Tuesday, August 5, 2014

My Two Cents*: Is the AKP an Authoritarian System?-the World according to Mahcupyan

A few weeks back one of Erdogan's staunches supporters, Etyen Mahcupyan, wrote an article for Daily Sabah (a paper owned by a holding whose CEO, Berat Albayrak, Erdogan's son-n-law). The article was titled, "Why the AK Party became 'Authoritarian,'" and pondered on why Erdogan has had to adopt authoritarian ways to save Turkish democracy. What did I read right? Did one of Erdogan's most loyalist liberal supporters actually question if the Turkish government has taken a turn towards authoritarianism?

Mahcupyan, a Turkish Armenian who once served as the editor of the Armenian newspaper Agos, has remained one of Erdogan's staunchest supporters. In fact, following Erdogan's split with the Gulen movement, Mahcupyan finally had to leave the newspaper Zaman, where he served as one of its star columnists for years. Of course, with the Gulen movement now the new enemy of the state, Mahcupyan had to abandon his former allies. 

I myself was on a panel in NYC with Mahcupyan in 2010 and questioned his unwavering support for Erdogan, who already then seemed to be losing his liberal support base, asking him how long would the marriage between liberals and the AKP last. I might add that he did not seem very happy with my question. Well, following the 2013 Gezi protest and last winter's uncovering of widespread corruption among AKP ministers, incriminating also the PM himself, it became clear that for some liberals nothing would end their support for Erdogan.

Despite the government's neglect in bringing a just verdict concerning the assassination of journalist Hrant Dink, the recent release of Ergenekon suspects and convicts--a case that legitimatized Mahcupyan's support for the government--and the continued blurring of the separation of powers between the government and the judicial, Mahcupyan continues to support the AKP and Erdogan. In fact, Mahcupyan places faith in the AKP party members claiming, "the AK Party is not a party that follows its leader blindly; indeed, AK Party voters are not blinded with the light of their leader;" a claim that seems hard to substantiate.  

He also states that due to the Kurdish peace process the government should not be seen as anti-democratic stating, "If the AK Party had given up the reconciliation process about the Kurdish "problem," and the democratic process had stopped, it may have invited reasonable questioning of the intentions of the government."

However, Mahcupyan's words cannot be that comforting to Turkey's opposition parties and independent supporters of a liberal democracy within in Turkey. According to Mahcupyan, Turkey has taken a turn towards authoritarianism:

"Today, there is a government that advocates for the continuation of the democratic process, as well as pushes for authoritarian and polarized politics - an attitude that is both of peacemaker and warrior in public sphere. The answer to the question lies in the perception of threat, and the justifications of it. The aftermath of 2010 meant war for the AK Party. Therefore, the government and the AK Party voter base saw what happened as an attempted coup. They still think that they are right, and becoming authoritarian was one of the government's tools for this fight."

Certainly, if in Mahcupyan's world Turkey has adopted authoritarian ways, who can blame Erdogan's opponents for making these very claims; especially since Erdogan has made it clear that if he wins the presidency next week he will work to give the office extra-powers, usurping powers currently entitled to the state's parliament. 

Of course, if one of the opposition candidates were to win the presidency, the parliament would remain as the power broker in Turkish politics; i.e., in Erdogan's hands. This fact more than any other I suppose sums up the debate pretty well! 

Here is a link to Mahcupyan's article:


*My Two Cents will introduce commentary to my blogspot on different issues I choose to briefly comment on. 



  1. I see in Mahcupyan a person who has nowhere else to go. He burned all his bridges with his former newspapers, Agos and Zaman. He has to make a living. He is trapped, in essence, as a pro-government columnist. I don't think his defense of the government policies is a result of principled stance. For instance, I wonder whether he can keep a straight face when he claims that Erdogan has to be authoritarian in order to be able to make the necessary reforms. How can a person be a reformer when he tramples the democratic rights of a large swath of people in order to improve the democratic rights of the other? The truth is, Erdogan doesn't care about anybody's rights. He does what he feels like. He is a self promoter, not a geniune reformer. Some people benefit from his reforms, other people are hurt by his actions. He can change direction on a whim and do the exact opposite. You can never trust Erdogan with reforms. This includes Armenians like Mr. Mahcupyan. Merely 3 months ago, he shared the Armenians' pain over the 1915 massacres. Yet 2 weeks ago, he insulted the Armenian race. If Mr. Mahcupyan wants to put his faith in Mr. Erdogan, all power to him. I predict that he will be deeply disappointed.