For many, the Arab Spring held the promise of bringing democracy and freedom to the Middle East. From Tunisia to Iran, we saw protestors take to the street and, in many cases, dictators fell. In Syria and Libya, civil war still rages and in Iran, many feel that world leaders failed to seize the opportunity to help protestors overthrow the Islamic regime that is the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism. So, what if we had the opportunity to prevent another regional power from falling into authoritarian, Islamist rule? Would we act, or again fail to do so?
For the past decade, Turkey has been slowly slipping away from its traditional role as the Middle East’s only Muslim-majority secular republic, to more authoritarian rule under the governance of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) and former Prime Minister, now President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan is now seeking to centralize his power and authority even more by amending the Turkish Constitution to abandon the current parliamentary system in favor of a strong executive presidency. He recently vacated his position as Prime Minister and was successfully elected President of Turkey in anticipation of these constitutionally changes.
Rather than having a balance of power between the executive and legislative branches as in the United States, the model he hopes for would concentrate power in a strong, fascist-style presidency… a Turkish Putin, if you will. Critics refer to him as the “sultan.”
Only the People’s Democratic Party (known as the HDP after its Turkish initials) stands in the way and can restore, or fulfill, true democracy in Turkey. Born out of the Kurdish rights movement, the HDP seeks to be the alternative to the Islamist dominated AKP and the opposition nationalist parties, representing religious and ethnic minorities, women and the political left (in a classical liberal sense). The party promotes gender equality, religious freedom, equal protection under the law, human rights and individual liberty. Their goal is what they call “radical democracy,” which seeks a weaker president and central government with empowered local administrations. Party Co-chair and former presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas has criticized the Turkish state as being “built around sustaining its own existence rather than providing functional service.”
America, Israel and Europe needs to support the HDP, as they offer the best opportunity to prevent Turkey from sliding further into authoritarian rule under an amended constitution that creates what Demirtas has referred to as a “constitutional dictatorship.” And they represent a majority of Turkey’s citizens, as polls show that more than half of Turks are not in favor of the constitutional reforms proposed by President Erdogan.
Turkey’s June 7th parliamentary elections are just over a month away. President Obama recently showed himself willing to interfere with Israeli elections because of his personal dislike for Prime Minister Netanyahu. So, why not help the HDP with campaign strategy, marketing and voter turnout? Make it clear that Israel and the West seek a democratic government that represents and protects all Turkish citizens, and not another Islamist-based, fascist dictatorship in the Middle East.
To have party representation in Turkey’s parliament, the HDP will need to receive at least 10% of the vote on June 7th. Otherwise, their votes will go to the ruling AKP who will then have the large majority they need in parliament to amend the constitution as desired.
But the HDP needs our support not only in this upcoming election (which is only a first step), but our long-term assistance in transforming Turkey into the true democracy we desire.
Samuel Griswold is the author of the historical thriller True Identity, about a Mossad agent who receives past-life visions while working undercover in Iraqi Kurdistan. Available now on Amazon!