Quotulatiousness

May 3, 2017

Reforming Canada’s parliament

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the National Post, Andrew Coyne pours scorn on the “reforms” being put forward by Justin Trudeau’s government and suggests some alternatives that might help make the institution more democratic and less like the Prime Minister’s personal court, by scaling back the power of the PM and other party leaders in the house:

What would a package of reforms look like that was genuinely intended to make the government more accountable to Parliament? It would start, reasonably enough, by reducing the powers of the government over Parliament. Rather than allow government to decide when debate had gone on long enough, for example, it would assign that power to the Speaker — as the Speaker, in the best of the government’s current proposals, would be empowered to divide omnibus bills into separate parts, to be voted on separately. (Perhaps it will be applied to the current such exercise, the budget bill.)

Rather than give the government sole power to decide when to prorogue the House, it would make such decisions subject to a vote of the Commons, with a supermajority required to ensure bipartisan support. (The current proposal is merely that the government should be required to declare its reasons.) A similar constraint might be imposed on its power to dissolve the House. We might also place limits on the confidence convention, under which the government can designate any bill it likes as a confidence measure — the gun at the head by which governments ultimately ensure compliance.

I say government, but of course I mean the prime minister, whose control over any government is near absolute. So a genuine reform plan would also reduce some of his personal prerogatives, beginning with the number and range of offices that are his sole purview to appoint, to be doled out as rewards for obedience: notably, it would halve the size of the cabinet, and with it the number of parliamentary secretaries assigned to each minister.

It would likewise seek to reduce the powers of party leaders over ordinary MPs: by restoring the convention that leaders are elected by caucus, and removable by them; by eliminating the power of the leader (or “designate”) to veto the nominations of party candidates, in favour perhaps of a vote of the caucus or riding association presidents. MPs thus liberated, it would be possible to have more genuinely free votes — on everything. (There would still be confidence votes, of course, but MPs are capable of deciding for themselves whether a matter is worth the fall of the government; MPs who go back on a platform promise can likewise answer to their constituents, not the party whip.)

April 19, 2017

Voting against “Father Turk”‘s legacy

Filed under: Europe, Government, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The secular Turkish Republic is fading fast, as the results of the Turkish referendum amount to a concentration of vast powers in the hands of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. We sometimes joke that Vladimir Putin is the new Tsar, but it’s less funny to refer to Erdoğan as the new Sultan … because it’s much closer to being true:

On Jan. 20, 1921, the Turkish Grand National Assembly passed the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu, or the Law on Fundamental Organization. It would be almost three years until Mustafa Kemal — known more commonly as Ataturk, or “Father Turk” — proclaimed the Republic of Turkey, but the legislation was a critical marker of the new order taking shape in Anatolia.

The new country called Turkey, quite unlike the Ottoman Empire, was structured along modern lines. It was to be administered by executive and legislative branches, as well as a Council of Ministers composed of elected representatives of the parliament. What had once been the authority of the sultan, who ruled alone with political and ecclesiastic legitimacy, was placed in the hands of legislators who represented the sovereignty of the people.

More than any other reform, the Law on Fundamental Organization represented a path from dynastic rule to the modern era. And it was this change that was at stake in Turkey’s referendum over the weekend. Much of the attention on Sunday’s vote was focused on the fact that it was a referendum on the power of the Turkish presidency and the polarizing politician who occupies that office, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Yet it was actually much more.

Whether they understood it or not, when Turks voted “Yes”, they were registering their opposition to the Teşkilât-ı Esasîye Kanunu and the version of modernity that Ataturk imagined and represented. Though the opposition is still disputing the final vote tallies, the Turkish public seems to have given Erdogan and the AKP license to reorganize the Turkish state and in the process raze the values on which it was built. Even if they are demoralized in their defeat, Erdogan’s project will arouse significant resistance among the various “No” camps. The predictable result will be the continuation of the purge that has been going on since even before last July’s failed coup including more arrests and the additional delegitimization of Erdogan’s parliamentary opposition. All of this will further destabilize Turkish politics.

