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Monday 20th
posted by Morning Star in Arts

The New Turkey and its Discontents

by Simon A Waldman and Emre Caliskan

(Hurst and Company, £14.99)

DEMOCRACY is on a knife-edge in Turkey. In a few weeks, the country will go to the polls in a referendum on the most radical constitutional changes since the founding of the secular republic in 1923.

If a “Yes” vote is secured President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would wield unprecedented powers, including the ability to appoint key roles in the judiciary and government and, more chillingly, would be able to dissolve parliament — a move many say would bring about fascist rule in Turkey.

In this book Simon Waldman and Emre Caliskan chart the rise of the ruling AKP, which first swept to power in 2002 with the aid of a rising provincial Islamic bourgeoisie.

The economic stability that followed its election is now under threat with a spiralling lira and economic contraction raising the prospect of the country sliding into recession.

The removal of the military from the political scene was lauded as a strength of the AKP government but the authors argue that it has exposed a weak and deficient democracy which is no stranger to conspiracies and military coups.

There has been an escalation in the clampdown on freedom and democracy since the failed coup attempt of July 2016.

Turkey currently hosts a third of the world’s jailed journalists and has sacked hundreds of thousands of government workers, thousands of academics and shut hundreds of TV stations and newspapers. Pro-Kurdish opposition MPs have been arrested and face hundreds of years in prison.

The authors highlight that press freedom has never really existed in Turkey and, they argue, it is partly because of this that the spotlight has never focused on the Kurdish question both at home and abroad.

The Turkish state continues to wage war against its Kurdish population, with cities such as Sirnak flattened and a recent UN report confirmed that half a million people have ben displaced in the south-east.

The authors argue that the Kurdish issue should be viewed as a national rather than a cultural question, with no option for the military solution favoured by the AKP.

The coming weeks are among the most important in Turkey’s history, with polls showing a narrow lead for a No vote in the referendum.

According to the authors there is hope, as shown by the opposition to last year’s coup and in the movements that sprang up around the Gezi Park protests in Istanbul.

It is to them that the new Turkey belongs.

Steve Sweeney