We have moved / Taşındık!

If you're reading this, you've come to the old home for the James in Turkey website. The website has changed servers and adopted a new look ahead of the 2014 local election.

For the latest Turkish politics and election analysis from Michael Daventry redirect your bookmarks to jamesinturkey.com.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Did Erdogan tell Mubarak to go? Just a little bit.

Amidst all the drama coming out of Egypt, there's been a bit of a buzz about the Turkish prime minister's call to Hosni Mubarak. A number of outlets - notably the excitable Los Angeles Times - have been reporting that Mr Erdoğan used his speech today to turn against the Egyptian president and call on him to step down. That's not strictly true. Here's what he said:

"I want to make a very genuine recommendation, a very heartfelt warning to the President of Egypt Mr Hosni Mubarak," the prime minister said earlier today. "We are mortals, not permanent. Each one of us will die and will be questioned on that which we have left behind. As Muslims, we will all be going to a two-cubic-metre hole (in the ground). ... All that comes with you will be your shroud. 

"That is why we should listen to the voices of both our consciences and our people. Lend an ear to the people's cry, to their most humane demands, and meet their call for change without hesitation. ... Freedoms can no longer be delayed or overlooked in today's world. Elections that span over months cannot be called democracy."

A few points on this:

1. These were carefully crafted remarks. Mr Erdoğan did not explicitly call on Mr Mubarak to go. He urged "quick action" so that there is "no opportunity" given to those "dark forces" who want to "exploit the people's call for change" - all those words are his.

2. This is not a call from the Turkish parliament. Mr Erdoğan was addressing his parliamentary party, not the general assembly, when he said the above. No motion has been tabled or passed.

3. The obvious: Turkey is Muslim. Clearly, it's significant that the democratically-elected leader of the Muslim world's best example of a democracy has spoken out in defence of Egypt's protest movement. Mr Erdoğan's stock has risen in the Arab world over his outspoken comments on Israel. The question is whether his words carry weight now.

4. America's implicit support: Mr Erdoğan was one of the world leaders to receive a call during Barack Obama's telephone diplomacy session over the weekend. I would be astonished if today's statement comes as a surprise to the United States.

5. For you seasoned followers of Turkish domestic politics, the right-wing Nationalist Action Party (MHP) used the events in Egypt to send a warning to the prime minister. "Abuse of the state's power and resources can have consequences," said Devlet Bahçeli, party leader, in a speech to his own parliamentary party. He is absolutely right: it's partly why his own party was booted out of government in 2002.

3 comments:

samsa said...

thanks for imformative blog

istanbuldespatch.com said...

#3 has it best. And I quote from Istanbul Calling in that the best way for Turkey to put itself forward as a role model for the wave fo revolution sweeping the Middle East (latter are my words) "is to emphasize its Islamic identity, which may explain why in his parliament speech, Erdogan use a distinctly religious tone in his appeal for Mubarak to step down." -- even if he didn't explicitly say step down.

and re: #5, much as I hate to agree with the loathsome Bahçeli, just where is Erdoğan heading with his seeming severing of ties with the liberal set by suing Ahmet Altan?

A role model? In comparison to the dictatorships that riddle the Middle East, yes; but Erdoğan's increasing intolerance of any criticism via the courts, not to mention the AKP's overblock of the web, puts him/them somewhat in the same league of the very regimes they deem to be 'above'. It's certainly not very EU!

James said...

More astonishing was the prime minister's claim that columnists are now free to write what they like, as opposed to eight years ago when "their words could be purchased." This from the same man who is so trigger-happy with court cases, Ahmet Altan being just one of them. You have to sometimes wonder whether he's really believe what he says.