A Postscript on Turkish Elections: Retraction, Apology, and Clarification

11 Jun

Hilal Elver and I are grateful to several readers of our blog that pointed out that The Economist does, in fact, routinely make endorsements of candidates and parties in foreign elections, including those of Northern liberal democracies. We reacted too impulsively to the uproar in the Turkish media that did find The Economist editorial insulting and interventionary without ourselves adequately checking the practice of the magazine. The Turkish reaction, incidentally, spanned the entire spectrum of opinion from left to right, from socially conservative to secular permissive. We say this without wanting to explain away our own responsibilities to know what we are talking about!

While apologizing for this mistaken way of framing the issue our basic argument still holds. The Economist tone and phrasing still strikes us as ‘Orientalist,’ and seems different in style and language than its standard endorsements of co-equal countries: U.S., Canada, Israel. Turkey‘s sensitivities are historically frayed by European penetrations of their sovereign space during the decades of Ottoman decline in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Turkish reaction reflected this sensitivity, not inappropriately, in our view. Post-colonial consciousness, even for countries such as Turkey that were never actually colonized, is part of our 21st century reality. And this sensitivity may be underscored by the trials and tribulations heaped on Turkey recently by the European Union accession demands that seem endless and do not disclose much light at the end of the tunnel.

A further point of clarification concerns the main substantive foundation of The Economist recommendation of a vote against the AKP: namely, the desirability of slowing down the Erdogan drive toward authoritarianism via constitutional reform, transforming Turkey present parliamentary system into a presidential system along the lines of France, which would enable Erdogan to remain the Turkish leader for a further ten years after his present term expires. We endorsed, in general terms, this concern, but would now qualify it to the extent that much criticism of the AKP, and Erdogan in particular, has been exaggerated, and that there are indications that the AKP leadership is itself rather divided on whether constitutional reform should move in the direction of a presidential system. There seem to be more checks and balances within the AKP than is admitted by its fiercest secular critics.

With the election results expected in the next few days, it will become clear whether this issue of AKP dominance in real or imagined, and in the months ahead, what the shape the needed process of constitutional reform will take.


11 Responses to “A Postscript on Turkish Elections: Retraction, Apology, and Clarification”

  1. wadingacross June 11, 2011 at 8:44 am #

    Me thinks you are too optimistic and overly deluded with liberal, outdated western ideas of what and how Turkey is and will operate.

    Turkey is turning Islamist. It only takes a few to run a country and it only takes a simple majority of fooled people to elect a “sleeper”. The AKP has been changing the paradigm in Turkey that made in secular with checks and balances to keep it that way. Apparently the military has been emasculated as has the media, both of which were supposed to be checks against the government to keep it secular.

    It is irrelevant whether or not the AKP has internal divisions. The fact is that the party is in control and will remain in control. A party that has majority control over other parties can and will run roughshod over the minority parties even when there is internal friction within their own majority party.

    All you have to do is look at the US and our elections to get a good example of this. In 2006 and 2008 until 2010 the Democrats were able to run through anything they wanted because they had the majority and for the first nearly two years of Obama’s administration, the White House and Congress were like a well oiled leftist wetdream.

    • H.T.Odds June 12, 2011 at 1:38 pm #

      What a whole lot of “outdated” fascist, racist ideas! I can hardly believe this commentary is for real. If Liberal ideas are outdated in the West, what’s left of democracy, human rights, free speech….

  2. Albert Guillaume June 11, 2011 at 10:12 am #

    It seems to me,that Turkey is a very much misunderstood and wrongfully criticized country.Its degree of secularism seems to me like a perfect balance between the two religions of Christians and Muslims.Why is it,that a lot of people find the western meddling in other sovereign countries` internal affairs like an elections,are normal,but tell everybody to butt out,when opinions about their country`s election are expressed.What makes the US so special,that it for instance feels to have the right to directly influence the elections of say Haiti,where their meddling exceeds the obnoxious and the legal borders?The abuse of the concentrated western msm makes me grateful for the internet.

    • Arda011 June 20, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      It seems to me,that Turkey is a very much misunderstood and wrongfully criticized country.

