Voices from the Arab press: Erdogan's thuggery and Turkey's future

A weekly selection of opinions and analyses from the Arab media around the world.

NEIGHBORHOOD GUARD members await the arrival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a 2017 Istanbul ceremony. Posters of Erdogan (right) and modern Turkey’s founder Ataturk seen in background (photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)
NEIGHBORHOOD GUARD members await the arrival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a 2017 Istanbul ceremony. Posters of Erdogan (right) and modern Turkey’s founder Ataturk seen in background
(photo credit: MURAD SEZER/REUTERS)
Al-Bayan, UAE, August 12
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to wake up every morning to yet another report about the deterioration of the Turkish economy, the collapse of his country’s reputation around the world and the decline in his party’s influence at home. But the Turkish leader refuses to look reality in the eye and insists on maintaining his illusion of grandeur. The question is, where will these illusions take his bullying next?
The man who inherited a promising economy that was built with American and European support is now leading a country to the brink of bankruptcy. In his quest to revive the “Ottoman legacy,” he has brought blood and destruction not only on his own people, but also on hundreds of innocent civilians throughout the Arab world. Erdogan, the leader who promised to promote democratic reforms in his country, turned his back on Turkey’s democratic institutions and placed them under the tight grip of organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood. He allied himself with terrorist factions that undermine the sovereignty of their nation-states while wreaking havoc in the Middle East.
Without any warning, the Turkish people found themselves ruled by a dictator whose illusions and fantasies sent Turkish troops to distant war zones stretching from Syria and Iraq to Libya, Qatar and Yemen. Turkey has become a hotbed for mercenaries and terrorists, a campground from which extremists can plan and carry out their attacks against innocents. Unfortunately, the ordinary Turkish citizen sees nothing but a terrible economic meltdown and rapid deterioration of the pillars of the modern Turkish state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
Turkey, which once boasted the slogan of “zero problems” with its neighbors, is now in conflict with virtually every other player in the region. Despite all of Erdogan’s manipulations at home, recent polls show he enjoys no more than 37% of the public’s support. But he has no vision on how to get out of the quagmire he got his country into. Europe refuses to accept Turkey as a partner, America views it as a liability, and Middle Eastern states can no longer tolerate him. Therefore, he continues to resort to his usual modus operandi: thuggery. His focus remains strictly on Libya despite suffering a blow there due to Egypt’s intervention.
How can Turkey evade the grim fate Erdogan is leading it to? The only hope remains the Turkish people. They, and only they, have the power to bring him down and repaint a better future for Turkey.
–Jalal Aref
Nida Al-Watan, Lebanon, August 14
Last week, the Egyptian people began voting for members of a newly created second chamber of parliament known as the Council of Senators. Revived under constitutional amendments approved in a referendum last year, the council was formed to replace the now-defunct Shura Council.
So what is the nature of the new council, its structure, its power and importance? It will consist of 300 members, one third elected by direct ballot, one-third chosen from a closed-list (where people vote for parties), and one-third appointed by the president. It is interesting to note that the election of party lists has been designed in a rather peculiar way. Instead of allocating seats proportionally by splitting power among the winning lists based on votes, the Egyptian system is absolute: The party with the plurality of votes wins all seats.
This system, unfortunately, contradicts the very concept of elections because it eliminates the possibility of a minority obtaining any seats. It makes participation in the political process feasible only for large and powerful parties. This is why the real outcome in the voting for lists is in many ways determined by the central authorities, not the public. Therefore, this third of the Senate – just like the one appointed by the president – must be considered appointed, not elected.
One of my colleagues recently lamented that this implies that an overwhelming majority of the Senate (two-thirds) assumes its position by appointment and not by democratic elections. If so, how can this body provide real oversight over the government? Yet this colleague failed to remember that the Senate is designed to be an advisory body without legislative powers. It is a body providing distinguished expertise that can inform the president’s stance on important issues in Egypt.
Therefore, my only hope for the future is that the government expands the circle of those it consults in its daily decision-making and makes use of the Senate’s expertise. It should heed its advice just like it consults and listens to many other non-elected advisory groups such as women’s councils, human rights organizations, the media and others. In any case, what will ultimately matter most is public opinion. People will quickly forget who was elected and who was appointed, and the Senate will be held accountable to the public not on the basis of how the constitution defines it, but on the basis of the impact it has on people’s lives.
Future members of the Senate will gain the respect or disdain of the people of Egypt based on their promotion of democracy, freedom and rule of law. Regardless of whether a member is appointed by the president or chosen by the public, he or she should never forget the needs and hopes of the Egyptian people.
–Ziad Bahaa El-Din
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, August 14
Put simply and succinctly, the United Arab Emirates achieved a major political, psychological and security breakthrough in the Middle East with the announcement of its historic agreement to normalize ties with Israel. This agreement not only protected the Palestinians’ right to establish their own independent and sovereign state, but also preserved the sanctity of all Muslim sites in Israel.
Above all, it strengthened the moderate Arab world and united it against the Muslim Brotherhood, the mullahs and the Arab nationalists who have been rearing their heads in the Middle East. The UAE reaped a tangible gain for the Palestinian cause, not by words but by deeds: It brought to an immediate and unequivocal end the Israeli encroachment of West Bank territory, an achievement explicitly outlined in the tripartite statement released by the UAE, the US and Israel. We all know what to expect next.
The well-oiled propaganda machines in Turkey, Iran and Qatar, alongside radical groups like al-Qaeda, Islamic State and the Houthis, will all rush to attack the Emirates. They will describe the UAE as a “traitor” and as “weak.” But the truth is far from that. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat was vehemently attacked after signing a peace treaty with Israel. But the fact of the matter remains that in historic perspective, he liberated Egyptian lands and prevented a bleak future for his country. He was a true hero of war and peace, and Egypt is still reaping the fruits of the peace he created.
The great king of Jordan, Hussein bin Talal, was also attacked after reaching an agreement with the Israelis, but he refused to submit to these accusations. This led his country to the great Wadi Araba Treaty, which ensured Jordan’s territorial integrity and water rights with Israel. Therefore – and because he is a realistic and responsible Arab leader – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took the initiative to commend this development.
Most ironically, those very countries that responded with criticism – Turkey and Qatar – are also those maintaining the most extensive covert trade and tourism ties with Israel. Whether one supports it or not, the Emirati-Israeli agreement will not come at the expense of the Palestinians, but rather in their favor. Like it or not, Israel is one of the countries of the region.
Like it or not, most of the harm to Arabs has been carried out by the hands of Iran and Turkey. According to a joint Emirati, American and Israeli statement, this historic diplomatic achievement will enhance peace in the Middle East and preserve the two-state solution on the ground, not in imagination. This is a historic agreement that brings back memories of great leaders who dared take risks to bring about peace.
–Mishary Al-Dayidi
Translated by Asaf Zilberfarb.
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