As Leftist Turks Protest, Trump congratulates Erdogan on Authoritarian Turn

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Several hundred Turks demonstrated in Istanbul on Monday in protest at the referendum result on Sunday transforming Turkey into a presidential system and handing vast powers to right wing politician Tayyip Erdogan.

In contrast, US president Donald J. Trump called Erdogan to congratulate him on his victory. Social media is saying that Trump only wishes he could get the kind of power Erdogan just did.

Trump confidant Lt Gen. (ret) Mike Flynn was hired last summer and fall by a firm close to Erdogan and he appears to have hidden or under-reported his substantial income from Turkish graft. Had he not been forced out, Erdogan would have had a mole in the National Security Council.

In Istanbul, demonstrators shouted “Shoulder to Shoulder against Fascism!” as the marched on the HQ of the High Electoral Commission.

Another rally was held in Istanbul’s Besiktas neighborhood, known as a bastion of secularism.

Leaders of the People’s Republican Party (CHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the two opposition parties in parliament who hold about a third of the seats, hastened to reject the outcome of the referendum. They maintained that the High Electoral Commission decided after voting was already underway to count contested ballots, and that it was unfair to change the rules abruptly.

Scattered, smaller demonstrations took place throughout Turkey. Some 13 persons were arrested in Antalya.

France 24 reports that

“However, Tana de Zulueta, head of the observer mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe specifically criticised a decision by Turkey’s electoral board to accept ballots that did not have official stamps, saying it removed key safeguards and undermined the fight against fraud. The system is designed to ensure that only one vote is cast per registered person and to avoid the possibility of ballot box-stuffing.”

Also on Monday, Erdogan extended the state of emergency declared after the failed coup of July 15, 2016, for the third time. Under this law, basic civil liberties such as habeas corpus are suspended. Over 100,000 government employees have been fired in the past 8 months, with professors fired or chased out of the country along with journalists.


Related video:

The Young Turks: “Was Turkey’s Election Rigged? (Spoiler: Probably)”

16 Responses

  1. It’s so much easier to define what democracy is not than what it is. Actions determined by a majority can only be meaningful with broad cultural accord and economic stability, else you get one group seeking to impose its notions on others which do not share them, and that leads to an aggravation of the differences beyond reason, as one sees perhaps in the bizarre intensity with which subjects like abortion, same sex marriage, and even transgender bathrooms can be in heady dispute. Turkey, like Iran and many other nations with traditional agricultural life in some areas and urban concentrations in others, is not suited to too much democracy, and works better with a leader who understands and can balance and accommodate the needs of all within a meaningful uniformity. In some cases this can be achieved by a respected monarchy that has undergone progressive modifications from being absolute to what it is today. The important lesson from history is that a nation’s constitution, whatever it may, be needs regular adjustment to ensure it maintains the relationship it had to all citizens when they first brought it into being. Such adaptations are never achieved without a degree of disruption and often bloodshed as was the case in the English Civil war, French Revolution, and the Russian and Chinese revolutions, but if they come about intrinsically, as in those cases, they are far less destructive than when they are extrinsic. Not so long ago it took decades for extrinsic interference, such as Sykes Picot, to show its weaknesses, but today they unfold before our eyes in levels of disturbance and destruction that could never have occurred if left to work through by themselves. Oddly enough Turkey is being left alone and in time its disorders will either settle down or erupt some more which is deeply frustrating for many, but whatever happens will surely be less horrific than a Western alliance invasion.

    • So LGBT rights issues get too much attention, you say? That was on the HDP platform, and they did pretty well with a “big tent” / human rights focused strategy.

      Turkey is “not suited to too much democracy” and “works better” with a strongman? Well that’s rich. I guess that’s why the HDP leaders need to be locked up.

      And a constitution “needs regular readjustment to to ensure that it maintains the relationship it had to all citizens when they first brought it into being?” Uh, Turkey’s was imposed during a military coup.

      Why are internal revolutions good, but invasions from outside bad? This sounds like the usual Turkish demonization of “foreign” influences.

      • You think Turkey’s internal political convulsions would be better served if the US provided millions of dollars, or sent in marines and Tomahawks to support one side or the other?

  2. “Trump only wishes he could get that kind of power.” The question is ….can it happen here at home? Margaret Atwood being interviewed by Bill Moyers about her novel The Handmaid’s Tale thinks it can. link to

  3. As the adage goes, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. The problem is that some powerful people do not seem to be content with the enormous power that they already wield and they crave for more, and this will prove their undoing. If Erdogan had followed Abdullah Gul’s advice of “no tension with any of the neighbors”, he would have saved himself and Turkey a great deal of trouble. Turkey prospered on the basis of that philosophy during the first few years of Erdogan-Gul rule.

    Instead, following the “Arab Spring”, Erdogan saw himself as a new Ottoman sultan, and tried to bring various Sunni states under Turkish hegemony. He even prepared a new constitution for Egypt, which was contemptuously dismissed by the Egyptians. His involvement in Syria on the side of the rebels has proved disastrous both for Syria and for Turkey.

