The big news from Turkey


I know you’re all wondering what’s new in Turkey. This is the big news. I also know it makes little sense to anyone outside of Turkey, so let me explain the two key points. If you remember these, you’ll be able to fake your way through any dinner party. Or Senate hearing, for that matter.

1) The AKP has been able to dominate Turkish politics since 2002 not because everyone here loves them so much, but because there’s been no credible opposition. The reason there’s been no credible opposition is that the main opposition party, the CHP, has been under the control of the elderly, authoritarian, singularly uninspiring Deniz Baykal. Think John Kerry’s populist touch mixed with John Edwards’ feel for fine ethical judgments. The big news — huge, from the Turkish perspective, although I’m aware it barely registered outside of Turkey — is that somehow, by means of a devilishly ingenious and typically Turkish conspiracy, Baykal’s enemies have finally forced him out. They caught him on tape with his mistress. Who caught him? Beats me. It’s not the kind of thing anyone claims credit for, really. But they got him. And he’s out. No, I haven’t seen the tape: The man is 71 years old, for God’s sake, that’s the last thing I want to watch.

So this completely changes the landscape. They’re calling the new CHP leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, a Turkish Gandhi who is going to revitalize the CHP and save Turkey. I wouldn’t take that all too seriously: The whole thing has a bit of an Obamamania feel. But definitely, for the first time there’s some sense that there’s an opposition party that means to win here.

Main point: The name you need to remember is Kılıçdaroğlu, and you pronounce it Kuh-luch-dar-o-loo, mild stress on “dar.” If you call him “Kemal Gandhi,” and say it with mild irony, you’ll sound particularly well-informed.

2) In fact, of all the policy proposals Kılıçdaroğlu’s come up with so far, only one counts: lifting parliamentary immunities. Everything else is hand-waving.

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  1. Profile Photo Member

    So the new leader of the Kemalist party is named Kemal? That’s convenient.

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  2. Profile Photo Member

    i assume these parliamentary immunities are of the same type the US congress enjoys

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  3. Profile Photo Contributor

    Dani Rodrik weighs in on the Turkish ruling party:

    Forged documents, planted evidence, secret witnesses, anonymous informants — these have become the weapons of choice in the massive campaign underway in Turkey to destroy the secular old guard and discredit the government’s opponents. It may look like a mildly Islamist but democratic government is using the rule of law to prevail over a militarist, hard-line secularist elite. But the reality is that the government and its supporters are waging a dirty war, in which hundreds of prominent individuals (officers, journalists, academics, lawyers) have been framed and incarcerated.

    Via PEG.

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  4. Profile Photo Editor

    “Think John Kerry’s populist touch mixed with John Edwards’ feel for fine ethical judgments.”

    Oh, now I get Turkish politics. But I admit it: I went to YouTube to search for at least a snippet of the sex tape that supposedly felled old Deniz Baykal. Nothing.

    But I have to say, I’m cheered up a bit about our old friends the Turks after reading your post, Claire. Robust opposition, hero worship, sex scandals — these are all signs of a western nation ready to join the EU.

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  5. Profile Photo Editor

    Don’t forget YouTube is banned here, Rob. Here’s an article I wrote about that.

    Anyway, if you were Turkish, how excited would you really be about joining the EU right about now? At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Europeans start supplicating to join Turkey.

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  6. Profile Photo Inactive

    So, Claire Hanım,

    What’s Kılıçdaroğlu like on foreign policy? What’s his take on the U.S.? Does he believe us to be an ally for modern, secular Turkey, or the AKP’s sinister puppet master, since both theories are au courant in the CHP?

    You’re dead right on the EU, too. If the U.S. hadn’t subcontracted Turkey policy to the vagaries of the EU accession committee, the country might have been spared some of its national identity crisis. For which, check out this hilarious and insightful little movie. Here’s the trailer (warning: auto-start and loud).

    Kolay gelsin,

    The ŒV

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  7. Profile Photo Inactive

    In Steyn’s mailbox today, the 3rd commenter suggests some Turks might be interested in using Greece’s impending disaster as an opportunity to take back some formerly Turkish islands. Just lawnchair bravado or a genuine possibility?

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  8. Profile Photo Member

    Claire: A Steyn riff in recent years has been that Tukey’s move in the Islamist, AKP direction has been more a demographic phenomenon, as the city-dwellers have fewer and fewer kids while the more religious countryside continues to have high fertility rates (you know Mark). It would be a relief to find out that this has all been just the result of bad politics by the previously inept CHP. Long term, is there hope for secularism in Turkey, or is a revitalized CHP just a bump in the road on its inexorable march toward Islamism? There’s a lot at stake in that answer.

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  9. Profile Photo Contributor

    My view has always been that a restoration of the Ottoman Empire was always the best solution for Iraq, but I’m a reactionary. Speaking of the Turks; had dinner with a pal who is a big studio president here in Hollywood last week. Turkey came up and he proudly told me he has a large portrait of Ataturk in his office. Most of the showbiz people that visit him think it is Count Dracula. His says the smart ones say Bela Lugosi…

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  10. Profile Photo Editor

    I have no doubt some Turks look at it that way. I doubt enough of them do to make it a genuine possibility in the near term.

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  11. Profile Photo Member

    The peace & freedom flotilla is just a PR grab. Both Egypt & Israel offered to off load their goods & truck them to Gaza. What is the peace & freedom guys trying to hide?

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  12. Profile Photo Inactive

    I recently joined ricohet generally after I saw some of your postings and I was very interested in talking to someone who lived in the mid east “environment, especially in Turkey. I have always had a very favorable impression of Turkey based on their general support of the US. Much of this was based on attitudes based on personal contact with very westernized Turks. My father had a very favorable impression of the Turkish military based on his association with them during the Korean War. There evidently was a close personal relationship with my father and members of the Turkish military as a Turkish officer presented him with a Turkish Army pistol as a result of some effort they did during the war in Korea in late 1950 or early 1951. So what happened? I thought the Turkish military kept an eye on the Turkish political class to keep them from sliding back into what one European I once knew refereed to as the “cesspool of the middle east”. Is Islamism creeping into the secular Turkish culture and what I once perceived as sophisticated, educated Turks, support this change in attitude? What do you see from the average Turk?

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