Geopolitics

Erdogan’s Unique Recipe Of Nearly Absolute Power

Why was President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's supposed ally forced out of the Prime Minister post? The answer lies in the particular ambitions of this Turkish leader.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, November, 2015
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, November, 2015
Nuray Mert

ISTANBUL â€" Good thing that Davutoglu kept his silence.

The die-hard supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were on the verge of calling outgoing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu a “coup conspirator.” For you never can tell what those surrounding the President might end up doing once accusations start circulating about being “Germany’s man” or “America's man.”

This is how things are in Turkey right now: You can't tell who might be run off the path at any given moment. The answers to the question: "What was Davutoglu's crime?" come from the people of his own party, his own political mission. His crime, fault, sin was this: the level of "compliance" was not sufficient.

“He did not understand that the system had changed,” one observer said of Davutoglu, a longtime ally of Erdogan.

Well, to be truthful, we are having a hard time gauging this “system change” too. There is a major change underway in Turkey, but it has nothing to do with any kind of a system â€" but in fact is the lack of one. Let us remember that scene years ago when Erdogan was Prime Minister, and as part of the tradition on the Turkish children's annual holiday, a child symbolically sits in the Prime Minister's seat. “Now, you have the authority," Erdogan told the child. "You hang whoever you want, you slay whoever you want. You have everything.”

It was understood in time that the office of prime minister, or even now the presidency, were never enough for Erdogan. These positions still do not let you to hang or slay at will. And thus, a “Turkish-style presidency” is now being born.

I don't know if Erdogan's ambitions have anything to do with Turkishness. It reminds me of the “Eastern despotism” imagined in the heads of Orientalists in the West. We have been forced to argue against these ideas that despotism, or "sultanism," is somehow exclusive to the East or to the Ottoman Empire. The truth is that there was political and institutional order that enabled the reign over a vast geography for centuries. But, it is clear that our political Islamists, just like western Orientalists, believe our “historic legacy” was the arbitrary rule of an individual. Now we hear people calling this a “Turkish-style presidency.”

Full compliance

And yet now we see the transformation, of which even Davutoglu became an obstacle, into a total arbitrary approach to governance; a call for full compliance that can be summed up as: “Allah is great, Erdogan is our leader.”

It's almost surprising that they haven't sought to eliminate the parliament, constitution and the supreme judiciary because, ultimately, Erdogan believes he knows better than everyone about everything. All those institutions would be unnecessary within the scope of the ideas of the presidency they are throwing around. Of course, parts of those institutions must remain so there are positions and opportunities to hand out to the loyalists, to keep alive the “who is more loyal to the chief” race â€" always run under the disguise of “the cause.”

Now Davutoglu, who might have been considered the last check on power, at least in terms of foreign policy, is gone. I am afraid that the sequel in the Turkey film series will be highly violent. Children should be kept away.

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Society

What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel

-Essay-

BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.


Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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