Erdoğan’s dictatorship driving Turkey toward dead end - editorial

In the wake of last week’s annulment of the Istanbul mayoral vote, Turkey’s once vibrant democracy has been reduced to a dictatorship marked by hit squads and fear, said an editorial for the Washington Post.

Following a May 10 appearance on television, Turkish journalist Yavuz Selim Demirağ, who has been critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, was approached outside his home in Ankara, the capital. Amid shouts of “Hit him, kill him!”, he was beaten with baseball bats and ended up hospitalised with a broken nose and brain trauma.

“Mr. Erdoğan has fashioned Turkey’s political system into one of paramount presidential power, and since a failed coup attempt in July 2016, has waged a merciless campaign to silence critics,” the Post said on Monday evening. “Mr. Erdoğan has carried out a purge of Turkish society, punishing his perceived enemies.”

He has closed 189 media outlets and jailed 319 journalists, while nearly 100,000 people have been arrested and 6,000 academics and nearly 4,500 judiciary officials dismissed, according to the Post.

“The beating of Mr. Demirağ was clearly intended as a warning to other journalists not to speak out. Such topics as the coup attempt, conflict with the Kurds and Mr. Erdoğan’s family wealth have been put off-limits by the president. Now he evidently has added the mayoral election to the taboo list,” said the Post.

Last week, Turkey’s Supreme Election Board responded to pressure from the ruling Justice and Development Party and threw out its loss in the March 31 mayoral vote, calling for an electoral rerun on June 23.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the opposition party that won the initial Istanbul vote, visited Demirağ in hospital and spoke to the media after. “How can a journalist be beaten with intent to kill just because he participated in a programme?” he asked. “Where is Turkey going to?”

“The answer must be given bluntly,” wrote the Post. “Mr. Erdoğan’s expanding dictatorship is steering Turkey toward a dead end. Now baseball bats and hit squads are guiding it on its way."