Last Friday’s coup in Turkey, which aimed to provoke a military takeover, failed, but the country’s current political set-up is still far from perfect. As the nation’s President resumed control in the early hours of Saturday morning, some might have seen the survival of Erdoğan as an example of widespread support for him from the Turkish people.
But do not be fooled. With ever harsher clamps upon the southern European nation’s press, ethnic, and societal freedoms, the President’s regime is highly controversial. His policies are not progressive, and ought to be halted fast. It must be something a little comforting, however, to see that predominant support for his presidency when contrasted with potentially dangerous military rule is existent. Myriad citizens have taken to the streets in pro-government demonstrations over past days. The public faced with the lesser of two evils, President Erdoğan still has an increasing monopoly over domestic policy, furthered by this week’s emergency decrees.
Turkey’s past is not one that revolves around finite democracy. Whilst the country is certainly more democratic than it were ten years ago, it is clear that the Erdoğan presidency is not one which encompasses all human rights. This week, President Erdoğan has made no delay of his purge of public office, effortlessly chucking out opponents to his rule. Real power lies exclusively in the hands of the governing AKP.
After last week’s coup attempt, President Erdoğan’s recent actions are not surprising. Just a few days ago, Turkey brushed up against a regime of heightened authoritarianism which ought to have any last drops of momentum soaked up. This week, thousands upon thousands of civil servants, judges and other public officials thought to not side fully with the Erdoğan regime have been forcibly removed from their posts. Today, over 1,000 privately run education institutions will be closed. More than 58,000 people in total are thought to be feeling the effects of the President’s latest purge which he justifies with the need to destroy chances of an even more dangerous coup. Already this year, President Erdoğan has waged a tough war on scores of press journalists who actively speak out against the AKP’s semi-authoritarian regime, an act which largely defies the supposed democratic principles upon which Turkey is said to be built.
Currently, Turkey is one of the most talked-about nations in the world, the end point of Europe and gateway to the Middle East. A hugely advantageous base for the West in interventions against the so-called Islamic State, as well as for dealing with the refugee crisis which continues to grow in seriousness, Turkey’s mustn’t be upset. But maintaining our nations’ moral and political integrity is still important.
Handing privileges of fast-tracked EU membership to Turkey in return for saving the EU from a great deal of the refugee crisis, or allowing the gravely problematic Erdoğan regime to exist undemocratically is simply not permissible. The persecution of dissidence, slamming of anti-regime journalists, and the force-feeding of government prescribed values is unacceptable for Western support no matter the advantages.
British Prime Minister Theresa May’s current views of Turkish disarray are feeble, as she last week underlined the importance of a rule of law within Turkey. The biggest problem is that Turkey’s rule of law is not robust, and that its constitution is hugely flawed. Moreover, such a draconian President should not be permitted by major Western powers.
I am sure that Erdoğan’s plans for controlling dissenters will incite fear among the Turks, but more organised coups with wider support could materialise in the near future. One of them may even win, posing greater problems for the Middle East and the currently fragile European Union. Turkey’s growing relationship with traits of authoritarianism is highly toxic, and failing to stamp out Erdoğan’s politics could result in absolute chaos.
The UK and the rest of the West’s lax attitude to the government’s purging of opponents, and rejection of the European Convention on Human Rights is thus abominable. Turkey is certainly an extremely useful global actor, but our absolutely necessary reliance upon the nation cannot prevent us from upholding typically European values of democracy. Full friendship with Turkish authorities must not come until its political system is strong. Currently President Erdoğan is monumentally pushing over European and North American States and their integrity.
If Erdoğan continues, instability will eventually arrive, prime stomping ground for extremists and a nursery for terrorism. If anything, the attempted coup last week has shown that discontent in relation to the Turkish government is brewing. Turkey’s politics and society are extremely volatile. It is time that the West took the hint, and implemented sturdier pillars of democracy. For it is in the interests of Western nations to prevent a better organised future coup, which could have the potential for more authoritarian principles. Such an attack on Turkey’s already weak political infrastructure could devastate not only the country itself, but also the future of the European Union and standards of international security.