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Turkish democracy has just died; Europe could not have saved it

16 April 2017

11:33 PM

16 April 2017

11:33 PM

Well farewell then Turkey.  Or at least, farewell the Turkey of Kemal Ataturk.  It’s a shame.  Ataturk-ism nearly made its own centenary.

But the nation that he founded, which believed broadly in progressive notions such as a separation of mosque and state, has just been formally snuffed out.  President Erdogan’s success in the referendum to award himself Caliph-like powers for life finally sees the end of Turkey’s secular and democratic experiment. Perhaps the poll which gave him victory was rigged.  Perhaps it wasn’t.  In the same way that perhaps the ‘coup’ last summer was real.  Or perhaps it wasn’t.  Either way, it’s all worked out very well for the man who once famously said that democracy, for him, was like a bus: he would ride it until it got him to his desired destination, at which point he would get off.  On Sunday Erdogan got off the bus, coaxing or hauling his country off with him.

There is just one other thing worth saying.  The official position of most EU countries, and the official position of the British government still to date, is that Turkey should join the EU.  So far as one can tell the UK’s official – frankly barking – policy remains that although we are going to leave the EU we will continue to lobby for Turkey to join.

I doubt very much that this will now happen.  But there will be those who will argue that the fault for this lies with us.  They will argue that the EU (including Britain) is to blame for somehow turning our back on Turkey over recent decades.  They will argue that if we had only shown a warmer face to the country, and encouraged them, and not been so ‘Christian-clubby’, and exclusionist, then the country would not have taken this terrible turn.

This – it should not need saying – is parochial and self-obsessed nonsense.  Turkey took this route the moment that Erdogan began his ascent and Turkish civil and political society revealed itself not to have the antibodies they needed to resist an Islamist like him.  There was nothing that Britain or any other country in Europe could have done to halt this descent.  The idea that it would have been worth further wrecking our societies in order to avert this situation is simply a reminder that there are some people who think the whole world revolves around them.
Turkey is gone.

This fact will cause ramifications for years to come. But at least the earthquake has happened outside our political borders, rather than within them.  Some prominent people campaigned for many years to ensure that the opposite was the case.  It is they who should currently be wondering about the manner in which they exerted their international energies over recent years.


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