Opinion

The Great Debate

In Turkey, taking on West wins elections

Is Turkish leader crazy, or crazy like a fox?

Confronted by a series of revelations involving corruption, Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan countered by banning Twitter by court order last Friday. He has now moved onto other social media networks — blocking YouTube on Thursday.

Though another court ordered Erdogan’s Twitter ban to be lifted this week, his repressive regime looks intent on lashing out at social media as part of a broad policy aimed at controlling the important municipal elections on Sunday.

This is all part of Erdogan’s calculated effort, as Amnesty International describes, to “silence and smear those speaking out against the government’s crackdown on the protest movement, including doctors, lawyers and journalists.” This crackdown has, not surprisingly, resulted not only in massive protests within Turkey, but exasperation from Turkey’s allies in the West.

“It doesn’t fit with our idea of freedom of expression,” huffed a spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In the face of this opposition, we could be asking if the prime minister’s actions are rational. Erdogan, however, did not become the most powerful Turkish political leader in more than 60 years by being either stupid or crazy. In Turkey, picking a fight with the West is smart politics.

Why Erdogan doesn’t get it

Protesters run as riot police fire teargas during a protest at Taksim Square in Istanbul June 11, 2013. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan doesn’t get it. Turkey’s strongman is still fighting the Deep State

He doesn’t understand that the crowd filling Gezi Park in the scruffy center of Istanbul is the most precious creation of Turkey’s boom – an ambitious, creative, new generation. Erdogan doesn’t see the beauty in this kaleidoscope of mini-groups – Turkish and Kurdish, Marxist and Kemalist, Armenian and Islamist – all demanding that he listen to the public, rather than bulldoze Istanbul in his image.

from David Rohde:

Where Islam and democracy meet, uneasily

ISTANBUL — Last month, Davut Dogan, an amiable, 51-year-old businessman from Turkey’s Anatolian heartland, accompanied Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a historic trip to post-Mubarak Egypt. In a single day, Dogan and 259 other Turkish business leaders flush with cash announced $853 million in new contracts.

“We will go to Egypt next month to finalize the deal,” said Dogan, who is opening a $10 million furniture manufacturing plant there. “The factory will employ two hundred people.”

From the rapturous welcome Erdogan received to the economic power the Turkish businessmen displayed, the trip demonstrated Turkey’s potential to serve as a model for the Post-Arab spring Middle East. The violent death of Muammar Gaddafi Thursday in Libya and elections in Tunisia this weekend show the desperate need for an alternative to the region’s two failed models of government: American-backed dictatorships and authoritarian Islam.

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