Back in August, Nationalist opposition leader Devlet Bahceli took to Twitter to call Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “locally produced Hitler, Stalin or Qaddafi”:
Yönetim sistemi bir ki?inin eline kald?ysa vay halimize! Bizim yerli üretim Hitler’e, Stalin’e, Kaddafi’ye tahammülümüz olmaz, bu iyi biline
— Devlet Bahçeli (@dbdevletbahceli) August 15, 2015
That comment came as Erdogan was busy undermining the coalition building process on the way to calling for new elections. “Accept it or not, Turkey’s governmental system has become one of an executive presidency,” Erdogan said, the day before the tweet shown above was published. “What should be done now is to finalize the legal framework of this de facto situation with a new constitution,” Erdogan continued.
For anyone in need of a refresher, Erdogan’s plans to make Turkey an executive presidency were derailed in June when the pro-Kurdish HDP put on a better show at the ballot box than expected, robbing AKP of its absolute majority in parliament.
The President effectively nullified the election results by calling for a November redo ballot.
“He’s now saying ‘I won’t listen to the laws or constitution.’ This is a very dangerous period,” warned Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Main Republican People’s Party. “He wants to give a legal foundation to this coup he’s carried out. Those who carry out coups always do this: First they carry out the coup, then they give it a legal foundation.’”
Fast forward four months and we’ve seen Erdogan shoot down a Russian warplane and intensify a crackdown on the Kurds which many thought would dissipate once AKP reinstated its iron grip on politics in November.
Now, as Erdogan pushes to officially transform the Turkish presidency from a figurehead role (obviously Erdogan is anything but a figurehead, but this is about enshrining powers he shouldn’t have into law) into a chief executive position, the President is appealing to history. As it turns out, the opposition aren’t the only ones who compare the strongman to Hitler.
“There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany,” Erdogan said on Thursday, when asked whether it was possible to maintain the unitary structure of the state under an executive presidential system. “There are later examples in various other countries,” he added, in an apparent effort to soften the blow.
AKP agreed this week to work with CHP on a new constitution. As Reuters notes, “Opposition parties agree on the need to change the constitution, drawn up after a 1980 coup and still bearing the stamp of its military authors, but do not back the presidential system envisaged by Erdogan, fearing it will consolidate too much power in the hands of an authoritarian leader.”
Of course PM and yes man par excellence Ahmet Davutoglu is on board. “What is right for Turkey is to adopt the presidential system in line with the [democratic] spirit,” he says. “This system will not evolve into dictatorship but if we do not have this spirit, even the parliamentary system can turn into this [dictatorship].” Who knows what that means other than that Erdogan won’t get any argument out of Davutoglu.
“[Erdogan] wants a presidential system in Turkey. He did not change his mind after the last election. I think he will force that, somehow. And I think this is the last exit before the full dictatorship for Turkey,” Ceyda Karan, an opposition journalist at Cumhuriyet newspaper, told RT. “We’re dealing with the situation here that is close to a kind of civil war, and that is really dangerous – it is dangerous for Turkey domestically, and it is also dangerous for the international scene where Turkey, the US, Russia, Syria – all these countries, the Kurds are all involved in the struggle against ISIS in Syria and in Iraq.”
Yes, yes they are – and maybe that’s part of the reason why Erdogan despises them more now than ever.
If it’s Hitler’s Germany that Erdogan plans to model Turkey after once he manages to rewrite the constitution, we shudder to think what that will mean for the Kurds who are already being persecuted in places like Diyarbakir, Cizre, Silopi and Nusaybin.