Friday, November 27, 2009

Cornell: Turkish government not good or bad


By Wladimir van Wilgenburg

The Hague - Central Asia expert Svante Cornell of the Johns Hopkins University spoke on Thursday 26 November about Turkey and Central Asia in the Hague. The analyst praised Turkey for breaking taboos, like the Kurdish issue, but warned that the Turkish president is running the party and government in an increasing authoritarian way.

Cornell is a co-founder of the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Stockholm and has a specific focus on the Caucasus and Turkey. He also wrote an article about the Kurdish question in the Turkish political system.

AKP is a strange animal

The intellectual says that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is a strange animal and a coalition between Islamists, liberals, social democrats, nationalists and even Kurdish nationalists. “This is a very strange coalition of people.”

The analyst also discussed the recent Armenian and Kurdish initiative of the Turkish government and said the government is breaking many taboos “You have a Kurdish opening is taking place, this is positive. The AKP is very courageous in positive things, but also in negative things. I don’t think we can call the government good or bad.”

Kurdish opening supported by army

Svante Cornell also notes that a black and white picture of Turkey of a struggle between the civilian government and the military doesn’t fit. “The Kurdish opening was explicitly supported by the military and conducted jointly, this lead to disappointment among the secularist opposition.”

Cornell claimed there is an increased attack on the free media in Turkey by the government, while on the other hand, it dismantles the semi-authoritarian state that used to exist. According to the analyst, the question is: “Will Turkey create another form of semi- authoritarian, or a liberal democracy.”

AKP not prepared for backlash

But despite of the support of the Turkish military, Cornell says the government wasn’t prepared for a backlash of the Turkish public, both in the case of Armenia, when the Turkish public protested against the policies of the government and the Kurdish initiative

Erdogan loves Putin and Berlusconi

Cornell also noted that the relations between the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and the Italian leader Berlusconi and the Russian leader Putin, are very close and that Erdogan’s policy in Turkey looks like a combination of the policies of these two leaders. The expert concluded that Turkey is beginning to see itself as a power distinct from the west. “Not anti-western, but increasingly as a regional power.” Next to this, Turkey also looking to more relations with Russia and Iran. (Photo by Wladimir van Wilgenburg).

© Rudaw