TIME India

Why Modi Is No Erdogan

India's new PM has much in common with the Turkish leader, but the analogy only goes so far

As Narendra Modi stormed into the consciousness of the world beyond India, analysts everywhere scrambled to interpret him for their readers and viewers. The easiest interpretive reflex of all is the comparison; and so it was inevitable that Modi, India’s new Prime Minister, came to be likened to Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Ariel Sharon, Shinzo Abe and Deng Xiaoping. Even Vladimir Putin was invoked as a comparator, notwithstanding the fact that there is nothing in Modi’s record or rhetoric to suggest that he will seek to annex the land of a neighboring country—or pose bare-chested atop a horse.

The analogy that stood out as most informative—and least rose-tinted—was the likening of Modi to Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s Islamist-democrat Prime Minister. At first glance, the parallels between Modi and Erdogan seem striking: Both men head parties that have expressed disdain for their countries’ secular traditions, instead channeling the religious aspirations of a large section of the citizenry. Both men dominate their parties, there being in neither the Indian Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) nor the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) a politician of stature who can mount a credible leadership challenge. Modi and Erdogan profess to be free-marketers, and yet they face accusations of crony capitalism. Both men are known to be reluctant delegators of authority, centralizing policymaking and execution. And both draw accusations of high-handedness from their critics, evoking in those who would oppose them a fear that they cannot be trusted with a pluralist democracy.

Yet it would be a mistake to be seduced by this comparison into concluding that Modi is India’s Erdogan. There are as many differences between the two as there are similarities. More important, the differences between the politics and institutions of India and Turkey are so great as to render the resemblance between the two men entirely superficial.

Erdogan came to power in 2003, bristling to undo the Kemalist state. From the beginning, he sought to roll back laws and practices that barred Turkey’s overwhelmingly Muslim population from being as Muslim in public as they wished to be. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk espoused a radical secularism that suppressed much of the culture of ordinary Turks, and Erdogan’s project was a counterrevolution against the founder of the Turkish republic.

Modi’s cultural revolution does not call for a remaking of the Indian state. India’s constitutional secularism, unlike Turkey’s, is intended to be benign, allowing the practices of all religions to coexist in the public sphere. India’s Hindu believers, unlike Turkey’s devout Muslims, have never had to fight the state to express themselves in public. Yes, Indian secular elites have cultivated a disdain for the Hindu heartland, but there has been no legal curb on Hinduism in India, no ramming of secularism down Hindu (or, for that matter, Muslim) throats.

Indian democracy is more accomplished, and self-assured, than Turkey’s. Erdogan is an autocratic Prime Minister in a rudderless democracy whose institutional checks are feeble. Modi may dominate the BJP, but Erdogan incarnates the AKP. India’s federal structure ensures that there are limits on even the most autocratic Prime Minister. You want to build a state-of-the-art highway between Delhi and Mumbai? You have to negotiate passage with the chief ministers of at least four states. Erdogan, by contrast, can do as he pleases.

There is also the difference in international stature between India and Turkey that will bring about its own curbs on Modi. Turkey is a middling regional power that has, under Erdogan, squandered every diplomatic chip that Ankara once possessed. Even as he has nurtured economic growth, Erdogan has presided over the global shrinking of Turkey.

Modi, on the other hand, seeks the aggrandizing of India, the building of new relations, not the dismantling of old ones. And whatever his likeness to Erdogan, there is one crucial difference: he is a man of almost disconcerting discipline. It is inconceivable that he would wade into a crowd, fists flailing, shrieking “spawn of Israel” at a protester, as Erdogan did recently.

There is nothing Modi measures so carefully as his own words.

Varadarajan is the Virginia Hobbs Carpenter fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution

TIME Turkey

Turkey Lifts Two-Month Block on YouTube

A man tries to get connected to the youtube web site with his tablet at a cafe in Istanbul
A man tries to connect to YouTube with his tablet at a café in Istanbul on March 27, 2014. Osman Orsal—Reuters

A Turkish court declared the ban unconstitutional, in another blow to Prime Minister Erdogan's Internet-censorship efforts

YouTube is back online in Turkey after more than two months in the dark, authorities said on Tuesday.

