beşiktaş to re-build their stadium at their own expense (land in central Istanbul is, for obvious reasons, very valuable). This is also the same trend that has sparked various urban renewal projects throughout Turkey, gentrifying neighborhoods and pushing less affluent citizens into mass government built housing outside the cities. With the precedent clear it is unlikely that Gaziantepspor will be able to keep this land since, under the current system, the government has been very successful in getting the land it wants regardless of opposition.

A New Turkey? Turkish Elections 2015

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On June 8 2015 Turkey woke up to a new Turkey, but not the “New Turkey” that AKP leader and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been promoting over the course of his party’s uncontested 13 years of leadership. Instead, as many Turkish pundits have noted, it is a return to the old fragmented political landscape that dominated the country in the 1990s that paved the way for the AKP’s rise to power in 2002. There are some bright spots of hope peaking through the clouds but it remains unclear if Turkey’s politicians have the wherewithal—or desire—to clear away the clouds of uncertainty.

The Situation

The ruling AKP was looking to get 66 percent of 550 parliamentary seats that would have allowed them to get the 367 seats necessary to hold a constitutional referendum and change to a presidential system, allowing President Erdogan to raise the role of president from the largely ceremonial position it is now to an executive position. Instead, the AKP couldn’t even get the 276 seats necessary to rule on their own as the majority party; their share fell from the 49 percent they had in 2011 to 41 percent, giving them 258 seats as opposed to the 327 seats they now control.

This leaves three options. The AKP could seek to rule as a minority and go to new elections within 45 days if no government can be formed, as has been reported on the front pages of pro-government newspapers, but it is unclear as of now how the AKP can regain the votes they have lost to various opposition parties due to Mr. Erdogan’s polarizing rhetoric during the campaign and polarizing actions during his rule. In fact, this is the first time in the history of the AKP that they came away from an election having lost votes in all 81 of the country’s provinces. Therefore the AKP could continue to rule as a minority government past the initial 45 days with the other parties in question pledging their support but not looking for any ministries; still many pundits have said this scenario could lead to early elections in six to seven months.

The second option is forming a coalition government with one of the opposition parties, but that option seems unlikely given the sharp divide between all four parties. The main opposition, the secular and leftist Republican People’s Party (CHP), managed 25% of the vote and 132 seats but they stated before elections that they would not want to work with the AKP. As Ataturk’s party, this isn’t shocking. The election’s surprise package, the leftist and Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) that garnered 13% and 80 seats would be another option but their leader Selahattin Demirtas reiterated that they would not work with the AKP either, preferring to be a “strong opposition”. That leaves the right wing nationalist party—the Nationalist Action Party (MHP)—seemingly looking like the most likely partner for the AKP since they tend to get their support from Turkey’s conservative Anatolian heartland and many pundits think it was AKP voters moving to the MHP that allowed them to increase their representation to 16% and 80 seats from the 13% and 53 seats they won in 2011. Reality, however, is different and the leader of the MHP, Devlet Bahceli, is a veteran of Turkish politics and knows that to work with the AKP would mean effectively losing the 31 seats his party was able to gain. Unwilling to betray his voters, he said that his party was willing to be a main opposition and that “A snap election will happen whenever it will happen.” There is still, of course, room for maneuvering in the next 45 days and the MHP could be convinced to not give up a chance to be part of the country’s ruling coalition.

The third option would be a coalition without the AKP between the CHP, MHP, and HDP but that is even more unlikely. The HDP was able to gain votes from outside the Kurdish Southeast through traditionally CHP voters, shown by the fact that the CHP maintained a stable number of votes from 2011. CHP strongholds like Izmir Province (10.5%), Aydin Province(9.1%), Istanbul’s Besiktas district (13.2%), and Istanbul’s Kadikoy district (10.2 %) saw uncharacteristically large amounts of HDP votes and a drop in CHP votes from 2011. This is likely due to the HDP’s platform of appealing not only to Kurds but to other ethnic minorities, LGBT groups, and progressive liberals in urban areas. A voter in Istanbul’s traditionally CHP district of Sariyer said “In this election a lot of Turks abandoned their ideological preferences and voted strategically to derail Erdogan’s one-man rule.” But even if the CHP would consider working with the fellow leftist HDP (who, by the way, said they would support the CHP and MHP if they chose to work together) despite fears of Kurdish separatism, the ultra-nationalist MHP has implied that it would never agree to working with a Kurdish party. With the parties so divided it is worth looking at the few bright spots that are emerging as the dust settles.

 

The Bright Spots of Hope

The most obvious success of this election is the end of Mr. Erdogan’s megalomaniacal designs on controlling the Turkish political system. As many pundits have observed, this is essentially the end of any dreams of a presidential system. The AKP simply cannot count on the kind of support it saw in 2007 and 2011, and some have said that this represents the start of a downward trend for the AKP.

The AKP’s Neo-Ottoman designs have also been dealt a blow. Even if Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called to his supporters in the Balkans, Central Asia, and North Africa in his post election speech the AKP did not gather majorities from Turks living in many of these counties. In the Balkans Albania voted for the MHP, Macedonia voted for the HDP, and Bulgaria voted for the CHP. In Eurasia Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan voted for the CHP, while in the Middle East Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar all voted for the CHP as well. As an American I will also note that the AKP only managed 16.41 percent in the United States—the CHP got 44.32 percent and the HDP 24.05 percent.

