“Quand l’État fait le bien, il le fait mal, quand il fait le mal il le fait bien” – Charles Dunoyer
After the democracy-heralding euphoria of 2011, brought on by the heroic struggles of uprising peoples, and bringing with it the promising prospects of change, the intervening years have unveiled how inherently difficult it is to dispel the ghosts of a sombre past, deter chronic violations of rights, and restore a semblance of peaceful coexistence.
The figures of escalating popular dissent in the face of increasingly dark, corrupt and despotic regimes, translate the battered myth of envisioning our societies free from fear of oppression and injustice. Crises – recent and on-going; western and eastern – have underpinned our 21st century reality: no one is immune to the dwindling of democratic ideals of human rights, rule of law, and a zealous civil society.
Recently, one worrying dystopian event, highly symptomatic of the current widespread democratic deficit, has cast the ballot for a new chapter of authoritarianism in Turkey: Erdogan’s resounding 45% victory at the local elections. Faked ballots, unsealed ones, arbitrary arrests, bribery, eight deaths: Democracy has taken another battering.
Rising like a prophet, Erdogan – whose name means “birth of the son” – has marked the swift resurgence of the arcane forces powering abusive majoritarianism: deceit and conceit. Amidst this farcical democratic show, this dramatic coup de théâtre bears a foretaste of tragedy, artfully masked behind Erdogan’s shrill, embellished phrases imbued with national sentiment: “You embraced Turkey’s new struggle for freedom. You embraced your own will, your own future, politics, your party, your prime minister”.
Yet the Turkish are far from being blind and sheepish, Mr Erdogan. The machinations of a man corrupt to the marrow – inflated by his own sense of self, propping up a flagrantly artificial society nurtured by fraud and force – are blatantly obvious and have sowed the seeds of dissent.
The outcome of elections, which has fortified the reproduction of the old order and institutions of corruption, paints the portrait of the feigned democracy thriving under the sanguine coloured Turkish flag. It is a glaring example of regression back into the noose of power-savvy figures institutionalising their long-term interests under the auspices of “the general will” or “good of the nation”.
Continually, Erdogan has trumped democratic credos, stifling peaceful popular protest with unprecedented bellicosity, muzzling the press, implementing primitive blockades such as prohibiting Twitter and YouTube, and the list trails on.
Echoing Thomas’s Paine’s veracious “No nation was born a democracy”, one can only acquiesce and recognise that accession to freedom and truth is a harrowing and bumpy course to embark on. Democracy has to be fought for and, to become consolidated, has to be fought against: “power should be a check to power.
Thus, reviewing Turkey’s historical baggage of despotism and religious fundamentalism, democracy according to Western typology might remain a distant Utopia: unattainable and undesirable because it is ill-attuned to Turkey’s background.
As a nation built upon inherent contradictions, Turkey’s socio-political genes are deeply oxymoronic: straddled between the West and the East, secularism and religion, democracy and autocracy – a grey zone. The golden vision of Mustafa Atatürk’s, the country’s first president, of a secular, unified and democratic Turkey appears, for now, to be an only partially realised struggle.