Categories
Government Religion

Turkey’s Failed Bureaucratic Coup

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Fethullah Gülen
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left) and Fethullah Gülen. Photo: Hayatin Kendisi Burada/Picasa.

ANKARA – Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intensified his government’s response to the corruption investigations that have been roiling the country since December, restructuring the leadership of the judiciary and police. But it would be a mistake to view this as a fight between the executive and the judiciary, or as an attempt to cover up charges that have led to the resignation of three ministers. What is at issue is the law-enforcement authorities’ independence and impartiality. Indeed, amid charges of fabricated evidence, Erdoğan now says that he is not opposed to retrials for senior military officers convicted of plotting to overthrow his government.

The recent developments reflect the widening rift between Erdoğan’s government and the Gülen movement, led by Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Islamic preacher currently residing near Philadelphia. The Gülen movement was an important backer of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its efforts to establish civilian control over the military during the AKP’s first two terms in office. Now, however, the movement appears to have been plotting a coup of its own.

Categories
Government Security Conflict

Disarming Egypt’s Militarized State

Free Officers
The Free Officers in Egypt in 1953. Photo: Nasser Bibalex/flickr.

LONDON – Egypt’s crisis has been called the worst in its history. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to a previous episode, almost 60 years ago.

On February 28, 1954, more than a 100,000 protesters besieged Cairo’s Abdin Palace, then being used by Gamal Abdel Nasser and other leaders of the July 1952 coup. The protesters’ main demands were the restoration of Egypt’s fragile democratic institutions, the release of political prisoners, and the army’s return to its barracks.

The two-month crisis of 1954 was sparked by the removal of Egypt’s president, General Mohammed Naguib, by Nasser and his faction. As in 2013, the Muslim Brotherhood was at the center of events, mobilizing on the side of the deposed Naguib. But, following Nasser’s promises to hold elections in June 1954 and to hand over power to civilians, one of the Brotherhood’s leaders, Abd al-Qadr Audeh, dismissed the protesters.

Categories
Government

Can a Divided Egypt Build an Egypt for All?

Mohamed Morsi
Mohamed Morsi was ousted on on 2 July 2013. Photo: Bora S. Kamel/flickr.

With the dawn of Egyptian nationalism in the late nineteenth century came a powerful slogan: “Egypt for Egyptians.” The phrase captured the anti-colonial sentiment that permeated the Egyptian streets for more than half a century, from the Urabi revolt of 1879–1882 to Gamal Abdel Nasser’s military coup in 1952.

In Tahrir Square last week, as with the start of the Arab Spring in 2011, the phrase was being used again, albeit with a significant alteration: “Egypt for All Egyptians.” This additional adjective conveys a widespread frustration with unrepresentative government—first directed against Mubarak, and now against Morsi.

While some consider Morsi’s overthrow last week to be a blow to democracy, others deem it a “democratic coup.” The reality is not quite as black or white: Egypt is forcing the world to re-examine the scope and limitation of concepts like “democracy,” “legitimacy,” and “coup.” And what started as a call for a more inclusive form of government in Egypt may yet produce the most divided Egypt the world has seen.

Categories
Elections

Thai Elections – Challenging Times Ahead

Red shirts rally in Thailand
Red, yellow or camouflage? Photo: Clark and Kim Kays/flickr

Thai parties are gearing up for general elections as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is expected to dissolve the House of Representatives shortly. His Democrat Party came to power through a parliamentary vote, after the previous government was toppled. The upcoming elections will now put the government’s mandate to a popular test. So far so good. It is very unlikely though that the five-year-old political crisis will end with the formation of a new government.

Thailand’s deep political divide is driven by the underlying monarchical succession – the first of its kind since 1946. The system on which the Thai society is built is in flux, leaving everyone struggling to be in a better position.

The Democrat Party has possibly gained some popularity among ordinary Thais, but all in all it remains an elite movement rooted in Bangkok’s establishment. Thus there’s a good chance that the Pheu Thai Party – the de facto party of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – receives most votes in the poll.

Categories
Government

Facing up to Fiji

Bread and circus for the people of Fiji? photo: Mark Heard/flickr

As seems to be the case with most countries that have experienced coups, once the initial furor over the regime change has died down and change is not readily forthcoming, the international media quiets down. Whether this is because a public scolding is not seen as the best way to induce progress towards more democratic rule, or simply because there is nothing headline-grabbing to cover, it is a widely repeated pattern.

The Republic of the Fiji Islands is no exception, with coverage having dwindled following the 2006 coup. This is a shame, as the (interim) government of Commander ‘Frank’ Bainimarama has recently instituted some very interesting policies.

Perhaps inspired by Juvenal’s idea of “bread and circuses”, the 2010 Price Control Order was implemented on 6 Novemver by the Commerce Commission. The Order required that the price of 24 “essential” basic foodstuffs – such as baby food, milk, garlic and edible oils – be reduced by 10-20 percent to a government-set maximum. ‘High-end’ products – such as olive oil – were notably exempt. In updating the 1970 Price Control Order, criticized for its complexity and opacity – so far, so good. However, the circus soon followed.