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What does Erdogan mean?

Publication Date : 14-08-2014

 

When the results came through on Sunday, it was no surprise. Recep Tayyip Erdogan won again.

This time the long-serving Turkish prime minister won a directly elected presidential contest and took over from fellow party member Abdullah Gul.

The same Gul who was in fact the man who stepped aside for Erdogan when he became PM in 2003.

At an extraordinary congress of the ruling Justice and Development party later this month, Erdogan’s successor as prime minister will be chosen and you wouldn’t bet against it being Gul, as Turkey’s leaders play the sort of musical chairs that Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev are so adept at.

Notably though, during his term as president, Gul showed some signs of independence and it remains to be seen if Erdogan would prefer someone a little more compliant.

For all his electoral triumphs, it is abundantly clear that Turkey is pretty polarised now.

Some 21 million voted for Erdogan, but 20 million voted against him.

In large swathes in Turkey’s Eastern and Western regions, his opponents (Kurdish leftist Selahattin Demirtas and veteran academic/diplomat Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu) held sway among voters ever wary of Erdogan’s dictatorial tendencies.

But despite the Gezi Park demonstrations of June 2013, a corruption scandal which saw three ministers resign in December 2013 and constitution-based challenges to his candidacy, Erdogan’s hold over Turkey’s conservative heartland saw him through.

What a difference time can make, really. Erdogan was once synonymous with reformist ideals and cited as an example by many in Islamic nations, yet he is now a leader accused of autocratic tendencies and undoing the secular nature of the Turkish state that was forged by Kemal Ataturk.

Ironically this comes at a time when Malaysia’s own political climate is heating up again. PAS, a party which trades on its religious links and boasted a good many Erdogans, might well find itself at a crossroads as to whether to continue in Pakatan Rakyat or work with the other side.

Regardless of the outcome, my main hope is that we move away from politics of personalities and horse-trading, of race and religion, of urban and rural divides.

Let’s be honest, we are a politically immature nation.

Our citizens are unused to a change in federal leadership and more likely to fall for political theatre and rabble-rousing than they are to stick to ideological precepts.

I would love to see some true political realignment, not a pair of rival coalitions which are both deeply flawed.

I believe strongly in a secular, social-democratic system with equitable distribution of wealth and a government that plays an active role in forging a national identity.

That simply can’t happen if our political and education systems are ridden with divisions based on race, religion and language.

I have waited all my life for this archaic system to be overhauled but it seems more entrenched than ever.

In Turkey, the divisions are clear and the competing forces each have a fighting chance, while in Malaysia the battle lines seem more muddled than ever today.

Are Malaysia’s would-be Erdogans prepared to take a stand that would reshape the landscape forever?

 

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