Turkey is in a state of convulsion and disarray. People in general fear either return of autocracy or the military seizing power once again. And neither is what they want. The military, according to reports pouring out of Ankara, suggest is already restive over the government's response to the corruption scandal. And worse is the fact that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has already started showing signs of turning into an authoritarian ruler "utterly intolerant of independent voices or of autonomous institutions."
In Turkey today, a critic of the Prime Minister and his government is a national traitor — one who is out to destabilise the country, one who deserves to be condemned and dumped behind bars. Last year the country jailed at least 40 journalists making Turkey the most dangerous place in the world for scribes. For two year in a row Turkey earned the dubious distinction of being the world's biggest jailer of journalists.
Evidently, Erdogan and his administration do not want truth to be told. Even foreign envoys are not spared. American ambassador was branded as meddling when he raised concerns about Turkey's unfolding corruption scandals and its violation of certain international regulations.
Obviously, Erdogan is endangering democracy and polarising society because he is challenged by a "Deep State", his government's corruptions have been exposed and his time is fast running out. Yet, like any autocrat he wants to hang on. Time and again, especially last year, the Turkish Prime Minister has "repeatedly put his personal interest ahead of principle, prioritising short-term gains above good governance."
Over two dozen associates of the Prime Minister including ministers, officials, businessmen known to be close to the ruling party and sons and kinsmen of ministers and bureaucrats have lately been charged with shocking corruption cases. There are rumours that even Erdogan's son, Bilal, has been involved.
The exposure rocked Turkey so rudely that pat came the Prime Minister's claws out of the kid gloves. Once again he put his personal interests ahead of principle.
His government responded by firing dozens of officers and prosecutors who were investigating the scandals and exposed over eighteen people. The move was to gag truth and shove it under the carpets.
The government made no move to take actions against the corrupt and made brazen attempts to unleash the tyranny of majority. Yet, a political crisis evolved raising questions on "How long can Turkey's democratically elected leader rule by tyranny-of-the-majority?"
Erdogan and his government are perceptibly on their back foot. Writings on the walls in Turkey are now getting louder. End of Erdogan now appears only a matter of time. Desperate efforts are, therefore, on to salvage the situation. Government describes the scandal as a plot — a kind a coup attempt by the "Deep State." Serkan Demirtaş' report in Hürriyet Daily News says that even the Turkish envoys have been instructed to tell the world that the graft probe was actually a coup attempt.
Senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies John Hannah says that Erdogan alludes to a dark conspiracy launched by terrorist gangs, both foreign and domestic and holds them culpable for the current political crisis in Turkey.
These dramatic events, says Hannah, were simply the latest escalation in a long-simmering battle royale within the AKP's coalition. On one side: Erdogan and his followers, whose political roots lie in the transnational Muslim Brotherhood movement founded in Egypt in 1928. On the other: the Gulenists, a secretive society whose religious ideology bears a more distinctly Turkish flavour, led by Fethullah Gulen, a septuagenarian cleric who fled Turkey in the late 1990s and now lives in exile in rural Pennsylvania.
Well, in Turkey today a shadow play in fast unfolding. Erdogan loyalists feel that the "Deep State" or the "Parallel State" — the Gulenists have been striking back. It may be true. But, given today's context passing the buck on the Gulenists seems a fruitless effort to hush up matters which Turks are in no mood to overlook. They are also in no mood to accept whatever Erdogan offers. Turkish Prime Minister, in view of the shocking scandals, looks increasingly like the monarch who did not have any clothes. Or, may be one wearing absolutely transparent clothes.
The more he tries to hide more he is getting exposed. Erdogan, unfortunately, has not done what he should have. He should have responded by taking the probe further ahead, brought the culprits to book and stopped using the tyranny of majority to gag truth. He showed how unqualified he is in a democratic set up and that his priorities, lamentably, are all about power and wealth.
Blaming the Gulenists cannot save him in the elections due later this year. We admit that the Gulenists have been waiting for their turn to take their revenge and they are almost everywhere in Turkey, especially in the upper ranks of police, army and bureaucracy. They have their men even among the politicians. Yet, the Turks are not going to swallow the pill Erdogan wants them to gulp.
His tyrannical rule of majority is waning. It had worked during his fight against the omnipotent military of Turkey mainly because people then wanted supremacy of civilian rule over men in uniform. But, as Erdogan tries to employ his clichéd weapon this time by passing the buck on the Gulenists and subvert autonomous democratic institutions he is only creating a situation which may embolden and encourage the army to walk out of their barracks to take control yet again. The generals have actually been waiting for this opportunity for past one decade.
The author is the Opinion Editor of Times of Oman