Erdogan’s Divisive Policies Backfire

Article Summary
With the coup in Egypt and events in Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s divisive policies appear to be working against his interests.

While foreign and domestic policies usually move in tandem, there has never been so much overlapping as in the past two years. We can now better determine the points we have reached as a result of the policies of polarization adopted after the Gezi Park events and the Egyptian coup.

These polarization policies have created major rifts in the national mutual reconciliation process. The decision to build a mall and luxury residences at Gezi Park was wrong. It took the largest popular protests in Turkish history to make the government take a step back.

This step back, however, cost the lives of five people, 8,000 injured people, and an extremely tense social environment. The political charisma of [Prime Minister Recep Tayyip] Erdogan acknowledged by all has been replaced by political power acknowledged by a minority.

Erdogan’s ambition to become the president of all of us has been weakened. A new dynamic that is bound to change the entire political road map of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has emerged, as we will see in the coming local elections. The AKP, experiencing the most difficult time since its establishment, could have gained from the Gezi Park process if it had pursued a path of democratic reconciliation instead of an authoritarian, polarizing approach.

In the end, Erdogan could not get what he wanted from Gezi Park. He could have said, “Right, the people don’t want it, we won’t do it,” and turned the process to his advantage before the upcoming elections.

We face a similar situation in foreign policy. The policies with Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Iran and the EU are built on tensions and prejudices. We want to go to Gaza to support Hamas but in the meanwhile our diplomatic power in the West Bank is eroding. The Palestinian Authority does not want Erdogan to come.

The developments in Egypt are good examples. Morsi respected Erdogan’s advice. If we had counseled a policy of tolerance based on plurality instead of polarization, the people of Egypt would not have opposed Morsi. Now people there have to find a way to reassemble a political structure that is on the verge of disintegration.

On one hand we oppose the military coup, but at the same time we do not sever diplomatic ties with Egypt governed by the military. A part of the Egyptian people admire Erdogan, but a larger segment has abandoned Turkey because of our support for the Muslim Brotherhood. We have lost our chance to influence Egyptian society with our reconciliatory soft power.

Even more ironic is that this policy of polarization serves nobody, including the Brotherhood, Hamas, the anti-[Bashar al-]Assad opposition and Iraqi Sunnis that we support. Instead of strengthening them, it serves to isolate them in the international arena.

As a result, polarization in the country and abroad serves nobody. We not only look ridiculous by trying to manage Twitter-based world politics with our Cold War mindset, we also create feeble and angry political actors.

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Found in: protests, military, justice, hamas
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