How Some Turks Stopped Worrying about the Polls and Learned to Love…
It is true that there is not much separation between domestic politics and foreign policy anymore. The two are increasingly intertwined. Especially in democratic countries, the interdependence becomes increasingly obvious during election seasons. Yes, foreign policy may become more important during elections than at other times in terms of determining the results. Yes, there is nothing wrong with political parties’ and candidates’ foreign policies becoming a campaign issue.
However, what is taking place in Turkey is a different phenomenon. In recent months, some members of the opposition are approaching foreign relations as the only possible way of challenging the government and consider disagreement with Western countries as the only way to defeat the incumbent.
This strategy has become obvious in Turkey’s relations with the European Union and the United States. During election seasons, some segments of the opposition stop worrying about explaining their position and gaining support from the public but instead expect Western countries to criticize the Turkish government. The aim of this line of thought is to challenge the government’s foreign policy legitimacy and put the government in a difficult international situation that would lead it to lose its power and influence.
However, the objective of defeating a democratically elected government through a policy disagreement with Western countries appears to contradict the principles these groups claim to endorse.
In democracies, organized political movements and political parties constitute important pillars of the democratic process.Constructing a message appealing to the voters, building a political campaign and machinery, and forming a hardworking and dedicated staff are all imperative to effectively competing in elections. Most of these requirements are in fact fairly simple and straightforward. In the absence of an appealing message or alternative roadmap that answers the question, “What can we do better if we were elected as the government?” desperate attempts to increase international pressure on the Turkish government will fail to bring a power transition.
This desperation is becoming increasingly obvious in Turkey-U.S. relations in recent months. Hoping that a deteriorating relationship between Turkey and the United States would bring an eventual end to the AK Party government and create a space for the opposition to assert power is problematic as it would lead to rising disappointment within those who voted for the opposition and, consequently, a general weakening of trust toward political parties. In the short and medium term, this will increase the popularity of street politics as voters try to eliminate the mediating role of the political parties. But in the long run, it will destroy the political institutions in Turkey.
Russian literature and Crimea
While writing last Thursday’s piece, I thought I was doing something original by referring to a Russian literary giant Leo Tolstoy. However, the U.S. State Department too used Russian literature to discuss the situation by referring to Fyodor Dostoevsky when criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements. Its statement said, “The world has not seen such startling Russian fiction since Dostoyevsky wrote, ‘The formula ‘two plus two equals five’ is not without its attractions.'” Similar referrals to Russian novelists continued the following day. Pravda mocked the State Department’s “knowledge of Russian literature” and asked it to find better quotes from Tolstoy. Nikita Khrushchev’s great-granddaughter even participated in the debate by arguing that Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the famous author of “Gulag Archipelago,” wanted post-Soviet Russia to get Crimea back from Ukraine. Following an increasing number of demonstrations in Odessa, one of the hotspots of Russian cultural and literary world, we may see more uses of Russian literature and intellectuals to refer to the crisis in Ukraine. Alexander Pushkin, who lived and travelled in this region, would be among the first to be mentioned.
This article was originally published in Daily Sabah on March 13, 2014.