Turkey’s sweeping purge is set to further expand as the pro-government media is sending signals of a larger wave with a new list of 215,000 individuals sent to 81 provinces for police operations.
The media rumor mill has been on overdrive about the biggest purge campaign, which, reports said, has yet to take place since the abortive coup last summer. Majority of them are believed to be members of the Gulen movement.
To the astonishment of Turkey’s seasoned observers and experts, a historic referendum, which bestowed sweeping executive powers on presidential office after a razor-thin win of the Yes vote, did not provide a stability to turbulent waters that characterized the divided political domain.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has belied expectations after the controversial win that he may pursue to build consensus with his opponents to overcome political divisions that bedeviled the country.
The razor-thin win, in contrary, sharpened his rough-edged approach to a hard-nosed realpolitik, unleashing an all-out assault on whatever left of opposition both within his party and without. He officially became a member of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on May 2, even without waiting for 2019 when the constitutional amendment, which allows the president to retain party membership, takes into effect.
Not only his critics feel on edge. But also members of his party fear a comprehensive party overhaul, which could unleash a purge to design a monolithic party full of with Mr. Erdogan loyalists. There is no room for even a shred of criticism or diversity or an independent voice.
The palace intrigue of the Turkish politics showed its unpleasant, brutal face when AKP apparatchiks, media trolls and Mr. Erdogan worshippers suddenly found themselves in a political turf war. They turned their fire against each other, thrust on a race to prove who is more loyal to Erdogan and who is not. This week saw the firing of two more pro-Erdogan journalists from pro-government media, signaling an approaching storm that could re-structure the party.
Some media outlets have long created an echo chamber of hardline Islamist views that urged the government openly Islamize the society. They spearheaded a vicious political witch-hunt against perceived political enemies over the past two years. But a similar kind of witch-hunt looms in the offing, as they now finger-pointing each other as the enemy within.
In another particular worrisome development on Wednesday, a move was taken to deprive leader of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) of his parliamentary immunity. That could further unsettle Turkey’s already hyper-polarized political landscape.
But perhaps more disturbing was that if the hardline pro-government media’s reports of 215,000 new list come true, that would be the harbinger of a Stalinist purge. Already, more than 150,000 public servants have been sacked by the government, while 110,000 detained, and 50,000 people jailed over terrorism or coup-related charges. The great terror in the Soviet Union during the 1930s was a well-known, dark historical chapter in human history.
Turkey may taste its own version, albeit on a smaller scale.
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