CNET reports that the video-sharing website is once again accessible after the Constitutional Court of Turkey, the country’s uppermost legal body, ended the government’s ban five days ago. The court cited the Turkish constitution’s freedom-of-expression clause, which guarantees that “everyone has the right to express and disseminate his/her thoughts and opinions by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media.”

The administration of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — whose allegedly authoritarian tactics have prompted an ongoing series of protests since May of last year — first went after the site on March 27, after it was used to host a leaked audio recording of Turkish officials discussing security matters in Syria.

Free speech online has been a tricky issue in Turkey amid the recent domestic uprisings, which have relied heavily on social media. It’s still difficult to see who has the upper hand. Erdogan’s ban on Twitter fell flat just two weeks after he imposed it on March 20, and while YouTube is once again accessible, Turkey’s Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) has a recent history of stubbornness in actually lifting web restrictions.

A lower court’s ruling against the YouTube ban in early April fell largely on deaf ears, and the fate of the Constitutional Court’s appellate decision five days ago was at first uncertain: just last week, the TIB insisted that it had no plans to unblock the site for as long as it contains “criminal content.”

TIME

Police Tear Gas Protestors On Taksim Square Anniversary

Demonstrations on the one-year anniversary of Turkey's Taksim Square protests descended into violence as police tear gassed protestors

Police fired tear gas and water cannons at protestors in Istanbul Saturday on the one-year anniversary of the Taksim Square protests. It was a heavy-handed effort to prevent the mass protests that rocked the country last year, and in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, 25,000 police were deployed, charging protestors who huddled together en masse, reports the BBC. Earlier in the day, a CNN reporter was detained by police.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has faced an increasingly divided electorate in the face of attempts to block YouTube and Twitter and quell opponents.

Erdogan warned young people Friday not to partake in demonstrations, saying the movement begun last year against his government was founded by “terrorist organizations” that “manipulated our morally and financially weak youth to attack our unity and put our economy under threat”.

 

TIME Turkey

VIDEO: CNN Reporter Detained in Turkey While Live on Air

Istanbul correspondent detained while on air as Turkey remains starkly divided

A CNN reporter was detained in Turkey Saturday while filming a live news report on demonstrations marking the one-year anniversary of the Taksim Square protests.

Ivan Watson, the news channel’s correspondent in Istanbul, was in Taksim Square when he was approached by police officers and asked to show his passport. Watson displayed his press card to the police and the still-rolling camera before being pulled away by officers.

“Just a minute, just a minute, may I see your passport please,” a man asks Watson.

“We’re being detained right now,” Watson can be heard saying before the camera cuts out. “I’m being kicked.”

Watson said on Twitter that he had been released after less than an hour and that the police apologized for kneeing him.

Turkey is struggling with deep ideological divides and questions about free speech in the year since the Taksim Square protests. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party won recent elections, but many Turks remain deeply divided about his leadership after his response to a recent fatal mining incident in which hundreds were killed and his attempts to block Twitter after it was used to spread reports of corruption in his government.

Erdogan said Saturday that police would not permit demonstrations in Taksim Square on the one-year anniversary of the protests, reports Turkish news outlet Hurriyet. Nearly a dozen people across Turkey were killed last year during protests against what demonstrators said was the government’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

TIME World

Memorial Day, Remembrance Sunday and Armed Forces Day: How 9 Other Countries Remember Their Fallen Troops

Fields Of Remembrance Poppies Ahead of Sunday's Service
Crosses with Remembrance Poppies, worn during Remembrance Day in Britain. Cate Gillon—Getty Images

As America observes Memorial Day, here’s how other countries around the world honor their fallen.

Americans remember the men and women of its armed forces who have died in service every year on Memorial Day, always the last Monday in May. Heralding the beginning of summer in the U.S., Memorial Day is an official national holiday that has its roots in the memorials for fallen soldiers in after the American Civil War, still the country’s deadliest conflict.

In other countries around the world, Memorial Day-style observances are rooted in an even deadlier fight — The First World War. World War I, which began a hundred years ago and became one of the deadliest conflicts in history, spawned national memorials throughout the British Commonwealth and elsewhere (in the U.S., the end of the war is commemorated with Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day). In still other countries, a memorial holiday remembers the war dead of more recent conflicts.