[…]

The AKP and supporters of the “yes” vote argue that the criticism of the constitutional amendments was unfair. They point out that the changes do not undermine a popularly elected parliament and president as well as an independent (at least formally) judiciary. This is all true, but it is also an exceedingly narrow description of the political system that Erdogan envisions. Rather, the powers that would be afforded to the executive presidency are vast, including the ability to appoint judges without input from parliament, issue decrees with the force of law, and dissolve parliament. The president would also have the sole prerogative over all senior appointments in the bureaucracy and exercise exclusive control of the armed forces. The amendments obviate the need for the post of prime minister, which would be abolished. The Grand National Assembly does retain some oversight and legislative powers, but if the president and the majority are from the same political party, the power of the presidency will be unconstrained. With massive imbalances and virtually no checks on the head of state, who will now also be the head of government, the constitutional amendments render the Law on Fundamental Organization and all subsequent efforts to emulate the organizational principles of a modern state moot. It turns out that Erdogan, who would wield power not vested in Turkish leaders since the sultans, is actually a neo-Ottoman.

Mark Steyn says “I told you so”:

As they used to say way back when in the long Ottoman twilight, the Turk is the sick man of Europe. Following this weekend’s Caliph-for-Life referendum, the Turk is sicker than ever. But he’s no longer of Europe, and instead is exiting for a destination dark and catastrophic for almost all his neighbors.

Sultan Erdoğan – who, a mere 15 years ago, was banned from holding political office – has now succeeded in dismantling almost every defining element of the Kemalist republic. What replaces it will be a crude strongman state in service of Islamic imperialism. I have read a lot of commentary this morning, starting with Douglas Murray’s “Turkish Democracy Has Just Died” and moving on to Yavuz Baydar’s “The End Of Turkey As We Know It” via Alex Alexiev’s “Who Lost Turkey?” And several readers have been kind enough to inquire where’s my own “Who Lost Turkey?” piece. Well, the truth is I published it exactly ten years ago, to the day of Erdoğan’s referendum. From the April 16th 2007 edition of National Review, “De-Boning Turkey“:

    The modern secular Muslim state – a country that gave women the vote before Britain did and was Israel’s best friend in an otherwise hostile region – certainly, that Turkey seems to be being de-boned by the hour: it now has an Islamist government whose Prime Minister has canceled trade deals with Israel, denounced the Iraqi elections, and frosted out the US Ambassador because he was Jewish; a new edition of Mein Kampf is prominently displayed at the airport bookstore. In other words, the Zionist Entity’s best pal is starting to look like just another cookie-cutter death-to-the-Great-Satan stan-of-the-month.

In fairness to the new Caliph, ever since he emerged from his semi-pro footballing career to run for Mayor of Istanbul, he’s played a more cunning game than the stan-of-the-month loons. As he said in one of his most famous soundbites, democracy is a bus you ride to the stop you want – and then you get off. And he was quite happy to take the scenic route, stop by stop by stop. In the two or three years after he came to power, I was assured that he was a “moderate Islamist” not merely by the all the foreign-policy think-tank “experts” but even by his political rivals in the previous Kemalist government. […]

Here’s a third graphic – yesterday’s referendum results. The Kurdish south-east, the old secular Rumelian west – and in between the vast green carpet of a new post-Kemalist caliphate:

Turkish referendum results, “yes” voting areas in green, “no” in red.

Overlay the fertility rates on the electoral results: demography proved destiny. As you’ll recall, Kemal Atatürk was born Mustafa Kemal. The new moniker was a title bestowed on him by the post-Ottoman parliament. Atatürk means “Father of the Turks”. Alas, he wasn’t father of enough of them. And the men who were had other ideas about Turkey’s future. We’ve all met charming, urbane, witty, secular Turks. I worked with one recently, and enjoyed his company immensely. But on that ever expanding big green Islamic carpet from east to west there’s no place for them.

