Lest we here in the U.S. think we have a monopoly on spoiled brats in the upper echelons of government, let us look across the pond for a brief moment. Specifically, at Turkey. I have written much about Turkey and President Erdoğan and his grab for additional power at some length, the most relevant to this post being From Turkey To The United States.
As mentioned in that post, Erdoğan has recently proposed certain constitutional changes that would transform the government into a near dictatorship. The changes would enable Erdoğan to make all government appointments, take back the leadership of the ruling party, and stay in power until 2029, pending presidential and general elections in 2019, with a maximum of two five-year terms. The proposed amendments would entirely abolish the Office of the Prime Minister. One that threw up red flags for me is Article 84: The powers of Parliament to scrutinize ministers and hold the government to account are abolished. And Article 98: The obligation of ministers to answer questions orally in Parliament is abolished. These amendments are to be voted on Sunday, 16 April 2017, which is the source of the current escalating tensions between Turkey and, of all places, the Netherlands.
In the EU, expats from Turkey who are currently living in another EU country, say the Netherlands or Germany, will be allowed to vote in the Turkish referendum next month. So, the Turkish government has been sending foreign ministers to each country that has a large population of Turkish nationals to rally support for the referendum. The trouble started on Friday when Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was in-flight, bound for the Dutch city of Rotterdam to attend a rally, as there are some 300,000 Turkish expats living in the Netherlands. The rally was cancelled amid concerns that, with the Dutch national elections being held next Wednesday, it could lead to public disruption. Still, Çavuşoğlu was determined to go to the Netherlands, at which point Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, issued an order disallowing Çavuşoğlu’s plane from landing. Çavuşoğlu said he planned to fly to Rotterdam anyway, and warned that if the Netherlands blocked his arrival, Turkey would respond with harsh economic and political sanctions. Last week, the German city of Hamburg banned him from speaking at a rally, after which Erdoğan accused Chancellor Angela Merkel and the German government of Nazi practices, then soon thereafter he had a German reporter arrested, saying he was a German spy and a terrorist.
So what happened next? Erdoğan, speaking at a rally in Istanbul, made a statement that ranks right up there in terms of maturity with what Donald Trump might have said in similar circumstances:
“You can stop our foreign minister’s plane all you want, let’s see how your planes will come to Turkey from now on. They are Nazi remnants, they are fascists.”
And then … Turkish authorities sealed off the Dutch embassy and consulate, and also closed off the residences of the Dutch ambassador, charge d’affaires and consul general.
And then … Dutch authorities detained Turkish family affairs minister, Fatma Betül Sayan Kaya, to keep her from addressing another rally in Rotterdam to garner support for Erdoğan’s referendum.
As of this writing on Saturday night, that is where things stand, however I’m fairly certain we have not heard the last of it. So why did I choose to write about this? On the surface, there is some humour here, as it is reminiscent of a playground shouting match, and I could almost expect Erdoğan to start saying “nyah-nyah-na-nyah-nyah” at any minute. But delve a bit beneath the surface, and it is both ludicrous and dangerous. These are not 10-year-old children on a schoolyard, but full-grown adults, people who had enough education and qualifications to be placed in the top positions of their nations. The tit-for-tat behaviour that is pretty much normal for a child, is abominable when practiced by men in positions of power and trust. We have Donald Trump in the U.S. who has acted quite similarly, barring reporters who he did not like, calling for violence at his campaign rallies last year, and seeking redress and reparation against any who cross him. North Korea has Kim Jong-un who has long been known for childish, temperamental displays. These are the traits of men like Hitler, Stalin, and others who sought complete control and tolerated no discord. It does not bode well for the future of the globe to see leaders who would use threats and even violence to resolve problems rather than diplomacy.
Erdoğan’s referendum is destined to increase his power and lead Turkey into a dictatorship. One excellent article, if you have an interest in the politics of Turkey, was published in a January edition of Aljazeera. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in Turkey and its problems, with a man like Trump in the U.S., and other potential ‘populist’ leaders on the horizon in the Netherlands, France, and Germany, we must consider the effects these ‘leaders’ may have on global affairs. Just look at the ways in which Trump has already, in just six weeks, offended many of our allies, cast shadow on the honesty and integrity of his entire administration, devalued the education system, healthcare system, and environmental protection agency, to name only a few. Think what the world would look like if every leader around the globe lacked the ability to negotiate with others in a rational manner, to make decisions based on intellect rather than emotion. This is why it is important to put Erdoğan in the spotlight, or under the microscope. For much the same reason, Europeans who will be holding elections in the coming weeks/months, need to look toward the U.S., see what chaos is being wrought by the new administration, and proceed with caution. I spoke not long ago about our seeming inability to learn lessons from history … today I hope that we are able to learn lessons from the present.