Turkey protests

Discussion in 'The Far Abroad' started by owenpolley, Jun 3, 2013.

  1. owenpolley

    owenpolley Gubernial Secretary (12th class)

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    It's hard to gauge how serious a challenge to Erdogan's government these protests present from the coverage in British papers. Is there a rural / metropolitan divide where attitudes in Turkey are concerned? Are there any analogies to be drawn with the protests in Russia?
  2. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    Dear Owenpolley,

    There is a huge amount that can be said about the Turkish protests. However what I think is really interesting is a comparison between Putin and Erdogan. When one compares the two it is striking how Erdogan (who gets a consistently good press in the western media) approximates far more closely to the "corrupt strong man" trope than Putin does.

    1. Putin is repeatedly accused of being a corrupt billionaire though there is no evidence to support this claim. By contrast there do seem reasons for believing that Erdogan is both a billionaire and corrupt. Supposedly he founded his fortune when as mayor of Istanbul he used to take kickbacks and bribes from the construction industry in return for allowing developments that breached planning laws. Supposedly he receives a monthly official salary of just under $1 million (the highest official salary of a government leader in the world). A US embassy cable leaked by Wikileaks claims he has no fewer than 8 Swiss bank accounts. There is no doubt that he has an astonishingly lavish lifestyle. There is also no doubt that he bought a cargo ship a few years ago for his son. I am told the development in the park in Istanbul that is at the heart of the protests is being carried out by a business consortium that includes his son in law.

    2. Putin is accused of suppressing free speech and of controlling the media. In reality most newspapers in Russia are either neutral or hostile to him, there is increasing diversity of opinion on television (which fully covered the Moscow protests) and the internet is entirely free. Under Erdogan Turkey has jailed more journalists than any other country (more than China and Iran combined), state television initially did not report the protests and there are now reports of mass arrests of people for attempting to organise protests through Twitter.

    3. Putin is criticised for his supposed alliance with the Orthodox Church and his supposed attempt to impose "nationalist" Orthodox Christian values on Russia. In reality Putin keeps his religious beliefs to himself and there have been no attempts to impose Orthodox Christian values on Russians' lifestyle choices. Erdogan by contrast is a practising Muslim who heads a religious party, which is actively promoting a deeply controversial policy of Islamicisation in a country that traditionally is proudly liberal and secular.

    4. Putin is accused of having an expansionist foreign policy and of hankering to re-establish the Soviet Union. In reality he has been working hard to establish good relations and to promote peaceful economic reintegration with Russia's former Soviet neighbours. Erdogan by contrast openly promotes a "neo Ottoman" foreign policy that has put him at loggerheads with his three neighbours, Syria, Armenia and Iran.

    5. Putin is criticised for being in power for too long and for standing as President for a third time, which is said to be contrary to the spirit (though not the letter) of the constitution. Erdogan has been in power for almost as long as Putin and unlike Putin is known to want to change the constitution to replace the country's parliamentary system with a powerful executive Presidency with himself as President.

    6. Putin is accused of repressing protest and of cracking down on his opponents. Protesters were however allowed to gather freely in Moscow and the police's handling of the protests was (as even some of the protesters admit) exemplary. In Turkey the police, urged on by Erdogan, reacted to the protests with extraordinary brutality and violence, injuring hundreds and perhaps thousands of protesters and killing several.

    7. Putin is criticised for his confrontational approach and his refusal to enter into a dialogue with the (self appointed) leaders of the protesters. In fact he has conceded many of their demands including for the return to direct election of governors and for the easing of the registration requirements on political parties. Erdogan by contrast has taken a totally confrontational approach to the protests, warning protesters to disperse, threatening to swamp them by calling out his own supporters, calling them "looters", threatening them with more violence from the police, and insisting that he will press on with the controversial development in Istanbul at the heart of the protests regardless of their concerns.

    Tell me, which of the two - Putin or Erdogan - is more deserving of criticism? Which of the two - Putin or Erdogan - actually gets it?
    AlexBond and Kolokol like this.
  3. Alexander Mercouris

    Alexander Mercouris Ship Secretary (11th class)

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    ....and here is Luke Harding's take in the Guardian, which also compares Erdogan with Putin by saying that Erdogan risks "becoming like" Putin.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/11/turkey-recep-tayyip-erdogan-must-compromise

    As I have said already, any comparison between Erdogan and Putin is overwhelmingly in Putin's favour. Even Luke Harding's claim that Erdogan has won fair elections and Putin has not is one that many Turks would challenge.

    On the day when the riot police cleared the squares in Istanbul at the centre of the protests after a day of violent street fighting the like of which has never happened in Russia the more apt comparison seems to be not between Erdogan and Putin but between Erdogan and Saakashvili.

    Like Saakashvili Erdogan has presided over an economic boom fuelled by massive foreign currency flows which has found expression in a construction and property boom. Like Saakashvili Erdogan has adopted strongly neo liberal economic policies, which mean that the benefits of the boom have been very unevenly distributed. Like Saakashvili Erdogan has tolerated and even fostered corruption within his inner circle whilst appearing to stamp on petty corruption when it takes places at lower levels. Like Saakashvili Erdogan has pursued a very aggressive and over ambitious foreign policy grounded on a romanticised image of the country's past. Like Saakashvili Erdogan has claims to be a democrat but shows an extreme intolerance to dissent. Like Saakashvili Erdogan has known real periods of great popularity but risks forfeiting that as concerns about his growing authoritarianism and his increasingly erratic behaviour grow.

    In Saakashvili's case the result was growing unpopularity leading eventually to the mass defection from him of the Georgian elite which had previously supported him resulting in a completely unexpected election defeat since when his authority has all but collapsed. No one any longer expects him to continue in office beyond October and for all practical purposes he is no longer in power. Whether the same or a similar fate awaits Erdogan remains to be seen.

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