Why re-electing Erdogan will be fruitful for Turkey

Published: July 5, 2018
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Supporters hold a giant Turkish flag during an election rally in Ankara. PHOTO: AFP

For the first time in history, Turkey has transitioned to a presidential system of governance. Following last year’s narrowly-won referendum with 51% votes in favour, the prime minister’s office was abolished, the powers of the Parliament curtailed, while presidential powers were bolstered.

Following the June 24th election results, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now back in the saddle with much more power in hand than ever before. He will now rule Turkey once again for the next crucial five years, which will define the fate of the country after a failed coup against his regime a couple of years back.

What does this the new system mean for Erdogan?

With the new system, he will be the head of the government as well as the state, having the powers to directly appoint top officials, including ministers and vice presidents. Moreover, intervening in the country’s legal system and imposing a state of emergency are two other core powers. This means he will have more executive powers than he had before.

The president-elect described his victory by saying,

“Our democracy has won, the people’s will has won, Turkey has won.”

Only the years to come can prove whether Turkey will gain or lose, since it was a tough neck to neck contest, with only 52.5% votes in favour of him, with a significant turnout of 87%.

What’s next for Turkey, under Erdogan’s leadership?

Firstly, as the Turkish army fights against the Kurds in Syria, this time, Erdogan will have a pro-minority and a left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is in alliance with the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party to represent the voice of Turkey’s Kurdish minority in the Parliament house. Despite a crackdown on HDP, they were successful in grabbing the 10% threshold to make it to the Parliament. How concurrently Erdogan will tackle Turkey’s fight against the Kurds and HDP in the Parliament remains a huge question mark.

On the other hand, depreciating the Lira – which has fallen since the botched coup – has given a tough time to Turkey’s economy and led to an unfriendly investment environment. Over the last two decades, Turkey’s currency has lost three quarters of its value against the dollar, while inflation rate stands at 11%. Now that the uncertainty is over, this recent victory may provide an environment conducive for Turkey’s economy to perform better, but efforts need to be put in in order to ensure a longer rate of success.

Thirdly, Turkey’s accession to the European Union (EU) is an aim that remains to be achieved, as the human rights violations committed on civilians, military officials, political opponents and media organisations – as reported by NGOs – are looming. In case Erdogan improves the situation and meets the basic EU criteria, will he be able to achieve any success? Narratives do exist that improving its situation won’t enable Turkey to get an EU membership due to two major factors, which EU states are unlikely to accept.

Firstly, Turkey will be the largest net recipient of EU funds, and secondly, it will have more say in the EU’s parliament due to the maximum number of seats it will have, determined on the basis of degressive proportionality. This means that the more citizens a state has, the more seats it will get, but also the more citizens each member of the European Parliament will represent.

Another challenge that remains to be surmounted is over the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) alliance. Turkey and the US have clashing interests in Syria. Moreover, Turkey’s recent overtures toward Russia are anathema to the US, especially as Turkey’s contract to purchase long-range missiles from Russia has irritated the US. Though the NATO chief has congratulated Erdogan on his re-election with the hope that NATO’s core values of democracy, rule of law and human rights will remain unhurt in Turkey, now the onus is on Erdogan to start a fresh voyage, albeit a difficult one.

Erdogan has been in power since 2003, initially as the prime minister and then as the president. Many believe he has disturbed the secular roots of the Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk envisioned. After the failed coup in 2016, Erdogan has covered all lengths and has been accused of alleged human rights violations. He dismissed more than hundreds of thousands of people, including police officers, judges, teachers and soldiers, all considered by him to be his opponents. Many are in prison awaiting trial, while few have fled and sought asylum in different countries. Shutting down media houses and curtailing access to free media, cracking down on Pak-Turk schools in Pakistan and similar projects in different parts of the world, all speak volumes of Erdogan’s grating measures and policies.

The international challenges confronting Turkey are of a serious nature, requiring strong policies to be resolved swiftly. For that to happen, strong leadership is essential, and no one is more experienced in Turkey than Erdogan, as he has remained in power one way or another for more than a decade-and-a-half. This is probably one of the main reasons the people of Turkey have chosen him as their president, and given the circumstances, it seems like a good choice.

In case Erdogan continues with his previous policies, it will be difficult for non-governmental and human rights organisations to function smoothly, and at the same time, for the western powers to counter Turkey’s external policies and try to fish in troubled waters. On the other hand, if Erdogan is able to tackle all these issues efficiently, Turkey is going to emerge as a rising Eurasian regional power, becoming one of the strongest members of NATO. Let’s see how much change the Justice and Development Party (AKP) brings this time, with the broadened executive powers under Erdogan’s reign.

Nasrullah Ali

Nasrullah Ali

The writer is a student of International Relations at University of Pécs. He tweets @NAliBaloch (twitter.com/NAliBaloch)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.