April 1, 2017

Hello Angry Losers

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 31 Mar 2017

A Word To The Patronising Minority

March 28, 2017

The next Scottish referendum

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill says that despite the common assertion that those in favour of Brexit can’t object to Scottish independence, the people who supported Brexit have a strong case to argue against Scotland splitting away from the United Kingdom:

The argument is that if you backed Brexit, then you haven’t got a leg to stand on when it comes to opposing Nicola Sturgeon’s latest stab at Scottish independence. They’re the same thing, innit? ‘No one involved in Brexit, or who supported Brexit, can make any argument against Scottish independence except emotional ones’, says a writer for the Spectator.

Actually, the opposite is the case. Brexiteers are precisely the right people to put the case against Scottish independence. Because the argument against Scottish independence is the same as the argument for Brexit. Namely that people should not shy away from democracy, with all the debate and disagreement and difficulties it involves, but rather should embrace it. That instead of hiding from our responsibility to engage in national public life, or handing that responsibility over to ‘expert’ external bodies who will do decision-making on our behalf, we should accept this responsibility, and cherish it. Where Brexit represented a brave reclaiming of the institution of democracy, Scottish independence is driven by a sense of exhaustion with it, and by a rather elitist urge to opt out of it.

To many observers, Brexit and Sturgeon’s campaign for Scottish independence are the same thing: attempts to rupture longstanding unions. (Very longstanding in the case of the UK: 310 years. Not so much in the case of the EU: 24 years.) But the bigger, more important question is surely why these unions are being called into question.

[…]

For leftists in particular, many of whom threw their lot in with the idea of Scots independence during the Indy Ref of 2014, Scottish independence is attractive precisely to the extent that it allows them to circumvent what they see as the backward, Tory-esque thinking of a majority of Brits, especially English people. They, and also many in the SNP, fantasise that Scotland is a progressive, socialist-at-heart nation, and these fine instincts are being stymied by the votes and attitudes of dumb English people. Solution? Cut yourself off. Avoid even having to have the argument with the ignorant masses, never mind having to win it, by creating your own siphoned-off pseudo-independent nation in which you’ll always get your own way.

As one left commentator said during Indy Ref, the left’s flirtation with Scottish nationalism is driven in part by its irritation at ‘the sheer scale of the defeats suffered by the left’. One radical writer described Scottish nationalism as a ‘potential escape mechanism’ for leftists north of the border tired of living under governments in Westminster elected by the low-information right-wing hordes south of Hadrian’s Wall. And that’s what ‘independence’ is for Sturgeon and Co, too: an ‘escape mechanism’, a means of fleeing from the consequences of democracy into your own aloof, agreeable statelet.

This is why this independence movement seems to have so little to do with actual independence, as confirmed by the SNP’s desire to break from Westminster only to wrap itself in the interfering arms of the oligarchy in Brussels: because modern Scottish nationalism isn’t about independence at all. Except, perhaps, independence from the masses. From the British throng. From democracy. From a demos that has proven so disappointing to always-angry Scottish nationalists and to British leftists who see an independent Scotland, shorn of the millions who currently make up British democracy, as an opportunity to create the state-socialist utopia that they know a majority of Brits would find unappetising.

July 18, 2016

Edward Luttwak on the Turkish coup attempt

Filed under: Europe, Government — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

If there’s anyone more qualified than Luttwak (author of Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook (1968)) to discuss the recent coup attempt against President Erdoğan and his government, they must have been participants:

Rule No. 2 in planning a successful military coup is that any mobile forces that are not part of the plot — and that certainly includes any fighter jet squadrons — must be immobilized or too remote to intervene. (Which is why Saudi army units, for example, are based far from the capital.) But the Turkish coup plotters failed to ensure these loyal tanks, helicopters, and jets were rendered inert, so instead of being reinforced as events unfolded, the putschists were increasingly opposed. But perhaps that scarcely mattered because they had already violated Rule No. 1, which is to seize the head of the government before doing anything else, or at least to kill him.

