“All politics is local,” famously said Tip O’Neil, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives during the Reagan years. Yesterday, the soon-to-be-machinated new Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan won, to no one’s surprise, his long-coveted seat in parliament in – what else?— the most local of elections. Actually, a by-election, as in bye-bye Turkey.
This by-election was conducted in Siirt, a city of 67,000 people, about 100 kilometers from the Iraq border. The surrounding countryside consists of Kurds and angora goats who provide the wool for the famous Siirt blankets. Siirt is also the hometown of Erdogan’s wife, a covered-woman like all dutiful spouses of the ruling AKP party.
Why this by-election? Erdogan had been banned from holding office because of a sedition conviction a few years ago for reading a poem in the course of giving one of his firebrand speeches in, ironically, Siirt. (Erdogan also has numerous ethical taints from his tenure as mayor of Istanbul, HIS hometown.) Soon after its landslide victory last November, the term on his banishment expired. But what to do? The election was over, and Erdogan had no political position, an awkward stance for the head of a victorious party.
But not to worry, it was soon revealed that ALL the eligible voters in a miniscule countryside village called Dogankoy had refrained from their civic duty and failed to vote. It was widely reported then that the reason for the en masse abstention was because the villagers were fed up with ALL political parties because of the government’s failure to provide even the basic amenities to improve their humble lives. And since in ‘democratic’ Turkey everyone MUST vote, the entire election in Siirt was nullified, and rescheduled for March 9th.
Yesterday, Erdogan won in a rout, another trumpeted triumph for democracy Turkish-style. But this time even fewer voters turned out in Siirt: 62% of those eligible, compared to 74% last November. But this time it’s different… no one is looking for those who abstained.
“This election is as sweet as a poem,” crowed Erdogan afterwards, confusing poetic justice with sour grapes.
The seat that Erdogan now holds because of the earlier nullification, was ever so briefly occupied by a rogue named “Jet” Fadil. Few people appear as they really are. The Jet is the exception, blessed with a robust head of black hair with a thick white stripe running front-to-back. Fadil was elected in absentia as an ‘independent’ last November. He had resided abroad, having absconded with millions of dollars from companies that he had founded with public money to provide jobs to people in that area, and then promptly drained. Hence the nickname “Jet.” On the lam from both Interpol and the Turkish authorities, he returned to a hero’s welcome in Siirt last November as its new representative in parliament. How? The Jet was a native son of the region, and thus trustworthy, despite widely proven otherwise. Why did he run for office? Simple. Members of parliament enjoy immunity from prosecution, one of the perquisites of holding national elective office here. And, incidentally and not surprisingly, one of the reasons for the widespread corruption in Turkish politics.
But the Jet couldn’t think about tomorrow and the fact that some time must elapse before he could actually take his seat. This was too much of an opportunity for the ever-vigilant Erdogan and his ever-moral AKP party. So they gave Fadil a seat in jail instead, and promptly nullified the election all because of the lassitude of the poor people in Dogankoy. So now Erdogan has the Jet’s old seat and the rest is poetic justice Turkish-style. And sour grapes for the Turkish people.
Erdogan will become the head of government as soon as Abdullah Gul, the current puppet prime minister, gets the official elbow into the economics ministry slot. And then even more fun begins. Erdogan has obviously made a deal with Bush back in November when he went on his victory promenade through the world visiting various accommodating heads of state.
That’s why the defection of Erdogan’s party members two weeks ago in the voting that rejected the “American package” so angered and shocked him. Imagine! Turkish politicians being responsive to the overwhelming anti-war sentiment of its constituents! This also explains why Bush and his operators were so muted in their responses toward the Turkish rejection. In short, the fix was in all the time… and so itremains.
The American ambassador to Turkey, Robert Pearson, has worn out the path, but not his welcome, to parliament in the interim. Yesterday, he was one of the first to hail Erdogan’s election and meet with him in Ankara. The Turkish army had chipped in too. Refusing to comment before the vote for fear of “tampering with democracy,” the head general tampered with democracy after the resolution was defeated. Not satisfied with the decision, he urged the approval of a new resolution. No doubt he had also swapped some ‘war stories’ with his Pentagon buddies.
This also explains why, despite being forbidden to enter the country by the parliament’s decision, the Americans have continued to offload their ships and proceed with their truck-convoys to the Iraqi border. Harbormasters in the ports of Iskenderun and Mersin who protested this continuing American invasion were summarily sacked. A Turkish Army contingent that stopped one of these illegal convoys was reprimanded and quickly reassigned. Even the Turkish equivalent of the US Speaker-of-the-House, Bulent Arinc, was chagrined at the bold defiance of Turkish sovereignty by the Americans.
So much for law, the Turkish Constitution, and the much-ballyhooed ‘sacred Turkish soil.’ Always ready to make a buck (after all, this is what defines Turkish politics), some members of both parties have continued to rent properties like factories, private homes, apartments and warehouses to the Americans. “Money, money, money, money, money, money, money, money… oh money makes the world go round,” sang the master-of-ceremonies in Cabaret. Tra-la, tra-la.
Erdogan will now, with much blather and lip service about how difficult it is to overcome the will of the people, proceed to form a ‘new’ government. This means simply shoving the ever-willing current Prime Minister into the economics job and firing the 96 AKP parliamentarians whose political courage helped defeat the first resolution. It’s all so terribly simple when you have the key, and that rhymes with ‘tee’ and that stands for… money.
All of which reminds one that when offered a share in gold by a fellow officer taken during a foray against the Druze in Syria during World War I, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk characteristically refused, asking, “Do you want to be today’s man or tomorrow’s?”
Later, Ataturk said, “The idiots thought they could buy me, but they got nowhere.”
Later this week, or next week, or some week very soon, other idiots, that is the Turkish Parliament, under the enormous portrait of Mustafa Kemal, will deliberate to overturn the vote on the previous resolution to allow US troops on Turkish soil. And Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the ultimate “today’s man,” will ramrod, in the name of democracy, a new resolution into law that flies in the faces of 95% of the Turkish people. Then his fellow AKP party members, ever dutiful and now fully acquiescent, will vote ‘yes.’ And thus will Turkey become a full and formal ally in the so-called ‘coalition-of-the-willing,’ a coalition whose governments (except for the US and Bulgaria) are wildly out of touch with the desires of its electorates.
“To see my face does not necessarily mean that you have ‘seen’ me,” said Ataturk. “To understand my thoughts is to have ‘seen’ me.”
Yes, very soon, under the gaze of the great portrait of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Parliament of the Turkish Republic, will subvert the expressed will of its people, neither seeing nor understanding either Ataturk, or that Turkey has become a full colony of the United States of America.