Ankara (GPA) – In an attempt to disprove the claim of being a fascist, Erdogan is seeking to use his legal power to crush an opposition PM.
This latest example of the ongoing crackdowns inside Turkey began on Monday and spawned from comments made in a speech by a member of parliament, Bulent Tezcan. Tezcan, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), caught the attention of Erdogan with the words he used to describe the Turkish President.
Tezcan spoke the offending phrases at a rally in Tekirdag in defense of the city’s mayor, Enver Salihoğlu, a fellow CHP member. Police questioned Salihoğlu earlier this year for allegedly also calling Erdogan a dictator at a CHP conference.
None of these factors stopped Tezcan, who doubled down on the alleged comments made by Salihoğlu’s, saying to the audience: “I don’t know if our mayor said that or not. I, here in Tekirdag, say it now: ‘Erdogan is a fascist dictator.’”
Tezcan also criticized the legal bureaucracy, warning “If you try to scare people and to create a fearful atmosphere by showing legal words as illegal ones we will not be deterred.”
Apparently, one person who missed the point of these comments was Erdogan himself. Instead of using these obviously true statements as a chance to correct abuses by his government, Erdogan instead responded by opening a legal case against Tezcan, apparently missing the irony of this fascist power move.
The first response from Erdogan came from his spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin. Kalin branded the comments made by Tezcan as “hate speech,” that is “an example of disgrace for the main opposition.”
Worse than the hot air from Erdogan’s spokesman was a statement issued later in the day from longtime Erdogan lawyer, Huseyin Aydin. In a report released via Twitter on Tuesday, Aydin made public that lawyers on Erdogan’s behalf have “filed a legal petition concerning Bulent Tezcan with the Ankara chief prosecutor’s office for the crime of insulting the president.”
While this may sound ridiculous to many readers in the west, in Turkey “insulting the president” is a crime. If found guilty Tezcan could serve up to four years in jail. This has already happened to many prominent members of Turkish society including other opposition MPs, journalists, cartoonists and even the winner of the Miss Turkey pageant.
Previously Tezcan would have been protected under a clause that provided MPs immunity from prosecution. Unfortunately, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary majority repealed this privilege in May of 2016.
Stripping MPs of immunity originally served the purpose of targetting Kurdish legislators for removal from office. However, following the failed coup in July of 2016, new laws like this have been constant as a way to provide a legal framework for silencing dissent.
Even Erdogan’s own party members aren’t safe from these political machinations. Several AKP politicians have also received punishment or at least pressure to resign recently in efforts made by the party to combat “fatigue” by removing more moderate or blatantly corrupt former-allies.
If Erdogan isn’t a dictator perhaps he could explain why even members of his own party, such as the mayor of Ankara, are dropping like flies. Several of these politicians have resigned after receiving “orders” (their words) from Erdogan to do so or face legal repercussions.
James Carey is an organizer based in Detroit, Michigan, founder of Geopolitics Alert, and an experienced analyst on Middle Eastern affairs with a particular focus on Turkey. He also covers topics ranging from Latin America and Asia to Europe. You can also hear James in his weekly podcast; The Left is Dead which he co-hosts with investigative journalist Jake Anderson.