      You should go and read some news articles about Turkey for the last 10 years and you will see how several international and national news media changed their ”tone” or their point of view regarding PM Erdogan and Turkey. Especially how some (neocons and zionists) are trying to demonize PM Erdogan and his party after the Davos 2009 incident.

  3. Carmela June 11, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Seymour Hersh said that only 8 or 9 neocons in Washington DC changed our whole US government. Changed it for the worse. War, war, war. Civil liberties of no concern. Torture is fine and dandy, especially if torture gets someone to say something you want said, like that there are Al Qaeda all over the place plotting to kill Americans.

    Erdogan appears to represent the will of the Turkish people. Not so our US government. The public is sick and tired of wars and military spending but we will get more of it because our democracy has nothing to do with governance.

  4. Yabanci Yaa June 13, 2011 at 5:58 am #

    One need only look at the books the economist endorses on the topic of Turkey to see their patronizing view of the country.

  5. Haniyah Joon June 14, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    I wonder why the professor takes the time to admit uproar of media in Turkey. If they believe in democracy, so they need to accept criticism on any account, furthermore, endorsing a candidate or party is totally normal and it doesn’t relate to post-colonial reality! When pres. Obama was nominated for election, Europe instantly fell in love with the notion of him being a president and European media used every occasion to support his candidacy. I never heard during that time, Americans complain about this. Reaction of Turkish media is whole demonstration of inefficiency of its democracy. Dear prof. Falk you shouldn’t have written that letter, in my opinion.

    • Richard Falk June 14, 2011 at 9:16 am #

      I understand your reaction, but I continue to feel that the tone of The Economist’s
      advice to Turkish voters was condescending in ways that are absent when discussing elections in the U.S., Europe or even Japan. Maybe the argument should have been phrased differently. Thanks for your comment.

      • Arda011 June 20, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

        Professor Falk please keep up the good work

        Erdogan is truly a great statesmen. Thanks to him:
        1) Turkey has become the 16th largest economy in the world (from 26th);
        2) After China its the fastest growing G20 country;
        3) It has become a model for democracy and freedom in the region;
        4) It dares to speak out against the Zionist regimes unlawful acts;
        5) It has done more one freedom, democracy and accountability than all previous governments combined;

        You know professor Falk , if you look back at the past 9 years rule of Erdogan and his party. You will see how good they did their work under such difficult circumstances.

        – War between Russia and Georgia
        – The biggest financial crisis since the thirties
        – Greece in deep financial problems
        – Enduring conflict between Azerbaijan en Armenia
        – Cyprus conflict
        – Enduring sanctions and embargoes on Iran & Syria
        – The war about the ”WMD” in Iraq
        – Several coup attempts
        – Trying to shutdown the AK Party
        – Kemalist idealistic judiciary and state apparatus blocking every new law
        – A very weird staunch backward opposition (alias Dino Baykal’s chp)
        – Governing a country that had one of the worse credit rating in the world and a currency with 6-digits.

        Under all these events and circumstances (which created a lot of instability and bad for the economy) they still managed to achieve high degrees of economic growth and democratization.

  6. Arda011 June 20, 2011 at 1:58 pm #

    Its been interesting to follow The Economist’s stand on the recent election in Turkey.
    Firstly, I was surprised to read that The Economist recommended Turks to vote for CHP. The Economist has before recommended change and etc. in different elections worlwide, however, its the first time I see them mentioning a specific party without any factual reasoning.

    Secondarily, I dont know how and through who The Economist followed the Turkish election and Erdogan. The Economist states that he has taken on an anti Kurdish tone. Could The Economist please mentioned one single example to support this? As Fahrettin Tahir also mentions, he has taken on an anti PKK terrorism tone, which is only natural.

    Thirdly, The Economist is also against a French-style presidential system, saying that it is wrong for the country, without providing their readers with arguments behind this opposition. Does The Economist not have faith in the democratic system, since they fear some kind of a dictatorship in Turkey?

    In the end, its not what an foreign based magazine thinks that matters, its Mrs. Ayse in Kayseri and Mr. Dogan in Turkey, who made use of their democratic rights and voted for a party who has proven to be the best solution for Turkey.

    • Richard Falk June 20, 2011 at 3:23 pm #

      Thanks for your comments with which I agree. The West for reasons you suggest are reluctant to give Erdogan and the AKP credit for their extraordinary record of achievement.

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