The rhetoric of the HDP has also been refreshing and it looks as if they are trying to distance themselves from the violence of the past that took the lives of over 20,000 people in conflicts between the Kurdish separatists of the PKK and the Turkish military. As I hoped in the wake of the Gezi protests of June 2013 it seems that some of the CHP are beginning to empathize with the oppression minorities have faced under previous Kemalist governments after facing the same kind of oppression under the AKP. With the HDP’s rise to parliament there is hope that Turkish politics can move away from the zero-sum game that it has been and become more inclusive. The fact that HDP officials have recognized that they “will not betray their borrowed votes” is a good step, since the HDP took votes not only from a few CHP supporters but also a large number of AKP supporters, especially in the southeast, as shown in the graphic below.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/secim_2015/294442/HDP_oylari_bakin_nereden_geldi__AKP_secmenini_sasirtacak_harita.html

 

The onus will be on them to match their words with concrete actions and put the days of violence in the past. Mr. Demirtas—unfortunately dubbed the “Kurdish Obama”—will certainly have a lot of work to do in order to clear up the image of Kurds as terrorists, with his brother currently living in northern Iraq as a PKK member.

The presence of a few minorities in parliament is also a step in the right direction and represents a step away from the push for Sunni Islam that the AKP has supported in recent years. 4 Christians—one from the AKP, one from the CHP, and two from the HDP—were voted into Parliament, along with two representatives of Turkey’s Yezidi community as well. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the CHP, had said in April that “We do not want division in this society. We want to grow and develop together,” when introducing the CHP’s Armenian candidate Selina Dogan. It is worth noting that his words mirror the rhetoric that has come from the HDP. Despite these glimmers of hope, however, there still remains much more to be done.

 

The Clouds of Uncertainty

The most obvious sign of uncertainty following the elections came from the economy, and pundits have begun focusing on the possibility of economic instability in Turkey. The Lira weakened 5 percent against the Dollar on Monday morning, exposing long-standing vulnerability in the economy, but there is still some optimism that the central bank could regain independence.

Economic instability is to be expected after any election in a divided polity, so it does not come as a surprise. The more vexing uncertainties that have been uncovered by this election are political. If the AKP is unable to form a coalition government they could play up the instability caused by the election results and campaign for a return to single party rule if early elections are called for. Burhan Kuzu, the AKP deputy and head of the parliamentary constitution commission, stated his opinion in no uncertain terms: “The parliamentary system is a curse for the whole world. In Turkey only majority governments ever worked, coalitions always destroyed it.” He then said that the only solution would be an executive presidency, and if AKP supporters are conned by this type of rhetoric it could lead to more instability—after all, election results showed that 60 percent of voters effectively rejected Erdogan’s push for an executive presidency.

Unfortunately, the three opposition parties may not be able to come together soon enough to forestall such a plan. The MHP does not want to deal with the Kurdish HDP and, sadly, neither do the hardliners of the CHP. Social media has been ablaze with articles like this one labeling the Kurds as, variously, “terrorists” and “murderers”, among other things. Mr. Erdogan himself called them “Atheists” and “traitors” during the election campaign in order to appeal to his conservative support base. Even if many liberals see the HDP’s rise as healthy for Turkish democracy it is still worrying that the one thing that the CHP and AKP hardliners—as divided as they are on opposite ends of the political spectrum—can agree on is a hatred for the Kurds. But what can be done? They were told to join in politics instead of taking up arms, and now they are being rejected from politics as soon as they have been able to get involved. It is also true that the violence inflicted on the Turkish state by Kurdish terrorists in the PKK during the 1990s is unforgiveable and left its mark on the Turkish people; understandably such memories die hard. Indeed the zero-sum nature of Turkish politics is solidifying and with this kind of mentality no one—except Mr. Erdogan, perhaps—will win.

We can only hope that cooler, rational, heads prevail and that true inclusive democracy can rise out of this difficult situation. The only road to a healthy—and strong—Turkish society rises in putting the hatreds of the past in the past, in order to heal the rifts created by the 13 year AKP policy of divide and rule. But the political situation is clear. There is no consensus but there are four main camps: The conservative Islamists, the Turkish nationalists, the Turkish liberal nationalists, and the Kurdish liberal nationalists. In fact, when you combine the two leftist parties (ignoring for a moment the ethnic divide) their 40% matches the amount of votes won by the conservatives of the AKP. In order to bridge the gap ethnic and religious identities must be respected but not underlined. Easier said than done.

 

NOTE:

Football also played its part in this election. Hakan Sukur, the former AKP deputy who resigned from the party and ran as an independent failed to enter parliament this election. Another footballer—and former strike partner with Hakan Sukur at Galatasaray (They were called the “twin towers” in the 1990s)—Saffet Sancakli was elected as an MHP representative from Kocaeli province. As the party’s fortunes go, so too do the footballers. With the Gulenists and AKP on a downward trend their representative from the footballing community bows out while the MHP, on an upward trend, provides another politician from a footballing background with a shot at a career in politics.