In the early years of Erdogan’s rule, when many still fancifully thought that Turkey would join the EU, there was a versatile refrain from European apologists for Erdogan’s dictatorial ways that went like this:
–He may be a strong man, but the economy is growing.
–I don’t personally agree with his cracking down on press freedoms but real wages have risen under Erdogan.
–He is a danger to constitutionality but he has a broad base of support.
–Yes, he is a kind of political Islamist but he speaks for his supporters.
Without question, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is a strongman and indeed he has a strong powerful base for whom he speaks. But as the latest statistics reveal, not only is this the case, but under his Presidency, the economy of Philippines has grown. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country’s GDP rose by 6.8 % during the last year.
Why then has so little praise been coming out of the west for Duterte’s well-managed leadership of a country whose crime problem has caused turbulence and consternation?
Whilst Turkey has always had a measure of political consternation, Erdogan has augmented social strife and now these divisions threaten to tear apart the fabric of modern Turkish republican society, one which had remained surprisingly stable since the 1920s.
By contrast, if Duterte is able to once and for all stem the tide of the drug problem in the Philippines, and confront Islamist groups who threaten to destroy social cohesion, he may well create a better society than the one he inherited.
This once again exposes the double standards of the western elite. Erdogan continues to be excused of his wrong doings in much of the western media, whilst Duterte, whose position in the Philippines is on paper not entirely different than the situation Erdogan faced in Turkey, is criticized from every possible direction.
What then is the difference? Turkey has always been an independent state whilst Philippines has gone from Spanish colony to American colony to part of America’s informal economic and geopolitical empire. Because of that, many in the west feel entitled to criticize Duterte, whilst when it comes to Turkey – their hands are tied.
The double-standards are shocking but on closer inspection, not surprising.