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The Turkish Failed State

By Cengiz Aktar

September 30, 2015

I frequently refer to the following quote from Jean Monnet, one of the founders of the European Union: "Nothing is possible without men, but nothing lasts without institutions." Adapting this quote to our country, we can say that there were certain figures behind the EU-inspired reforms undertaken by the last coalition government and the first Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

In line with Monnet's assertion, those politicians became architects of reform pertaining to key institutions. The serious and transformative institutional reforms that addressed all aspects of individual and social life and that were badly needed by the system were first implemented through the work of the coalition government.

The work, which came to be known as “the Derviş reforms" in literature, was particularly functional in restoring macroeconomic fundamentals that were disrupted in the wake of the crises of 1994, 1999 and 2001. These reforms didn't serve only as ordinary corrections. They provided legal guarantees for the regulatory functions of institutions on the basis of autonomy, transparency and accountability, and, for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic, paved the way for a modern management mentality.

This effort soon grew out of proportion and dwarfed the economy, thanks to the reinvigorated EU membership bid. It started to transform the system from top to bottom by developing horizontal and vertical checks and balances mechanisms. The first AKP government harmonized Turkey's outdated legislation to contemporary norms and began to implement the legislation to a great extent, until 2005. Those principles, norms and standards also spearheaded an unprecedented administrative and legal transformation.

However, after full membership negotiations began with the EU in 2005 thanks to those reforms, the AKP failed to take the reforms already implemented to the next stage, and a gradual rollback of those reforms even began. Reformists began to tear down the institutions they had established. Although their correct transformation had begun in 2001, basic state institutions including the judiciary, the military, the foreign service, the treasury, the academy and the public administration were discredited, their institutional memories erased, and they even stopped being institutions. Today, the sole political aim is to "get certain works done,” free from any consultation, consensus, supervision, checks and balances or regulation. This corruption is, unfortunately, representative of the society to a large extent.

Day in and day out, the government comes up with unbelievable practices. What's worse, except for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and some social groups, the public is mute and unresponsive in the face of the nonsensical practices of the government, which acts like a cornered cat. This is the decadence of society, and the country will pay, and is already paying, a high price for it. But the highest price is likely Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's establishment of a submissive, peaceful and fascist social order with an iron fist, marketing it as "stability" and as a recipe for salvation from this decadence. This process will be challenged by the HDP and various segments of society. We will wait and see if they pose a sufficient challenge.

Concomitantly, the world's interest in Turkey has been irreparably lost. Since 2004 or 2005, the country's EU bid and the AKP's reformist vein had globally contested the well-known assertion that Islam doesn't coexist peacefully with democracy. This had urged researchers to remove their Orientalist perspectives and view Turkey with empathy.

For the first time, Turkey had emerged as a true partner with a say in international matters. Similar to the concept of "Christian democrats," the term "Muslim democrats" had started to be tossed around in political literature. Economic as well as political and social reforms had proceeded to confirm these observations. Turkey experts were popping up, not only in the West but everywhere.

Today, this trend has been completely aborted. Turkey's agenda is in stark contrast with the world's agenda. This has nothing to do with any non-Western paradigm. No Eastern country is emulating Turkey's "precious loneliness.” Just have a look at Iran. Countries around the world are increasingly realizing their needs for each other.

The AKP's Turkey demands that the world be Turkish or pro-AKP! Isn't "failed state" a befitting definition for that Turkey, where both the state and society are sinking deep into thorough decadence?