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‘Ergenekon and the Other Side of the Story’
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‘Ergenekon and the Other Side of the Story’

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CENTRE FOR TURKEY STUDIES

WESTMINSTER DEBATE

‘Ergenekon and the Other Side of the Story’

16th December 2013                                 

Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House

Speaker: Prof Dr Mehmet Altan, academic, economist, journalist and author.

Chair: Mr Jonathan Friedman, the chief Turkey analyst at Control Risks, a leading global political and security risk consultancy.

Prof. Dr. Mehmet Altan is an academic, economist, journalist, and author of over 25 books. Altan holds a BA in economics from Istanbul University (1979) and MA and Ph.D. from Sorbonne University (1979-1984). He studied the relations between Turkey and IMF and Turkey’s relations with the USA and the Soviet Union. He worked at a private firm and ‘Turk Haberler Ajansi’ and he was the daily Cumhuriyet’s Paris correspondent during his studies. A collection of essays that he wrote in Paris was published in a book called ‘Kanatli Karinca’ in 1985. Following the success of this book which received an award from Akademi Kitabevi, Altan wrote his academic work ‘Superler ve Turkiye’ in 1986. Mehmet Altan has worked at the Faculty of Economics, Istanbul University since 1986, first as assistant professor, then associate professor (1987) and full professor (1993). He wrote in the daily Sabah (1987-2006) and worked as an editor-in-chief in the daily Star until 2012.

This CEFTUS Westminster Debate is kindly hosted by Alison Seabeck Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View.

Summary

Prof Dr Mehmet Altan kindly shared his analysis of the Turkish political and economic developments at this CEFTUS Westminster Debate.

Altan stated that the Ergenekon trials were steps to end Turkey’s history of tutelary oversight and democratise the country. Increasingly however, it appears that although the trials have shifted power from the military to civilians, civilian leaders are keeping authoritarian elements of the system intact for their own benefit. According to Altan, the events in Turkey are a continuation of the battle between politics of the barracks and the mosque. They should be viewed in a global context, with similar transitions of power from the military to civilian actors in South America and the Middle East. He argued further that Turkey’s judiciary lacks independence, citing the lack of investigation into the 2011 massacre of Kurdish civilians in Uludere as an example. Altan also said that this incident shows that despite the Ergenekon trials, the ‘deep state’ remains a major problem for Turkey.

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Internationally, Altan argued that clashes between Silicon Valley and Wall Street caused the 2008 financial crisis and heralds the start of the post-industrial period. In this period, changes to Western economic systems in the West are transforming nation-states to supra-nation states, a phenomenon that will affect Turkey and its neighbours. He noted that the world’s 57 Muslim-majority countries account for only 11% of global economic production.

According to Altan, the AKP government has failed to deliver structural reforms for democratisation and financial betterment. He criticised the political parties law and the electoral law, which provides for a 10% voting threshold to enter parliament, for contributing to one-man governance.  Altan also noted that politics in Turkey remain to be based on religious, ethnic and sectarian identities, and this was hampering further development. As an example, he said that the AKP government’s goal to increase per capita income from $10,000 to $25,000 over the next decade was unlikely because of its ideological Sunni Islamic approach.

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