Sex Tapes Threaten Turkish Democracy

Illustration for article titled Sex Tapes Threaten Turkish Democracy

Usually a sex tape results in personal embarrassment, and possibly a reality show career. But in Turkey, the release of sex videos featuring prominent politicians could change the course of history.

According to the AP, a group called the "Different Nationalists" released a first round of sex tapes earlier this month, depicting officials of the far-right Nationalist Action Party having affairs. The tapes sound fairly tame by Paris Hilton standards — some showed the officials talking to women in apartment, while one showed a party member in bed with a woman, discussing a car he had given her. Nonetheless, these were enough to force four NAP officials to resign. Now the Different Nationalists say they have tapes incriminating six more officials, and they'll release them unless the party's leader, Devlet Bahceli (pictured), withdraws from Turkey's June 12 election.

He says he won't do it, but some are concerned that the scandal could cause the NAP to lose its seats in the Turkish parliament. This would allow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's own party to further consolidate power, and might bring it closer to the majority it needs to enact major constitutional changes. Critics have long been concerned about the lack of a viable opposition party in Turkey, and last year, the leader of one such party was forced to resign — also because of a sex tape. Erdogan insists he's not responsible for the current video scandal, but it's certainly worked out well for him so far. And whoever's behind it, it's pretty fascinating — and disturbing — that something generally thought of as gossip-blog fodder has become such a potent political weapon.


Turkish Website Threatens To Post More Sex Tapes [AP, via NYT]

Related: Sex Tape Opens Bright Future For Turkey [Guardian]

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I think there are several points that need to be explained.

First, the (NAP) is racist. That's their ideology. They don't have anything else, they never did. They used to assassinate and torture leftists back in the day, now they mostly intimidate people, and argue that everybody in Turkey should speak Turkish and call herself a Turk, which is insane because Turkey has minorities. They hate minorities. They also want to bring back capital punishment and execute rapists and terrorists. This is their entire party platform. Most people think that the tape they threaten to release is not a sex tape. It's a recording of a clandestine meeting. These guys are always involved in some illegal business. That's why it's a big deal. Otherwise, nobody would care that a single guy slept with a woman.

Second, when the leader of the main opposition party resigned last year after a sex tape, his own party rejoiced. Everybody who voted for his party was happy that he was gone. I'm not kidding. Only the prime minister was upset because he had lost such a weak rival. He was a deadweight for the party, but he had such a firm hold on the party membership that he held on to his position even after multiple electoral failures. In fact, when the scandal broke (he was having an affair with a member of the parliament whose husband was also a top level party member), most people assumed that his own party released the tape. The new guy is infinitely better. His nickname is Ghandi because he looks like Ghandi.

Third, the ruling party already made most of the constitutional changes it wanted last year. They offered to change 22 articles. There was a national referendum. They got what they wanted, and now Turkey has affirmative action in its constitution. They made 2 questionable changes and 20 really great changes everybody liked. The big debate was over those two articles.

All in all, these sex tapes are not going to hurt Turkish democracy. What is hurting Turkish democracy is the witch hunt that has been going on. The ruling party argues that many journalists are involved in a military plot to bring down the government. They arrested many journalists and writers, along with actual criminals. I really dislike the ruling party, but NAP is much worse. What Turkey needs is a center right party that can challenge the ruling party because 60 percent of Turks always vote for conservative parties. Neither racists, nor the left can be a viable alternative.