How to read the increasingly alleniated Recep Tayyip Erdogan

For Turkish:

Abridged translation

Abdullah Gul (President of Turkey) who said “what’s been done in 10 years has been shattered in 10 days” must have understood how big a change Tayyip Erdogan’s image went through recently…

I watched the AKP rally in Kayseri in a café to see the effects of the ongoing political and psychological changes…changes that have been alternately read by the AKP and others as “the last flutter’ ‘to keep the voters base alive and awake’ ‘to break the conspiracy conjured up by foreign powers’ or ‘to burn the axe’.

There was a quiet calm in this neighbourhood of Istanbul [where the café is] which went from being a shanty town to a paradise of shopping malls and housing projects in the last 10 years. The prevailing attitude here is one of quiet observation and waiting rather than the excitement that’s fuelled by ‘we will not let you take down Tayyip Erdogan’ slogans.

I knew the owner and clientele of the café to be AKP supporters, who watched the provocative speech of Tayyip Erdogan quietly. No one was excited. They all drunk their tea and seem to be lost in deep thought. Perhaps, his speech was not instilling comfort in anyone that things will remain as they were.

I see myself as someone who has the right to investigate Tayyip Erdogan’s personality and political reflexes: because, as a journalist, I observed him closely on his way up.

I was on many of his trips abroad and his trips to almost all provinces of the country.

Time makes one less angry and more cool-headed. You start to look into the future more objectively. As your expectations lessen, you stop trying to find a balance.

That’s why I will try to analyse where Tayyip Erdogan is, as a “neutral journalist” rather than an opponent who suffered for years.

There is something that has always attracted my attention: Tayyip Erdogan never ever read anything.

No one has ever seen him with a book or a magazine. He didn’t even look at the reports prepared by the diplomats on his long trips abroad. Ambassadors would return empty handed from the front section of the plan, having given up trying to brief him.

Turkish Airlines would make daily Turkish newspapers available wherever we were in the world, but they would not even be unfolded. On the way back, we would ask for them from the security guards and read them.

Magazines like Marie Claire or Cosmopolitan were available on the flights Emine Hanim (PM’s wife) were present. While newspapers were not read, these magazines would do the rounds and everyone who wanted to cozy up to her would read them.

I am writing this as it can explain Tayyip Erdogan’s increasingly dark and closed off line of communication. I am writing this to tell you about a man who doesn’t read, who doesn’t use the internet, who watches only the soaps his wife and daughter watch, who doesn’t speak a foreign language, and someone who has a complex of not listening to experts and starts arguments with “are you going to teach me?” [PM said this to the director of DISK, a large trade union, when she mentioned ‘sociology’ at the meeting with Taksim Solidarity group representatives earlier this month]

For example, what most annoyed Tayyip Erdogan in all this time has been those who said the events were “not political but sociological”. This is why he’s targeted Mehmet Ali Alabora [an actor]. This is why he got angry with the lady from the union at the meeting.

But what does this explanation [not political but sociological] mean?

Shouldn’t it give comfort to Tayyip Erdogan?

Isn’t it a ‘saviour’ that the problem stems from the desire of the society to change rather than the policies or the personality of the PM?


The problem is with the word ‘sociological’.

The PM, who was fast aiming to return to his cultural roots, sees this word as an attack on his own shortcomings.

He is concerned that what’s implied is that he wasn’t taught about such subjects at the ‘college’ he attended, not that anyone managed to figure out which college this was.

This is why he asserts himself saying ‘We are not going to learn what sociology is from you!’

We are facing a case of memorised lines being forgotten or maybe a case of passing the use-by-date of a programmed mind.

The biggest political capability of Tayyip Erdogan is to learn the lines wisphered to him and learn his role.

He always acted within the bounds of global programmes.

Now, the global support for him has become opague, he has panicked and started to use his roots, and its underlying culture as a guide.

So much that he has fallen behind even the nationalists. His rallies in Ankara, Istanbul, Samsun and Kayseri will be written into the country’s history as examples of how religion can be abused.

Tayyip Erdogan is not worrying us with his provocative attidue, divisive language and where the country is heading…we know him well enough.

His behaviour, as if he is a baddie in a Turkish B movie, is worrying those who tried to create a ‘democrat’ and leader of ‘the next century’ out of him and those who sincerely believed in this project.

Because there are serious cracks in this ‘democratic prime minister’. One has to be deaf not to hear these cracks opening.

Whether we like it or not, the false democracy that was being forced on to the people during the 10 years of AKP government has been ‘educational’ for all. Everyone has become more ‘modern’, learnt something.

This is why Tayyip Erdogan’s language is not only freightening the ‘urban elites’ as he thinks but also ‘the new generation conservatives’ created by AKP and who think themselves as ‘urban’, who started going to cinemas, sending their children to private universities and swimming in pools, even if in separate pools for men and women.