Here’s how countries around the world honor their fallen:

Britain

The United Kingdom observes Remembrance Sunday with ceremonies across the country on the Sunday nearest to November 11, the day Germany signed the armistice ending World War I hostilities. Today, the day memorializes fallen British soldiers in all conflicts since the Great War. On November 11 at 11 a.m.—the time of the signing of the armistice—the UK holds a two-minute silence. “Remembrance poppies” are worn and displayed as per a tradition inspired by the Canadian poet John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields:”

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

South Korea

South Koreans observe Memorial Day on June 6, the same month that the Korean War began, to honor servicemen and civilians who have died for their country. The nation holds a one-minute silence at 10 a.m.

France

Armistice Day in France is solemnly observed on Nov. 11 with ceremonies, special church services and poppy adornments. In recent years, the holiday has come to recognize all of the country’s war dead in addition to the 1.4 million people killed in the First World War.

New Zealand and Australia

Anzac Day on April 25 commemorates New Zealand and Australia’s servicemen and women who have died. The day, which stands for “Australian and New Zealand Army Corps,” falls on the anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, the first major military action by both forces in the First World War in a campaign that would fuel the building of a national consciousness in both countries.

Turkey

Turkey observes Martyrs’ Day on March 18, the anniversary of a major victory against the Allied Powers during the Gallipoli Campaign. The day is used today to commemorate Turks who have died for the country.

Nigeria

Nigeria formerly observed Armed Forces Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 as a member of the commonwealth. But it has since moved the date to Jan. 15, 1970 to commemorate the end of the country’s civil war.

Italy

Italy observes National Unity and Armed Forces Day on November 4, the date Austria-Hungary surrendered to the Italians in 1918. The day is accompanied by ceremonies commemorating members of the armed forces killed in action.

Canada

Remembrance Day in Canada, a national holiday on Nov. 11, commemorates Canada’s servicemen and women. At 11 a.m., the country holds a two minute silence in memory of those who perished.

TIME

Pictures of the Week: May 16 – May 23

From the public opening of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum to unprecedented flooding in Bosnia and Serbia, from student protests in Kenya and a traveling panda, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME Turkey

3 Arrested for Negligence After Turkey Mine Explosion

Akin Celik
Police and paramilitary-police officers escort Akin Celik, the mining company's operations manager, center right, and two other mining officials en route to prison in the Turkish coal-mining town of Soma on May 18, 2014 Emre Tazegul—AP

They may face three- to 15-year sentences; 19 suspects are still in custody following a mine explosion that killed more than 300 people

Three people have been arrested on negligence charges following a Turkish mining explosion that killed 301 people earlier this week, a prosecutor said during a Sunday press conference.

The three were also charged with causing the death of more than one person, though intent is not implied in the charge. Turkey’s penal code states that such charges can lead to prison sentences of between three and 15 years.

Prosecutor Bekir Sahiner said that one of the people arrested was the operations manager of the company that oversees the mine, the Associated Press reports.

Six of the 25 people initially detained after the explosion have been released, Sahiner said.

The mining company and the Turkish government have both said the mine was properly inspected and that negligence was not to blame. However, public outcry over the disaster has led officials to promise a thorough investigation, as poor safety conditions in Turkey’s mining industry have made accidents a common occurrence.

[AP]

TIME

Pictures of the Week: May 9 – May 16

From the Turkish mining disaster to the conclusion of the world’s largest elections in India, from the dedication of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and the opening of the Cannes Film Festival, TIME presents the best photos of the week.

TIME Turkey

Anger Builds as Victims of Turkey’s Worst Mining Disaster Are Buried

People carry the coffin of a miner who died in a fire at a coal mine, draped with a Turkish flag, during his funeral at a cemetery in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa
People carry the coffin of a miner who died in a fire at a coal mine, draped with a Turkish flag, during his funeral at a cemetery in Soma, a district in Turkey's western province of Manisa May 15, 2014. Osman Orsal—Reuters

Turks are demanding answers as the death toll from Tuesday’s explosion in a coal mine in the country’s west reaches 284

The first burials of those who perished in Turkey’s worst ever mining disaster began Thursday, as public anger grew over the administration’s reaction to the disaster that saw 284 lives lost with 140 people still missing.

“It’s not an accident, it’s murder,” read a banner waved by trade unionists marching through the capital, Istanbul, according to the Associated Press.

