The AKP’s greatest claim was to be the founder of a new Turkey. Mr Erdoğan is famed for saying, generally when a bit of bluster was called for, “There is no old Turkey any more, this Turkey is new Turkey.” Such pronouncements are rooted in a reaction to the founding of the Republic.
There are various myths that Political Islamic circles have blathered about for years. That Lausanne was a rout, that the Caliphate was abolished under British pressure, that the Islamic world was well and truly abandoned to Western imperialism with the abolition of the Ottoman Empire, in short, that we are ruled by those who believe themselves to be serving the modernisation that has continued since the Tanzimat, but actually the “non-believers”.
New Turkey, too, is a brand of this mindset. Calling the Republic a ninety-year commercial break or Ahmet Davutoğlu’s pronouncement that it is a bracket that had to be closed last century are all slogans of this brand. The leader of this new state is undoubtedly Mr Erdoğan. The AKP’s Ayhan Oğan’s comment, “We are now establishing a new state and the founding leader of this new state, like it or not, is Tayyip Erdoğan” came as the crowning glory.
There was no shortage of retorts, “Is this the time just now?” to those desirous of currying favour with Mr Erdoğan who came out with such premature pronouncements. Given the need for the ruling body not to scare its new allies, they even mentioned the use by Atatürk of the notion of a “New Turkey” in his speeches. This was a requisite of the ruling body’s short-lived and messed-up Atatürk opening. It was, however, abundantly clear that the New Turkey rhetoric was premised on a denial of the Republic’s founding values.
So, does “New Turkey” have a future? It may appear that “New Turkey” will be established in an irreversible manner under the presidential regime and state of emergency order. Indeed, bearing in mind that the media has passed in its virtual entirety into the ruling body’s control, the rule of law has ceased to exist and the legislature and judiciary have come fully under the ruling body’s command, “New Turkey” might be said to be invincible. It could also be said that the ideal of a secular, democratic Republic has been replaced by the notion of an authoritarian and Islamist regime.
On the other hand, “New Turkey” is not all that new. The notion’s ideological roots are shrivelled and rotten. There is no aspect of the AKP that represents the new for the country’s young voters and coming generations. They know it to be a ruling body in which Mr Erdoğan has decided on everything for as long as they can remember and which has lost its shine with his voice ringing in their ears since their childhoods. It is surely no coincidence that the interest of young voters in the AKP is falling.
The AKP desperately shoring itself up with the post- Devlet Bahçeli rump of the MHP will not be a solution in the long term. The AKP and MHP vote, which exceeded 60 per cent in the November elections, only just managed to scrape past 50 per cent in the referendum despite all the unequal campaigning conditions and the unstamped electoral scandal. As to the three big cities and young people, it lost them.
The AKP represents Turkey’s past and not its future. The same goes for Devlet Bahçeli’s party that is shoring it up. We are actually witnessing the collapse of the “New Turkey” notion. This is the why we are going through an intermediate period that can only stay on its feet under state of emergency conditions.
“New Turkey” amounts to a mass illusion that is old and condemned to lose. The task is most certainly not easy and this intermediate period will most certainly not easily bequeath a democratic regime. But, it is also obvious that the ones who should be succumbing to hopelessness are not those who stand in opposition this antiquated regime, but those who are only able to cling on to power through a state of emergency and duress.