Because this is not the language of the ‘democracy’ they’ve been fooled with for years…

This new generation is also watching the dive of Tayyip Erdogan down towards the magma with concern…

Now, everyone can see that the last 10 years have not added anything to Tayyip Erdogan’s political culture. He is insisting on doing the same politics and believing that the society is still in the same place as he is.

He seems to have set a ‘custody’ between him and the society.

The best example of this is his ‘is there anything you wanted that we didn’t give?’ approach in the early days of Gezi Park events.

He is trying to understand the public’s demands in the context of ‘bestow-thank’ [as if gov is doing a favour to the public by delivering services and hence deserves gratitude] which doesn’t have a place in democracies.

He still thinks behaving like a street bully which was once liked by the masses who had been discriminated against by the elite minority is the way to behave after 10 years of government.

He cannot see there is now a new generation and his bullyish pushy behaviour is annoying.

Worse still, he thinks the anti-communist propaganda from the 1950s will work.

What’s also clear is that Tayyip Erdogan is alienated beyond expectations.

Even those closest to him seem to have had enough of him making all the decisions himself, not accepting any discent, his freigtehning, arrogant and dismissive approach….they may have had enough more than those who are blaming PM’s advisors may suspect.

Unlike the common belief, Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t have ‘advisors’ around him who can steer him towards the right or the wrong.

Because Tayyip Erdogan does not give the right to ‘advice’ to any advisor. He sees such an attempt as disrespectful.

We’ve seen many advisors who excidetly started their work as such but have been quickly reduced to bag carriers, and in the longer term either being pushed away or resign.

In that sense, it’s like an ‘advisors (rubbish) tip’ around Erdogan.

It’s clear that not only those close to him, but the overall party structure is also taking its share of being dismissed. The fact that Gezi Park was a first test for the relationship between Erdogan and the party seems to have been missed by even the most astitude.

Let us not forget the confusion on PM’s return from Morocco. First, it was announced that there was no welcoming rally being organised.

In fact, Tayyip Erdogan was so not sure of there being a crowd, he postpone his departure and once his plane was in the Turkish air space, he couldn’t decide whether to land in Istanbul or Ankara.

At the end, he decided to land in Istanbul but Mr Tayyip and his wife stayed in the plane and sent Egemen Bagis to check the number of people gathered.

In his speech, Mr Tayyip attributed the attempts to open a dialogue in his absence to Arinc (Deputy PM) and Gul (President). This will be discussed in future.

Erdogan was for the first time in his life let down by his party and despite support from Melih Gokcek [Mayor of Ankara], found himself in a new position:

He was indebted to Melih Gokcek – someone who Erdogan was trying to get rid of for years to stop Gokcek’s attempts to take over.

Istanbul rally aside, the low turnout at Kayseri, Samsun and Erzurum shows the power of the support by Melih Gokcek and how Mr Tayyip will have to rely on it.

In short, Erdogan is now alone as the one and only target for the protests, his increasingly vulgar language supported only by his most fundamentalist supporters and dependent on Melih Gokcek.

There are talks of his ‘health problems’ his ‘unfitness to work’ just as was done to Ecevit (a previous PM) (RIP). These talks are not by the common people or his staunch opposers but from Fehmi Koru, who is known for his closeness to Abdullah Gul (the President).

It is clear at this point that even if Gezi movement is suppressed, this will not be the end of the issues and Mr Tayyip will not be able to return to his one-man rule.

Because he has declared war to a very large group of people. In front of him lies a difficult, harmful and uncertain “revenge” period.

First, there will be attempts to create ‘Ergenekon style’ investigations that aim to hold 17 year old kids who wrote on walls, columnists, TV soap starts and others responsible for this mass movement.

Any one and any institution from facebook to twitter, from foreign media to the EU representatives will be targeted. The fact that the public is no longer in fear of the consequences of their protests will not be accepted and protests will be provocated in this way.

More importantly, if we know something about Tayyip Erdogan, he is sure to start a campaign against the people within his party whom he believes to have stabbed him at the back during his Morocco visit and beyond.

Bulent Arinc may deny it but Tayyip Erdogan will want to ‘punish’ him for trying to open a dialogue.

It is also certain that Abdullah Gul is in the list of those to be held accountable for saying ‘democracy is not limited to the ballot box’.

We are not even counting: the newspapers who wrote about what the ‘witty kids’ were up to during the protests, TV channels who showed the protests live, public prosecutors who did not charge the protesters for there being no reason for a charge, judges who declared “protest is a constitutional right”, lawyers protesting wearing their gowns, and mayors who said ‘we will consult the public even when we’re locating a new bus stop’….


“Does Tayyip Erdogan have the strength to enter in such a tough negotiation?”

We don’t know the answer…

In fact even he doesn’t know…

But we know he will try and he will try to keep the resistance alive.

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