Erdogan and the presidency... A new Turkey

Mon, 18.08.2014 17:26

KYIV/Ukraine in arabic/ Predictions and polls suggest that the twelfth president of Turkey will be Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the man who is planning to make Turkey a strong influential central state by the time the centennial anniversary of its establishment comes around, taking advantage of its strong relationships with the West, its Eastern aspects, and cultural identity and driven by the internal variables and shifts made by the Justice and Development Party (JDP) since rising to power in 2002.

Perhaps all I have mentioned above embodies Erdogan's vision; the man who led things stage-by-stage, battle-by-battle, in order to be the champion of the republic's centennial in 2023, as he has planned.

Hopes and aspirations

There are great Turkish hopes pinned on Erdogan's arrival to the Çankaya Villa, the presidential palace, but at the same time, there are serious fears amongst his opponents and opposition that Turkey will turn into a totalitarian rule in light of Erdogan's aspirations for a strong presidential system replacing the parliamentary system, in the form of a presidential system that has almost absolute powers. This would mean that the political system in the country will change and the prime minister's position will become more of a symbolic position. Erdogan's agenda and his plans for the upcoming phase are many and well-known, and perhaps his fist task after reaching the Çankaya Villa will be arranging the internal Turkish cabinet as he is constitutionally required to resign from the Justice and Development Party and as prime minister and chose a new leader for the party and prime minister in order to manage the current stage until the parliamentary elections are held in the summer of next year.

In parallel with this benefit, there is a continuous process revolving around how to get rid of the deep state, both in incising the military side that lies in the hidden role of some army circles, as well as cutting away the civil side represented by some organisations that work in the shadows, particularly the Hizmet "the Service" movement, led by Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan is now working to cleanse the state institutions from the movement's influence.

In addition to this, the importance of finding a political solution to the Kurdish issue in Turkey has been highlighted lately, as Erdogan is credited with being the first Turkish prime minister whose government directly negotiated with the PKK leader, who has been in Imrali Prison for 15 years after successive Turkish governments categorised the issue as terrorism. Thanks to this, Erdogan succeeded in convincing the Kurdish party to agree to a ceasefire and remain committed to it.

The Turkish parliament also adopted a law that allows for moving towards finding a political solution for this issue that has strained Turkey economically, politically and its security during the past decades, leaving thousands of casualties on both sides.

Perhaps Erdogan is hoping to benefit from his strong relationship with the Kurds in Iraq by turning a new page with the Kurds in the region after they have become a player able to influence regional alliances and policies.

In addition to these pressing political issued, there is an ambition for a great economic revival through improving the country's economic performance. Erdogan succeeded during his reign in nearly tripling the per capita income and reduced unemployment to almost zero per cent. This economic growth put Turkey in the ranks of the greater powers, all achieved through infrastructure and major economic projects as well as laying oil and gas pipelines from abroad through Turkish territories. All of this created an economic dynamic that Erdogan plans to activate in the next stage in order to achieve the desired economic revival.

Fears of dictatorship

Aside from the previously mentioned aspirations, there are many concerns regarding Turkey's transition to a new phase in the form of a totalitarian rule in which Erdogan controls everything; the man who has repeatedly vowed to move Turkey from the stage of parliamentary rule to presidential rule in a political process that produces an absolute presidential system when the time comes for parliamentary elections next year. He plans to do so by means of a constitutional amendment that gives the president absolute powers.

From a constitutional standpoint, once Erdogan becomes president, he must resign from the Justice and Development Party, but what we have seen, until now, is that Erdogan wants to remain in control of the party, either directly, or by appointing an individual close to him as both the leader of the party and prime minister in order for him to remain the de facto ruler while occupying the position of president.

It is no secret that during recent times, Erdogan sought to rearrange the party's internal cabinet and perhaps such action may become normal by the time the next parliamentary elections come, as over 70 officials and leaders in the Justice and Development Party will have to leave their government positions in accordance with the party's internal laws in order to prevent any member from holding office for more than three consecutive sessions.