The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was left free to call out his followers to resist the attempted military coup, first by iPhone and then in something resembling a televised press conference at Istanbul’s airport. It was richly ironic that he was speaking under the official portrait of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of Turkey’s modern secular state, because Erdoğan’s overriding aim since entering politics has been to replace it with an Islamic republic by measures across the board: from closing secular high schools so as to drive pupils into Islamic schools to creeping alcohol prohibitions to a frenzied program of mosque-building everywhere — including major ex-church museums and university campuses, where, until recently, headscarves were prohibited.

Televised scenes of the crowds that came out to oppose the coup were extremely revealing: There were only men with mustaches (secular Turks rigorously avoid them) with not one woman in sight. Moreover, their slogans were not patriotic, but Islamic — they kept shouting “Allahu ekber” (the local pronunciation of “akbar”) and breaking out into the Shahada, the declaration of faith.

Richly ironic, too, was the prompt and total support of U.S. President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the European Union’s hapless would-be foreign minister, Federica Mogherini, in the name of “democracy.” Erdogan has been doing everything possible to dismantle Turkey’s fragile democracy: from ordering the arrest of journalists who criticized him, including the outright seizure and closure of the country’s largest newspaper, Zaman, to the very exercise of presidential power, since Turkey is not a presidential republic like the United States or France, but rather a parliamentary republic like Germany or Italy, with a mostly ceremonial president and the real power left to the prime minister. Unable to change the constitution because his Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not have enough votes in parliament, Erdogan instead installed the slavishly obedient (and mustachioed) Binali Yildirim as prime minister — his predecessor, Ahmet Davutoglu, had been very loyal, but not quite a slave — and further subverted the constitutional order by convening cabinet meetings under his own chairmanship in his new 1,000-room palace: a multibillion-dollar, 3.2 million-square-foot monstrosity (the White House is approximately 55,000 square feet), which was built without authorized funding or legal permits in a nature reserve.

July 8, 2016

Pat Condell – We Saved Our Democracy

Filed under: Britain, Europe — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 7 Jul 2016

We have everything to be proud of.

June 26, 2016

QotD: Liberty and Democracy

Filed under: Government, Liberty, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter. A democratic state may profess to venerate the name, and even pass laws making it officially sacred, but it simply cannot tolerate the thing. In order to keep any coherence in the governmental process, to prevent the wildest anarchy in thought and act, the government must put limits upon the free play of opinion. In part, it can reach that end by mere propaganda, by the bald force of its authority — that is, by making certain doctrines officially infamous. But in part it must resort to force, i.e., to law. One of the main purposes of laws in a democratic society is to put burdens upon intelligence and reduce it to impotence. Ostensibly, their aim is to penalize anti-social acts; actually their aim is to penalize heretical opinions. At least ninety-five Americans out of every 100 believe that this process is honest and even laudable; it is practically impossible to convince them that there is anything evil in it. In other words, they cannot grasp the concept of liberty. Always they condition it with the doctrine that the state, i.e., the majority, has a sort of right of eminent domain in acts, and even in ideas — that it is perfectly free, whenever it is so disposed, to forbid a man to say what he honestly believes. Whenever his notions show signs of becoming “dangerous,” ie, of being heard and attended to, it exercises that prerogative. And the overwhelming majority of citizens believe in supporting it in the outrage. Including especially the Liberals, who pretend — and often quite honestly believe — that they are hot for liberty. They never really are. Deep down in their hearts they know, as good democrats, that liberty would be fatal to democracy — that a government based upon shifting and irrational opinion must keep it within bounds or run a constant risk of disaster. They themselves, as a practical matter, advocate only certain narrow kinds of liberty — liberty, that is, for the persons they happen to favor. The rights of other persons do not seem to interest them. If a law were passed tomorrow taking away the property of a large group of presumably well-to-do persons — say, bondholders of the railroads — without compensation and without even colorable reason, they would not oppose it; they would be in favor of it. The liberty to have and hold property is not one they recognize. They believe only in the liberty to envy, hate and loot the man who has it.

