Erdoğan’s repentance?

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government were solely responsible for the enormous human loss and material damage caused by the February 6 earthquakes. But instead of repenting, they only think about their fortunes in the upcoming elections.
Five years ago, the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) warned about the danger Erdoğan’s construction policy posed to the peoples of Turkey. But he didn’t listen — and is now responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people.
Five years ago, the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) warned about the danger Erdoğan’s construction policy posed to the peoples of Turkey. But he didn’t listen — and is now responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 people.

In the afternmath of Turkey’s 6 February earthquakes, the impudence of those who cowered down under the unbelievable gravity of the housing crimes they had committed, trying to shield themselves from public anger behind the deceptive modesty of “having learned a bitter lesson”, have relapsed in less than a week — a perfect epitomization of the proverb, “Wait until the repentant gambler sees the dice”.

Now the magic motto is “one more year”! Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the threshold of general elections — due 18 June — is asking for another year. He vows to “wash away all traces of destruction and rebuild the quake-stricken cities” within a year. He knows for certain that, even if he could offer a few bites of food to the hungry, there is not a thing left to give to the millions who find themselves homeless, lonely, abandoned and angry.

And so, Sancho Panza makes way for Don Quixote: Bülent Arınç, the former aide of Erdoğan, the self-appointed wise man of the ruling Justice and Development Party, and “the unbending defender of the national will” as he likes to present himself, angles for the “grand plan”: “Oh, the election? No, we couldn’t hold elections now. Who would have the brass face to do that? How dare we? Cannot happen before a year!”

The repentant gambler reverses course as soon as he notices even a tiny possibility of finding a way to obstruct the upcoming elections — maybe even any election — that he is doomed to lose and now he jumps at the dice: “But what if I roll a double six this time?”

Let’s take a brief look at the past before we turn back to the future.

When the political Islamists rose to power, they had inherited a to-do list in their laps from Bülent Ecevit’s outgoing government, the 8th Five-Year Development Plan — a state planning document that alongside major socio-economic issues also covered the issues pertaining to earthquake response and management, based on the bitter experiences of the 7.4 magnitude Marmara Earthquake of 1999, which destroyed a vast area to the east of Istanbul and caused at least 17,000 deaths.

Even the most basic follow through on the state-mandated measures could have prevented the 6 February earthquakes from turning a into catastrophe, as these two articles from the ‘earthquake resistant settlement and building management policies’ section make clear:

  • In the face of natural disasters, site selection constitutes the first and vital step for a safe and economical structure. However, the adverse outcomes of natural disasters, particularly earthquakes, show that the laws on this subject are not implemented effectively.
  • Since a large part of the building stock does not have sufficient earthquake safety, these structures will be systematically evaluated and strengthened in terms of earthquake resistance, and in a priority order starting from regions where the risk is higher.

Not even for a single moment in its 23 years of undivided power with full political responsibility has the Justice and Development Party (AKP) fulfilled any requirements of this plan, which is simply a repetition of standard urban and regional planning policies. This is no secret to anyone.

The “one man”, shamelessly claimed in his address to the nation on Tuesday evening that “98% of the buildings destroyed in the latest disaster were built before 1999”. And even if this unfounded and questionable claim were the whole true, then it would only prove that the 6 February disaster was actually a premeditated massacre.

Because not only did Erdoğan wave aside the fundamental guidelines of the 8th Five-Year Development Plan, but he also had the Turkish parliament pass an amnesty for construction failures, framed as “Public Works Reconciliation” on 10 May 2018. The amnesty exempted 13 million non-standard buildings, which were to be “qualified and strengthened” according to the 8th Five-Year Development Plan, from the earthquake laws and regulations. This was his advance enthronement bonus to property owners as the “Sultan to-be.”

Even if everyone forgets that Erdoğan and his government were solely responsible for the enormous human loss and material damage caused by the February 6 earthquakes, the records of the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) honourable and prescient warnings on 9-10 May 2018 during a parliamentary debate and its “No” votes against the “Public Works Reconciliation” will not. History is the witness. What was to occur had been made clear for everyone:

With this construction amnesty, millions of citizens have already been condemned to death, due to public negligence as a major earthquake awaits them in reality. Instead of doing the exact opposite, as it should be, by mobilising all resources for determined urban re-establishment and restructuring, a great sin has been committed for the sake of an election, for the sake of an election victory. Therefore, with this bill, Turkey’s near future has been put under a very heavy mortgage.

Let’s come back to the present. Any politician who gives in to the Erdoğan regime, not for a year, but even for one day on any argument, has already committed political suicide. Moreover, any politician who would offer people’s lives and futures to these politicians to gamble on the forces of nature, would be obliged not only a political death but also to be named as an accomplice in the most organized and comprehensive massacre ever attempted against the people.

If Turkey will truly turn its eyes to the future, the only rational conclusion it can draw from this reckoning would be to get rid of this parasitic tumour on its back, this despotic and greedy regime, once and for all.

Arınç and Erdoğan, who despise the people calling an election to cast their votes, the only practical way for governance by the people, can only ask themselves “how dare they?” The people’s vote is the people’s pick-axe to rise free from under the rubble of the February 6 earthquakes.

The opposition should stand firmly on the ground of the broadest alliance and embrace democratic politics, the strongest tool for popular defence, and expose the brass faces of these political caricatures.

A one-man regime, never again.

Ertuğrul Kürkçü is PI Council member, the current Honorary President of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and Honorary Associate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). 

Photo: Brookings Institution, Flickr

This piece was originally published by Medya News.

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