The New Turkey Phenomenon

If you were to scratch today's date off a number of ideologically-charged opposition papers and replaced them with, say, 1989 or 2002, you would encounter no absurd situation.

There are at least two fundamental challenges ahead for Turkey: (1) The implementation and institutionalization of the construction of “new Turkey” and; (2) the future of “old Turkey’s” proponents. The new Turkey agenda currently enjoys support from a large chunk of society that extends beyond the AK Party’s voter base. Meanwhile, the old Turkey camp maintains enough power to influence the country’s political agenda even though their chances of ruling the nation remains extremely slim.

At this point, Turkey does not suffer from political uncertainty, since the 2015 parliamentary elections will settle the ongoing debate over government for good. After years of hard work, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan created a fertile ground for his movement’s projects. Today, it is within Turkey’s reach to build a new structure on this fertile land that can speak to the entire society.

The elimination of uncertainty regarding political power-holders simultaneously reduces questions about the opposition to a minimum. The opposition itself determines developments within the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main component of the bloc, and the limits of its appeal to voters. It remains difficult for members of the opposition to challenge these arbitrary boundaries, considering that they need to keep a fictional world intact in order to not alienate their supporters and prevent their electoral borders from shrinking.

As such, the current state of affairs closely resembles the plot of “Good Bye Lenin!” director Wolfgang Becker’s 2003 motion picture, which tells the story of Christiane, a female supporter of the Socialist Unity Party of East Germany, who becomes comatose after suffering a heart attack in 1989 and wakes up the next year – after the reunification. Concerned about her health, her son Alex engages in an elaborate plot to trick her into thinking that she still lived in East Germany, and becomes extremely successful in his attempts to replicate the old times through East German products, archive footages of TV news and old newspapers. Whilst thinking that everything would be fine unless Christiane would start walking, Alex soon figures out that the fiction was unsustainable.

Turkish author Refik Halit Karay’s 1939 play “Deli” (Madman) also follows a similar plot and tells the story of an Ottoman bureaucrat who loses his mind the day before the Constitutional Revolution of 1908 and wakes up twenty years later with his memory intact. Unfortunately, the developments in Turkey today represent a recurring trauma for some groups similar to the two works of fiction mentioned above. It goes without saying that there will be no shortage of Good Bye Lenin moments during the construction period. It, too, remains to be seen whether the Aug. 10 presidential election ended the opposition’s comatose state.

Media reports alone attest to this fact: If you were to scratch today’s date off a number of ideologically-charged opposition papers and replaced them with, say, 1989 or 2002, you would encounter no absurd situation. Unfortunately, the same goes for Kemalist as well as Turkish and Kurdish nationalist groups. Having reduced political opposition to standing one’s ground no matter what, opposition groups will have a difficult time looking into alternatives. Together, they have created an atmosphere where revisiting one’s ideas amounts to treason. In this sense, it would be naïve to expect them to bid farewell to the old Turkey – and imagine that Lenin was not even German!

[Daily Sabah, 05 September 2014]

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