This will allow Erdogan to change the party's leadership by pushing a new generation into leadership, giving Erdogan a strong political argument regarding the fate to the party, as the historical experience in Turkey indicates the possibility of major political parties falling when they lose their historic leader or when their leader becomes president, as was the case with the previous president Suleyman Demirel and before that with the late president Turgut Ozal whose parties collapsed when they became president. This means that it will be easy and justifiable for Erdogan to arrange the internal cabinet of the Justice and Development Party and appoint an individual close to him as prime minister.

According to those close to Erdogan, the scenario that will be followed by this man in order to push his project into effect is to form what looks like the Council of Elders, a shadow government that consists of individuals close to him in the parliament, as well as advisors, to help oversee the work of the government in the economic and political fields, especially in the field of foreign policy. This means that Erdogan will resort to activating inactive authorities as he has the power, according to the constitution, to appoint the prime minister, head government meetings, the National Security Council, and the Supervisory Board which audits state bodies, and therefore, most of the measures taken by Erdogan will be enough to tighten his control over the government and the JDP party, the army and most of the facilities of the Turkish state.

In light of this executive dimension in control over the government and the exercise of power, there are fears of indulging in the ideological dimension as Erdogan's personality leans towards Ottoman tendencies to the extent that the nickname "the new sultan" has often been attached to his name. He continuously mentions Mehmed the Conqueror in his speeches, in addition to the Ottoman sultans and tries to say that he is the man that will restore the glories of these men, almost a century after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. He also repeatedly refers to himself as the successor to Ataturk despite the fact that his ideology is contradictory to the ideology the latter built his republic on.

All of the aforementioned information deepens fears that Erdogan's authoritarian aspirations will be a political bridge to eliminating pluralism, diversity, freedoms, media, and the judiciary, as he often legitimises the democratic process through the elections rather than exercising the concepts of democracy.

Perhaps what makes this scenario likely is the war led by Erdogan personally against his opponents, such as Gulen and the opposition parties, especially the Republican People's Party, led by Kamal Klijdar, who Erdogan continuously labels as sectarian. This means that the Turkish opposition will be in a very difficult situation, especially since its political credibility is at stake in the Turkish street.

Foreign interactions

Whatever the case is, Turkey will enter a new phase with Erdogan becoming president, and the repercussions of this will not be limited to Turkey's internal affairs alone, but will also affect the regional and international surroundings which are witnessing a storm of developments due to the Israeli aggression on Gaza and the events in Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Ukraine and the entire Middle Eastern region.

What we are certain of is that Erdogan will be facing a delicate and sensitive equation that requires integrating the moral slogans he promotes regarding the defence of the people's rights to freedom and Turkish economic interests that have been harmed as a result of this policy. He must balance between calling for the freedom of nations and resolving their issues and practicing pluralism and achieving such freedom and democracy in Turkey. Without achieving this, the moral slogans promoted by the Turkish foreign policy will remain questioned and under attack by regional opponents.

On a regional level, especially with regards to the Turkish policy towards the ongoing crises in Egypt, Syria and Iraq, some believe that Erdogan will continue with his current approach and will even step up the pace of this approach by activating the role of Turkish diplomacy in these circles after the Turkish relations with the governments of these countries have reached the point of estrangement, albeit in varying degrees.

On the other hand, there are others who believe that the position of president will require that Erdogan have some sort of balance and precision in order to maintain Turkey's interests and the image of its regional policy. Perhaps the challenge Erdogan is facing in this regard is how to eliminate the confusion in the Arab world in terms of linking Turkey's politics to the support of the Muslim Brotherhood only with regards to the ideological aspect of the Justice and Development Party and its political platform.

Without a doubt, what is happening in Turkey has gone beyond Turkey's internal affairs, meaning that its repercussions will affect all countries in the region, especially the Arab countries. This requires the Arab states to carefully read what is going on in Turkey, which is seeking to become an influential and central state in the next phase.

Author: Khorshid Dali


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