As weary men dug makeshift graves amid the mournful sound of wailing relatives, rescue workers continued to battle methane gas and flames in their efforts to save those still trapped underground.

Turks have been infuriated by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s apparent shrugging off of the tragedy. Mining accidents “are in the nature of the business,” he said Thursday, citing comparable disasters from British, American and Chinese history.

Compounding the sense of national revulsion, a photograph of one of Erdogan’s aides viciously kicking a restrained protester circulated on international and domestic media Thursday. Tear gas was fired as crowds demanded justice for the victims.

As more people took to the streets, Erdogan warned “extremists” against taking advantage of the tragedy for their own ends. “Everyone should be assured that this accident will be investigated to the smallest detail,” he added. “We won’t allow any negligence to be ignored.”

According to Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency, the Labor Ministry insists that the mine had been inspected twice just two months before Tuesday’s explosion and no safety concerns had been flagged.

There have been more than 3,000 deaths and 100,000 mining injuries in Turkey since 1941, according to the national statistics agency.

TIME Turkey

Anger at Turkish Mine Disaster Rebounds on Erdogan

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits scene of accident following the coal mine fire disaster in Soma district of Manisa, western Turkish province, on May 14, 2014.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visits scene of accident following the coal mine fire disaster in Soma district of Manisa, western Turkish province, on May 14, 2014. Ege Gurgun—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

After surviving a massive corruption scandal, battles with social-media sites and protests over his authoritarian politics, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's populist image may be further harmed by the deadly coal-mine disaster in Soma

As if Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t have enough to worry about with a massive corruption scandal, running battles with the world’s most popular social-media sites and stubborn protests over his authoritarian politics, Wednesday’s catastrophic mine accident in the city of Soma looks set to trouble his premiership yet further.

Only six weeks after Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party dominated Turkey’s municipal elections, a victory that was widely viewed as a vote of confidence in the Premier, the mine explosion quickly stirred discontent. Protesters congregated at the local party headquarters in the city of 100,000 people, 480 km southwest of Istanbul, some calling the Premier “murderer” and “thief,” according to news reports.

Demonstrators, some wearing miner’s helmets, also gathered outside the Istanbul headquarters of the company that owned the mine; underground, commuters played dead on subway platforms in a show of solidarity with the dead miners. Another group in the capital city of Ankara tried to march on the Energy Ministry before being dispersed by police.

Erdogan reacted to the disaster much as any leader would: he canceled a planned trip to Albania in order to visit the site and ordered three days of mourning. But he was more combative than statesmanlike when confronted with the complaints of grieving families that safety had been shortchanged at the mine. The deaths occurred after an electrical transformer exploded during a shift change, with more than 700 workers in the mine. The death toll stood at 274 on Thursday, with at least 150 others still trapped in smoldering tunnels filled with toxic gases.

“Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It’s not like these don’t happen elsewhere in the world,” Erdogan said at a news conference after his site visit, before listing a series of global mining disasters going back to 1862.

The Prime Minister has largely weathered the controversies that have gathered about him over the past year, thanks in part to the economic expansion he has overseen over the decade-plus rule of the AKP, as his party is known in Turkey. But the mine disaster could strike in a visceral way at the core of the Premier’s populist image, as a self-described “black Turk” who stands with the common man against elitists who controlled national politics for most of Turkey’s history.

Erdogan’s close links to big business, in particular the construction industry, was after all at the heart of the massive judicial probe prosecutors pursued until he ordered them reassigned. And after almost a dozen years in power, his party cannot avoid responsibility for the country’s abysmal record on worker safety. The Geneva-based International Labour Organization in 2012 ranked Turkey third worst in the world for worker deaths.

The Soma disaster carries specific risks for the incumbent. Last month, a local lawmaker petitioned Turkey’s parliament to investigate the mine; Ozgur Ozel, a member of the opposition Republican People’s Party, said residents had complained incessantly that the mine was not safe. The effort was thwarted by Erdogan’s party, some members of which publicly mocked the proposal. Erdogan pointed out on Wednesday that the mine had passed inspections in March.

The issue is sure to be revisited now, and for some time to come. Already media outlets critical to Erdogan were linking the Prime Minister to the disaster and alleging the mine operators were given advance notice of inspections. “Massacre in the mine,” read the headline on one column in the English language Today’s Zaman on Wednesday. “Symptom of a one-man regime.”

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