H.L. Mencken, “Liberty and Democracy”, Baltimore Evening Sun, 1925-04-13.

May 29, 2016

QotD: Re-evaluating Athenian democracy

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Ancient critics of Athenian democracy, such as Plato and Thucydides, argued that the state was dysfunctional because the citizens who ruled it through direct democracy were often too ignorant and irrational to make good decisions. For example, Thucydides claimed that Athens launched the disastrous Sicilian expedition, which led to the fall of the Athenian Empire, because the ignorant citizens had no idea how large and populous the island of Sicily was, and thus were easily snookered by demagoguery in favor of the ill-advised high-risk venture.

For centuries, critics of democracy pointed to Athens as a prime example of why the ignorant masses should be barred from wielding political power, especially directly. These critiques of Athens had a major impact on the American Founding Fathers. They were a key factor leading them to include a number of anti-democratic features in our Constitution.

The good news is that modern scholarship suggests that Athenian voters were more knowledgeable and did a much better job of making decisions than the longstanding conventional wisdom supposes. The bad news is that ancient Athenian citizens could avoid some of the pitfalls of ignorance in part because they had important advantages that voters in modern democracies mostly lack. Relative to modern counterparts, ancient Athenian voters dealt with a government with a much narrower range of functions, had far stronger incentives to acquire relevant knowledge, and often had direct personal experience with the most important functions of the state, which made it easier for them to assess leaders’ performance. I summarized these points in greater detail in this review essay. While ancient Athenian democracy did a better job of surmounting political ignorance than it is often given credit for, some of the reasons for its relative success should lead us to be more rather than less concerned about the enormous extent of political ignorance today. Jonathan Gruber’s assessment of the American voter may be more accurate than Thucydides’ take on ancient Athens.

It’s also worth remembering that, by modern standards, Athens was closer to being a narrow oligarchy than a democracy. Because women, slaves, and the city’s large population of resident noncitizens were excluded from the franchise, only a small fraction of the adult population actually got to participate in politics (though still a much larger one than in most other ancient states). Athens’ enemies often saw it as a nightmare of democratic egalitarianism run amok. But that was because their own oligarchies were far narrower still.

Ilya Somin, “The modern case for studying ancient Athenian democracy”, The Volokh Conspiracy, 2015-01-30.

April 3, 2016

QotD: What might trigger a new war in Europe

Filed under: Europe, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I have said on a few occasions that, in my opinion, based on my reading of history, wars are, as often as not, caused by fear. Even Vladimir Putin’s naked aggression is, I think, a result of his fear of what is happening to Russia: a steady decline back into political and strategic irrelevance. It is not at all unreasonable to suppose that fear of the societal changes that very large scale migrations will bring cannot and will not provoke people into electing governments that will, out of fear of the unknown, attack their neighbours in a misguided effort to sauve qui peut in their own societies.

I think Sir Max [Hastings]’s “think-tank friend in Washington,” was (still is) wrong when he “observed last week: ‘Democracy only works where there is a broad consensus about the distribution of wealth and power.’ And it is because this consensus faces unprecedented stresses in consequence of migration in Europe, that he believes some factions may resort to violence, even outright war.” The “broad consensus” is not about wealth or power, it is about respecting the rules, living with and within the “institutions” which make democracy work. Those institutions are strong in e.g. Britain, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries; they are weaker in e.g. France, which, for example, tossed out a democratic government and constitution in 1958 when the Algerian war went sour.; they are weaker still, in my opinion, in the entire “Southern tier” of Europe (Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, and the Balkans and in the Eastern European states that only recently tossed off the yoke of Russian/communist rule. If trouble is going to start it will happen, I think, in those weaker states. A European war is likely to start when one of the countries with weaker institutions decides, our of fear, that it must break the rules that hold Europe together.

