“Deep trouble” in Turkey’s relationships with Europe and the United States was a recurring theme in the December address of Michael Meier — representative to America and Canada for Germany’s Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES), or the Foundation for Social Democracy. His introduction to the Middle East Institute (MEI) and FES’ eighth annual Turkey Conference at Washington, DC’s National Press Club was an appropriately gloomy preface to the discussion of Turkey’s troubled past and present.
Fellow panelist, Foundation for Defense of Democracies senior fellow Aykan Erdemir, confirmed Kuru’s analysis from the perspective of a former Turkish parliamentarian. Erdogan has been able “to criminalize the opposition,” Erdemir declared, with judicial harassment techniques like the false charges aimed at discrediting the former lawmaker in Turkey. Yet, Erdemir added, Erdogan is deeply interested in “keeping the illusion going that Turkey is not a dictatorship,” so he “has to come up with some sort of opposition-like looking actors so that there can be a ballot box at the end.”
“The next important stage in Turkish political history is how to reconstitute polyarchy,” he concluded gravely.
Erdemir reflected upon the legacy of the one-time alliance between Erdogan’s AKP and the shadowy Turkish Islamist movement of Fethullah Gülen, which are now bitter rivals. The “lasting legacy of 11 years of Erdogan-Gülen alliance, from 2002 to December 2103, will be hollowed-out institutions,” which “will remain with Turkish citizens beyond the life-term of these two individuals.”
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