‘The Politics of Polarisation: Prospects for Democracy and the Rule of Law in the Run-up to Turkish Presidential Election in August 2014’
The Centre for Turkey Studies (CEFTUS) is delighted to invite you to a Westminster Debate with Istanbul based writer and analyst Mr Gareth Jenkins and Senior Broadcast Journalist of BBC World Service Mr Guney Yildiz.
Please find short biographies of speakers below.
The public collapse of the alliance between Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and the followers of the exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen in December 2013 has had a profound impact not only on Turkish politics but also on the country’s legal system. During the first years of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, the Gulen Movement supported Erdogan both inside and outside Turkey, including using its international NGO network to lobby on his behalf. In return, Erdogan allowed Gulen’s followers to establish a substantial presence in the police and judicial system, which they used to initiate a string of highly politicised court cases. Hundreds of people were imprisoned, often on patently fabricated evidence. The cases primarily targeted those whom both Erdogan and the Gulen Movement regarded as political enemies or ideological opponents. The result was the creation of a climate of fear, including widespread self-censorship in the Turkish media. Since the alliance collapsed, Erdogan has purged thousands of suspected Gulen sympathizers from the apparatus of state. But he has made no effort to address or redress the crimes committed during the politicised trials. Nearly 300 victims of the trials are still in prison. Hundreds more are being tried in cases that are still going through the courts. Instead of depoliticising the judicial system, Erdogan has increasingly sought to increase his own control over it. Similarly, he is now using his power struggle with the Gulen Movement as part of a strategy of encouraging social polarisation and pitting one section of society against another in an attempt to deepen his core support in the run-up to the presidential election in August 2014. Erdogan has already made it clear that, if he is elected, he will effectively replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with a presidential one that concentrates all political power in his own hands. For this Erdogan relies heavily on the PKK’s remaining largely passive in the face of political crises that the AKP faces. Indeed, PM Erdogan has faced at least four important crises over the last 13 months. Starting from country’s deadliest bomb attack against civilians in the border town of Reyhanli early May last year,the Gezi Park Protests which have been the most widespread urban protest movement in Turkey’s recent history challenged the incumbent government. December 2013 has seen the country’s biggest corruption probe against the figures associated with Erdogan’s government. Despite these crises Erdogan managed to retain significant level of support in March 2014 local elections. The latest of the four big crises is country’s deadliest mine disaster in southwestern town of Soma. It remains to be seen whether PM Erdogan’s management of the crisis would cause a loss of support for Erdogan or not, especially in the run up to Presidential election due in August.
Mr Jenkins will analyse the abovementioned controversial court cases and the conflict of power between the AKP and the Gulen Movement. Mr Yildiz who did an interview with Fettullah Gulen in January 2014 will address the role of the Kurdish issue in the AKP-Gulen conflict and in presidential election in August.
This CEFTUS Westminster Debate is kindly hosted by Andy Love Labour MP for Edmonton.
The event will take place on Thursday 19 June, between 7PM and 8.30PM in the Macmillan Room in Portcullis House. Please note that security checks are required to enter Portcullis House, so we kindly ask you to arrive at 6.30PM, allowing the event to start and end promptly on time.
Portcullis House is opposite Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and above Westminster tube station.
We look forward to welcoming you at this CEFTUS Westminster Debate.
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Looking forward to hearing from you,
Gareth Jenkins is a writer and analyst based in Istanbul, Turkey, where he has been resident since 1989. In recent years he has focused primarily on analysis, contributing numerous articles, reviews and commentaries to scholarly journals and edited volumes and delivering presentations at seminars and conferences. Although he continues to write and speak on diverse aspects of Turkish politics, economics and social change, his special fields of interest are civil-military relations, terrorism and security issues, Kurdish nationalism and political Islam. He is currently a non-resident senior fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program Joint Center. His publications include “Occasional Allies, Enduring Rivals: Turkey’s Relations with Iran” (Silk Road Paper, May 2012), “Between Fact and Fantasy: Turkey’s Ergenekon Investigation” (Silk Road Paper, August 2009), “Political Islam in Turkey: Running West, Heading East?” (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), “Context and Circumstance: The Turkish Military and Politics” (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001). He is currently completing a modern history of Turkey with a particular focus on the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The book will be published by Yale University Press in summer 2015.
Guney Yildiz is a Broadcast Journalist with the BBC World Service where he covers international news and current affairs specialising in Turkey and the Kurds. He has published articles and provided expert opinion on Turkey and the Kurds for various BBC’s TV, Radio and Online outlets. Previously, he worked for the BBC’s Turkish Service and Turkish Daily News, the country’s only English language daily at the time. He completed his master’s degree in Politics and Communication at the London School of Economics following his undergraduate degree in Philosophy at Middle East Technical University. He worked as research assistant at the Department of Communication and Design at Bilkent University.