Ted Campbell, “Everyman’s Strategic Survey: Europe(2)”, Ted Campbell’s Point of View, 2016-03-22.

March 3, 2016

QotD: The American presidency

Filed under: Government, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

H.L. Mencken, Baltimore Sun, 1920-07-26.

January 13, 2016

QotD: The problem of democracy

Filed under: Europe, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The sort of real democracy that European Unionist loonies hate, because it is expression of common people trying to get their ideological rulers to listen to their real world concerns. The sort of democracy that inevitably leads to dictatorship… (or at least to a different dictatorship than that of Merkel and the European Union diktats).

Democracy is supposed to be a wonderful thing, unless of course the majority of your population do not want to go where the political and chattering classes believe they must take them. In which case it is something to be ignored, or outflanked. Preferably by non-democratic routes such as the European Union, but if necessary by the simple expedient of ignoring the electoral result and trying to install someone who fits your preferences better … see Portugal after the last election.

So the great ideal of democracy is ignored by the ideologues, until the electoral swingback gets so extreme that protest voters start electing people who hate democracy … Extreme parties of the left and right across Europe come easily to mind, and can be compared with other popularly elected lashback responses by irritated and frustrated voters – Fascism and Nazism spring to mind.

The modern ideal of Democracy, is founded on the ridiculous, and incorrect, 1700’s assumption that all Europe’s problems can be traced back to Monarchy.

Nigel Davies, “The Solution is… European Union/Multiculturalism/Communism… Name your poison!”, rethinking history, 2015-12-26.

December 8, 2015

QotD: Politics, ideology, tribalism, and religion in the Middle East

Filed under: Middle East, Quotations, Religion — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Western media and intelligentsia don’t seem to have a clue that the issues in the Middle East are not related to competing political ideologies, but to competing religious tribalism.

The ongoing conflicts throughout the region, and in other parts of the world, are not about democracy versus monarchy; or fascism versus communism; or imperialism versus freedom. Or indeed any of the other childish ideologies Western journalists fell in love with during their undergraduate post modernist deconstructionalist courses by failed ex-[Trotskyites], who simply can’t accept that the last century has proven how appalling and basically evil their over-simplistic ideologies are. (Yes Comrade Corbyn, that’s you and your gushing twitteratti I am slamming!)

In fact the problem in the Muslim world is that they are entering the third decade of the Muslim Civil War.

The Sunni and Shia are at about the point that the Roman Catholics and the Protestants were at in Europe in the 1620s to 30s, and it is only going to get worse. That war was ideological, and paid very little attention to national boundaries. This one is the same. The Christian 30 Years War is about to be repeated in a Muslim civil war, and 30 years might be an optimistic number.

Interestingly the Christians split over three or four centuries into Orthodox and Roman, then split again into Albigensian and Protestant, etc. Eventually it got to the point, after 14 or 15 centuries of slow development, that major conflict broke out. Is it co-incidence that the Muslims have followed a similar path? Is it inevitable that after 14 or 15 centuries of existence, they too are having a major internal conflict? Or is it just that a century of renewed prosperity and development (largely brought on by Western intrusion into their secular affairs) has given them the semi-educated proto-middle-class who traditionally stir up revolutionary stuff they don’t understand?

Whatever the reasons, stupid Westerners are eventually going to have to admit to a few of realities.

