Among the political and media victims of Ergenekon "justice," Mustafa Balbay, a writer for the daily Cumhuriyet [The Republic] and a parliamentary deputy of the long-established secularist Republican People's Party [CHP], was also sentenced to life in jail, as was his co-defendant, Tuncay Ozkan, another secularist journalist. [iv]
An array of 33 indictments was consolidated under the Ergenekon rubric in 2011. The list of defendants is as varied as it is long; the single aspect uniting them, however, is association with secular politics. In May 2014 the AKP went after the police force which Erdogan said was full of "Gulenists", followers of his former ally Gulen (now living in the US). It purged hundreds of Gulenists from the police, army and the civil service.
Turkey is frequently worried about the "Deep State" (derin devlet); a group of influential anti-democratic coalitions within the political system, composed of high-level elements within the intelligence services (domestic and foreign), Turkish military, security, judiciary, and mafia who are engaged in a fight against democracy, social justice and Kurds. These networks were supposedly formed during the Cold War to fight subversive communist agitators within Turkey. However, they were also thought to have been used against the Kurdish insurgency that gripped the south-east of Turkey during the 1980s and 1990s. The secretive and clandestine nature of these deep state networks allowed the Turkish government to insist that it had no knowledge of them. It was able to deny involvement in some of the more violent episodes of the counter-insurgency campaign carried out against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). [v] There is widespread belief in Turkey that the "Deep State" had a role in the recent bombings.
Among the most affected by the policies of the AKP has been the Turkish labour movement. Prior to 1980, Turkey's workers were an important civic power in the country. Trade unions were forces to be reckoned with, organizing highly effective rallies, strikes and resistance movements. Following the 1980 military coup, legal amendments were introduced to curb trade unions, including certain benchmarks for the right to negotiate collective contracts. Three thresholds are currently in place. The unions face the "work sector" threshold; that is a trade union has to recruit at least 1% of all the workers in one of eighteen designated sectors before it has the right of representation. Then comes the "workplace" threshold, which requires unions to recruit at least 51% of the workers in any given workplace. Finally, there is the "chain business" threshold, which bars trade unions from collective bargaining unless they recruit at least 40% of workers in nationwide chains such as supermarkets.
Another major impediment for the labour movement comes from the subcontracting system, which has been heavily promoted in recent years. Even state institutions are increasingly outsourcing to subcontractors, who pay lower wages to non-unionized workers. The practice has expanded so much that even parliament, supposed to lead efforts to protect labour rights, has outsourced many of its own needs, such as cleaning and catering. About 600,000 workers are employed today in the subcontracting system. [vi]
While in office the AKP has restricted worker's rights to organize and strike, intensified neoliberal employment policies, encouraged the practice of subcontracting and part-time work agreements and allowed for the structural violation of worker rights. Turkish labour sees no hope of any improvement under the AKP dominance of the political system However, the inability of the AKP to retain its majority in the last election and its seeming inability to find a willing partner for a coalition government means it is vulnerable to a demand for a new election. In that case the possibilities of the labour movement putting its support behind AKP's rivals, the HDP is inevitable. This is why the unions were so active in the support for the "Labour, Peace, Democracy" anti-war rally which was bombed and why it called a two-day strike in protest.
There is no telling as which course Erdogan and the AKP will follow but experience shows that any voluntary change in its repression of democracy, free speech and trade union rights without a defeat in the November election is unlikely. The continued antipathy of the military and the police to the AKP is not likely to diminish and, if the AKP is kept from forming a government after November, the change may bring about a more forceful response from the military. It is the military who have had such a long and fruitful relationship with NATO; a relationship which will be strengthened by the conflict with Russia in Syria and the Black Sea.
[i] Ben Hubbard and Karam Shoumali, "Fertilizer, Also Suited for Bombs, Flows to ISIS Territory From Turkey" NY Times May 4,2015
[ii] Joris Leverink, "Turkey's Support for IS Against the Kurds Exposes Flawed US Strategy", Truthout, 14 April 2015
[iii] Fehim Taştekin, "Turkish military says MIT shipped weapons to al-Qaeda", Al-Monitor January 15, 2015
[iv] Susan Frazer, "Turkey's Ergenekon Trial: Alleged 2002 Coup Plotters Convicted, Including Former Military Chief Ilker Basbug", AP 5/8/13
[v] Mehtap Söyler, The Turkish Deep State: State Consolidation, Civil-Military Relations and Democracy Routledge 2015
[vi] Mehmet Cetingulec, "Turkish Trade Unions in Death Throes" Hurriyet May 5, 2014
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