The Turkish original of this article was published as 'Alman basını bizi neden öpüyor?' on 23rd June 2015.
How are we to take it when six leading German papers and periodicals come out with nearly identical headlines targeting President Erdoğan and accusing him of “issuing threats” or adopting a “threatening posture”?
This much is clear: Just like the American media, the German media, too, appear to have acquired a tremendous interest in Turkey over the last few years. Previously, they would have neglected to report on developments of much greater significance. What is now behind this deepening interest?
Just who, according to the German media, is being threatened by Tayyip Erdoğan? The opposition parties — to judge by all the recent reporting in German papers and periodicals. OK, so how is he threatening them?
According to these German papers, by saying that “If a coalition is not forthcoming, Turkey will have to head for early elections.”
This is utterly unlike all the news and information that we are getting. Are the German media able to see something which is eluding us? As far as we are able to make out, the AKP is simply not in the mood for early elections. Inside the party the main tendency, to the best of our knowledge, is in favor of a coalition with the CHP. Prime Minister Davutoğlu is also said to be inclined in this direction. A second option within the AKP is a coalition with the MHP.
Let us add that ever since the first election results started coming out, Devlet Bahçeli of the MHP has been the only party leader to imply that he might prefer early elections. No other party has expressed any interest in it.
And why should early elections be perceived as a threat anyway? The bottom line is that we are talking of resorting to the ballot box yet again. Otherwise put, going to the popular will, to what the people want.
Rolling out the red carpet for General Sisi
What is the matter with these leading German papers and periodicals? Why should Germany be so concerned? Why should the US be so concerned? For months now, the press in these two countries has been promoting roughly the following image: “Under Erdoğan’s leadership, there has emerged a Turkish régime that is power-crazy, displaying various irrational aspects, and distancing itself from the modern world. It is promoting Islamism, and supporting IS in Syria. It is trying to create a region-wide Sunni front.”
In some readers’ comments published in German newspapers, it is even possible to come across remarks comparing Erdoğan with Hitler.
Curiously, though, we don’t see people with this kind of outlook displaying a similarly harsh intolerance toward the anti-democratic régimes in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Recently Germans rolled out the red carpet for General Sisi, the leader of the military coup in Egypt, when he came visiting. German media reactions to Sisi and the Egyptian régime were a far cry from what they have been reserving for Erdoğan.
There is a functioning system in Turkey
The fact of the matter is that elections have been held, and the will and voice of the people have crystallized. While there are some problems with the system, basically we are passing through familiar processes common to all parliamentary régimes. First the National Assembly has to elect its Chairperson. Then, party leaders will embark on negotiations intended to come up with a coalition government. One way or the other, this parliament will bring forth a cabinet from within itself. Currently there are no obstacles in the way.
And in case a new government cannot be formed, as in all other parliamentary régimes the matter will have to be taken to the electorate yet again.
Turkey is a country that has largely emerged from under the shadow of a military trusteeship, with a parliamentary régime capable of standing on its own feet. Compared with the rest of the region, it has a stable system.
Or course, there are some outstanding issues of a structural sort, such as the 10 percent threshold, the Law on Political Parties, the Electoral Law, and ultimately the 1982 Constitution. We do keep criticizing the AKP over all this. We keep pointing to the dangers of occasional outbursts capable of damaging the Solution Process. We think that critiques of Presidential non-impartiality should be taken seriously. At the same time there is a parliament that is truly representative of 95 percent of society.
The Syrian question
Turkey has so far remained aloof (despite various American demands) of any approaches that might entail military conflict or outright war with Syria. During the IS siege of Kobani, it was able to resist all the pressure for an intervention against Syrian territory.
It has admitted millions of refugees. It has stretched our resources to the limit to enable them to survive, thereby adopting an exceptionally humane position.
Of course it is possible to dispute Turkey’s impact on the Syrian civil war (though at the same time, one has to recognize the value of taking great care not to get directly involved in the conflict). Similarly, it could be said that forever refusing to recognize the new régime in Egypt is not realistic, or to be critical of the escalation of tensions with Israel.
All this can be laid on the table again and again.
But at the end of the day, we are talking about a country with a functioning parliamentary régime. So what does this imply for those who would like to see and to show up Turkey as a “postmodern sultanate”?
German papers and periodicals pride themselves on being objective and dispassionate. How are we supposed to take it when they start going in for turns of phrase like “Turkey has caught an opportunity to dethrone the sultan”? Do you believe that democracy and human rights are truly all that the Western media are after?