  1. No matter how much you fantasise about the functionality of republics and democracy, you can’t impose systems that don’t work in places that don’t have the necessary pre-requisites.
  2. No matter how much literacy or free press you do manage to push in, you can’t impose rule of law and understanding of natural law on societies that have very specifically rejected such concepts for eight or nine centuries.
  3. No matter how much your secularist ideologies (developed from safely behind two millennia of Christian teaching that accepts rule of law and natural law) is offended, you cannot expect a similar acceptance from people whose cultural development of such beliefs is several centuries behind the West.
  4. No matter what you want to believe, the Muslim civil war is happening.

Let’s hope we really are at least half way through the 30 years…

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s”, Rethinking History, 2015-09-19.

November 6, 2015

Turkish politics, post-election

Filed under: Europe, Middle East, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Austin Bay looks at Turkey’s domestic political situation following the re-election of Recep Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party:

The threat to Turkish democratic institutions is a man notoriously jealous of Ataturk, current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The snap election gave Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party, AKP, overwhelming control of parliament (316 of 550 seats). The AKP had controlled parliament since 2002, but in the June 7 election it lost its one-party majority. Political haggling among opposition parties, including Ataturk’s Republican Peoples Party, the CHP, failed to produce a coalition government; a new election was necessary.

However, in the intervening month’s domestic terrorist incidents, the fitful war with the Islamic State in the Levant and Syria’s violent chaos dominated Turkish politics.

Erdoğan portrayed himself as the only leader capable of addressing Turkey’s deteriorating security situation. Domestic security certainly diminished; why it did stirs angry accusations. Erdoğan’s political opponents maintain that he used the violence to solidify political support. His more vicious critics accuse him of intentionally permitting violence. For example, they argue his government could have prevented the Oct. 10 terror bombing of a peace march in Ankara, now attributed to ISIL. Over 100 people were murdered in that attack.

Is it an over the top conspiracy theory-type accusation? Possibly. Erdoğan himself, however, believes over the top conspiracy theories, and he uses conspiratorial doubt and fear as political tools. His record for jailing journalists and intimidating political opponents associated with his alleged conspiracies is fact, not theory. The election didn’t assuage his fears — it ignited another surge of arrests. On Nov. 3, police arrested scores of people associated with Erdoğan critic and Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. At one time Gulen supported Erdoğan and the moderate Islamist AKP. However, Gulen broke with Erdoğan over credible charges of corruption within Erdoğan’s governing circle.

Daniel Pipes isn’t convinced that the terror stampeded voters in Erdoğan’s direction (especially Kurdish voters), and he suspects fraud in the election results:

Like other observers of Turkish politics, I was stunned on November 1 when the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP) was reported to have increased its share of the national vote since the last round of elections in June 2015 by 9 percent and its share of parliamentary seats by 11 percent.

The polls had consistently shown the four major parties winning about the same number of seats as in June. This made intuitive sense; they represent mutually hostile outlooks (Islamist, leftist, Kurdish, nationalist), making substantial movement between them in under five months highly unlikely. That about one in nine voters switched parties defies reason.

Polling results between the June and November 2015 Turkish elections

Polling results between the June and November 2015 Turkish elections

The AKP’s huge increase gave it back the parliamentary majority it had lost in the June 2015 elections, promising President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a semi-legal path to the dictatorial powers he aspires to.

But, to me, the results stink of fraud. It defies reason, for example, that the AKP’s war on Kurds would prompt about a quarter of Turkey’s Kurds to abandon the pro-Kurdish party and switch their votes to the AKP.

October 22, 2015

The decline of democracy in Turkey

Filed under: Europe, Middle East, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Last week, Daniel Pipes looked at the increasingly dictatorial ambitions of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan:

The Republic of Turkey is undergoing possibly its greatest crisis since the founding of the state nearly a century ago. Present trends suggest worse to come as a long-time Western ally evolves into a hostile dictatorship.

The crisis results primarily from the ambitions of one very capable and sinister individual, Turkey’s 61-year old president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. A career politician who previously served four years as the mayor of Turkey’s megacity, Istanbul, and then eleven years as the country’s prime minister, he forwards two goals hitherto unknown in the republic: dictatorship and full application of the Shari’a, Islam’s law code.