    The questionable referendum will mark worse relations with Europe. He already has warned the Europeans to “know your place”, adding: “We would neither see, nor hear, nor know about the politicized reports you prepare and just stick to our way.”

    President Trump’s congratulations to Erdogan reveal his autocratic tendencies too. It is a complete reversal of American ideals when we see that the American president is on the side of the likes of Erdogan, Marshal Sisi, al-Khalifa of Bahrain, Saudi rulers and an assortment of other dictators. This shows how far America has fallen since Trump’s election.

    • As the adage goes, “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

      That leads to another mantra: Too much is never enough.

      President Trump’s congratulations to Erdogan reveal his autocratic tendencies too. It is a complete reversal of American ideals when we see that the American president is on the side of the likes of Erdogan, Marshal Sisi, al-Khalifa of Bahrain, Saudi rulers and an assortment of other dictators. This shows how far America has fallen since Trump’s election.

      American proclivity for autocratic tendencies was alive and fermenting long before President Trump’s more obvious enthusiasm for it. Hillary Clinton, to cite but one example, wanted General Suleiman, Egypt’s Director of Torture Chambers, to replace Hosni Mubarak.

  4. Rise of right wing governments in France and England

    Following global trend, or able to change course?

    Here’s How Bernie Sanders Is Playing a Role in France’s Election

    Meanwhile in England, was the election of 2015 rigged which led to BREXIT vote?

    The inside story of the Tory election scandal
    The unexpected Conservative election victory of 2015 transformed British politics. Now an unprecedented Electoral Commission investigation has raised the question of whether it was even a fair fight.

    Why did Theresa May call for a special election on June 8? Is it because she suspects that LePen will win in France on June 7?

    Theresa May Announces Surprise Early Election for June 8

  5. There have been several commentators here in the past who were exceptionally insightful about Turkish politics and it’d be good to hear from them.

    What I’ve found is these waters run deep. Turks ate extraordinarily passionate, proud and patriotic. E is respected even by his detractors as an incredibly shrewd and sensitive politician, so some thinking would be that he will continue to handle things successfully. Or not.

    People usually put their lives on the line when hungry and/or cornered. E doesn’t seem so stupid as to force the issue and the economy isn’t so far gone. Still, too many people there know better than for us to assume they will just accept things.

    I wouldn’t make any assumptions here.

    • Erdoğan has certainly been shrewd, but I think it’s pretty clear that his sensitivity has been trending down. Ongoing emergency decrees, with no end in sight, since the 15-16 July putsch seem to have eaten up much of his legitimacy. And his branding of almost everybody who opposes him as backing either Kurdish or Gülenist terrorism looks neither shrewd nor sensitive.

      Since Abdullah Gul’s departure, Erdoğan has become (and I wish I could recall the original quote) a bull who carries around his own china shop.

      Sultan Recep Tayyip Çok Yaşa!

  6. Here’s a thought: Given what we know about Trump’s incurious approach to most things, how likely is it that he actually has an even rudimentary understanding of contemporary Turkish politics and the implications of Erdogan’s policies on that country’s democratic processes?

    Unfortunately, we have a “D” student running the country.

  7. Although this doesn’t directly relate to this article, I wanted to pass this along to Informed Comment readers. Yesterday I heard some remarks by the head of Homeland Security Kelley. One sentence stood out. He said that “We have to change the way that people in the Middle East think.” The idea that we can and should do this is just so amazingly arrogant and ignorant that it practically took my breath away. And Kelley supposedly isn’t as bad as many of Trump’s advisors and cabinet heads.

  8. Del Burton: I doubt if Trump cares about the referendum one way or another, but he does have property there.

  9. The U.S. operates three (3) shared air bases in Turkey. The base at Incirlik is necessary for the air wars and bombing in Syria and Iraq especially for recovery and refueling.

    link to

    POTUS listens to his generals and his open support for another authoritarian leader whose power grab and methods he envies is not hard to understand.

    On 15 July 2016, a “coup d’état” was attempted by the military to oust Erdoğan from power. The next day Erdoğan’s government somehow managed to regain control of the country. Reportedly, no government official was arrested or harmed, which raised the firm suspicion of a false flag event staged by Erdoğan and his minions.

    On 20 July 2016, President Erdoğan declared a state of emergency, citing the recent failed “coup d’état” attempt as justification.

    Erdoğan took a narrow lead in a highly-contested referendum which dissolves the Turkish democracy making him the leader in a virtual dictatorship. Erdoğan then declared himself the winner and extended his state of emergency.

    malPOTUS likes it and can’t wait for his own “coup d’état” aka Reichstag Fire attempt. What will it be?

    Meanwhile, the shared air bases at Incirlik, Izmir and Ankara will endure.

  10. I apologise in advance for the source but I couldn’t find the original article. Nevertheless readers of this post may be interested to learn that evidence is now mounting of widespread vote rigging in the Turkish referendum that has just given Erdogan power of life and death in Turkey. Source: link to

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