These are troubled times the world over, with so many countries facing protests and problems. That is one way to look at it, while the other is to see it as people finally finding their voices and demanding what they want. Sometimes they are successful, like in Ukraine. Sometimes they are not, which is probably what might happen in Turkey.
For an outsider, it is interesting what is going on in Turkey right now. Of all the Muslim dominated countries, Turkey was seen as the most progressive by the West. It certainly was more liberal than the Middle East. But events in the past few months have shown how quickly things can change for an entire nation.
If you haven’t already heard, Turkey prime minister Tayyip Erdogan has blocked two of internet’s most popular websites, Twitter and YouTube, a media censorship that has not gone down well with the other western nations, especially the European Union. Erdogan claimed that these websites did not do enough to stop users from spreading lies about the corruption charges he’s facing before the elections.
One must recall that Erdogan came to power in 2002 with an anti-graft campaign, winning over voters tired of the government corruption. He has been ruling the country for 11 years, and has been able to deal with different problems that have kept coming up during his reign. However, this is perhaps the most serious threat he’s faced, and his reaction does not bode well for the country.
It’s not all doom and gloom either. In fact, when it comes to the prime minister, the country is divided in half. One half completely loves the PM. People remember the times when there was no hope, when there was crime prevalent and how the streets were all filthy, and there was always violence. Erdogan’s rule, while authoritarian, restored peace and brought prosperity to the citizens. The crimes have certainly reduced; peace has been present for most part.
At the same time, there are others who detest the leader, pointing to his divisional rule. In fact, he has completely removed any critics from both the judiciary and the police forces, and even passed laws that ensured that no constitutional checks could affect him.
When tapes were leaked of him discussing with his son and other associates of the immense corruption that they had undertaken over the years, it was a serious blow to re-election chances. With the tapes released in a phased manner, there was growing dissent against the government and things looked to go out of hand. There was no way to stop it, considering the tapes are allegedly being released by Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of the PM, who is currently based in the U.S. Erdogan is convinced that Gulen is running a parallel administration and using doctored tapes to topple his government.
With the tapes being passed around on Twitter, Erdogan took the extraordinary step of banning the website, though users flouted the ban by going around the block. With another tape released on YouTube on how the Foreign Minister and the Intelligence were planning a Syrian provocation. This was a bigger bombshell than the corruption charges, and as a result, even the video streaming was banned in the country.
Whether the tapes are real or doctored will matter little today, as the people go to polls. What has been evident over the past 2 weeks is that Erdogan would be willing to go to any lengths to retain power. However, the popularity polls do not seem to have to any major effect. It remains to be seen if the party will retain power.