During his first eight years of power, 2003-11, Erdoğan ruled with such finesse that one could only suspect these two aspirations; proof remained elusive. This author, for example, wrote an article in 2005 that weighed the contradictory evidence for and against Erdoğan being an Islamist. A combination of playing by the rules, caution in the Islamic arena, and economic success won Erdoğan’s party, Justice and Development (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, or AKP), increasing percentages of the vote in parliamentary elections, going from 34 percent in 2002, to 46 percent in 2007, to 50 percent in 2011.

That 2011 election victory, his third in succession, gave Erdoğan the confidence finally to remove the armed forces from politics, where they had long served as Turkey’s ultimate power broker. Ironically, this change ended the increasing democratization of prior decades for his fully taking charge allowed Erdoğan to develop an oversized ego, to bare his fangs, flex his despotic muscles, and openly seek his twin objectives of tyranny and Shari’a.

Indeed, Erdoğan made his power felt in every domain after 2011. Banks provided loans to the businessmen who kicked back funds to the AKP. Hostile media found themselves subject to vast fines or physical assault. Ordinary citizens who criticized the leader found themselves facing lawsuits, fines, and jail. Politicians in competing parties faced dirty tricks. Like a latter-day sultan, Erdoğan openly flouted the law and intervened at will when and where he wished, inserting himself into legal proceedings, meddling in local decisions, and interfering with police investigations. For example, he responded to compelling raw evidence of his own and his family’s corruption by simply closing down the inquiry.

October 9, 2015

QotD: Populism and the Nanny State

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

“Democracy,” or populism, has always delivered the Nanny State — which to my understanding is something more than a centralized bureaucracy. The Communists tried to deliver it by force, but politicians in our parliamentary free markets advance it by appealing to the lowest common denominator. The two systems — falsely contrasted “socialist” and “free market” ideologies — are animated by the same Enlightenment ideals. Both claim to speak for the mute and anonymous “little man”: to stuff him with material goods, and inflate him with rhetorical gases. Both play, directly and indirectly, on the envy in that little man, and his resentment of his betters. Both are thus effectively in opposition to the natural hierarchical ordering of society (which made and would make most politics unnecessary). Both promise, as a matter of course, what the serpent offered to Eve and Adam: the fruit that will make the little men “like gods.”

The purpose behind this is not to build the bureaucracy, as an end in itself, but bureaucracy as the means towards moral debilitation. The excellence of bureaucracy, from the diabolical point of view, is that it reliably punishes the good, and rewards bad behaviour. Its weakness remains an inability to predict that human behaviour, including sudden manifestations of the “hostile inflexibility” mentioned in my last post.

For there is in nature something besides the original sin that felled our first parents, and has been the trickster of history ever since. There is also a positive, which I’m inclined to call “human decency,” or in its most extreme and inflexible form, Love. This cuts across all diabolical intentions, and in moments of grace even faces them down. It should be said that the free market approach to moral debilitation leaves rather more scope to this human decency, though it tends to draw the line at Love. Violent tyranny leaves no scope at all, but as a consequence of plugging every vent, triggers the response of pent-up forces. At some point, the signal from a fracture spreads, and in a kind of earthquake, Berlin Walls come down. The genius of the rival consumer democracy is that it releases the pressure, one riot at a time.

But democracies, too, are fated — like every material aspiration on this earth, to die and leave no traces. When they deny the immortal dimension of man, the unchanging reality of creature and Creator, they become dry husks. The wind bloweth where it listeth, and in every direction the dry husks are scattered away. Only by God is the living implanted, and only on God’s terms will it grow. That jealous God, who will have no other gods before Him; against Whom we have, in truth, opposed our little “democratic” pie-in-the-sky.

David Warren, “Ottawa in the news”, Essays in Idleness, 2014-10-23.

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