All critics over Erdogan…
by Steven A. Cook – April 21, 2014 3:53 pm – “What next?” That is the question that virtually everyone in Turkey is asking and it has Turks on edge. It has become shorthand for a series of other questions: Will Prime Minister Erdogan declare his presidential candidacy? Probably…maybe…,but you never know. Will President Gul oppose him? Unclear. Can Erdogan remain prime minister? Yes, but he seems to want to be president. Would Gul be willing to be prime minister if Erdogan becomes president? He says he won’t play Medvedev to Erdogan’s Putin, but that may just be a tactic. If not Gul, then who would assume the prime ministry? Perhaps deputy prime minister Ali Babacan, but whoever it is—besides Gul—it will certainly be someone Erdogan can control or intimidate. Can Erdogan be marginalized in the officially apolitical presidency? The prime minister is the sun around which Turkish politics revolves; he does not do “marginalized.”
In August, Turks will go to the polls and for the first time directly elect their next president. This would have been a historic and interesting affair under ordinary circumstances given the personalities that were likely to be involved, but in light of the Gezi Park protests, the corruption scandal/AKP vs. Gulenists smack down, and last month’s municipal elections the presidential election has taken on a larger meaning about the future trajectory of the country. And, until that issue is settled, nothing else is. A lot of Turks seem to be living in suspended animation waiting for some clarity. They are anxious after a long and difficult eleven months. All the questions about what Erdogan and Gul might do seem to be as much about finding some kind of emotional anchor as they are about the political struggle that is unfolding in front of them. Turkey seems unmoored within itself. Everything that everyone told themselves about a liberalizing, prosperous, confident country is open to question. It must be a difficult way to exist. Outwardly the AKP folks remain confident, buoyed by municipal elections results that gave them 44 percent of the vote. Peel back that number and take a closer look at the results and the ruling party lost 2 million votes and gave up huge percentages relative to previous elections in areas where there were actual contests. That has got to be unsettling.
Still, the AKP is not going anywhere and all the attempts to gain some clarity on what might happen in the coming presidential election are not worth the effort. One can understand why the Turks have invested so much energy in it, but the outcome is not in doubt. No one knows what Erdogan will do. There are compelling reasons for him to seek the presidency and there are equally compelling reasons for him to stay put. The point is that it seems entirely up to Erdogan. One day soon he will decide what he wants to do and then he will leverage the AKP’s parliamentary power, its virtual ministry of information, and the inability of the opposition parties or anyone else to do much about it to make it happen. Erdogan and the party’s spokespeople will couch every move in the context of “democratization” and all critics as jealous enemies of Turkey’s progress. In other words, the answer to “what next?” is more of the same. Read more.
Politics of Uncertainty
by Ilter Turan – The local elections were the first of three elections within 18 months. What would happen in the remaining two, first the presidential and then parliamentary, depended on the outcome of this local election. A critical question was who would be AKP’s presidential candidate. It was known that Erdoğan wanted the office. To interject real political power into the symbolic position, he wanted to transform the system from parliamentary into presidential. However, he failed to persuade the other parties, and his party did not have the necessary votes for constitutional change.
He lost interest in the presidency. It was assumed that he would continue as prime minister. Consequently, talk about amending the party statute that states that an AKP deputy may not hold a seat for more than three consecutive terms returned; the more than 70 incumbents who could no longer become candidates under this statute would be delighted if this statute were changed. Regardless, Erdoğan’s strong showing has stimulated speculation that he is reconsidering the presidency.
When the presidency became vacant on earlier occasions, Prime Ministers Turgut Özal and Süleyman Demirel had to choose between the prestige of the president and the power of the prime minister, both opting for the former. Özal tried to create an informal presidential system by appointing an obedient prime minister and trying to run the government through undersecretaries of the ministries but failed. It seems that Erdoğan is living through the same ambivalence, but under conditions that differ from the previous occasions.
First, in contrast to earlier occasions, the president will be elected not by the parliament but by popular elections. This will furnish the winner with a popular mandate, enhancing his claim to political power.
Second, however, the incumbent president, Abdullah Gül, is also eligible to run for a second term. A decision is needed. It is thought that Gül would accept not insisting on his candidacy if he is offered the post of prime minister. It is also speculated, however (…) Download Related Publication.
Turkey’s Electoral Dictatorship
by Timur Kuran – Perhaps most shocking is Erdoğan’s assertion that these measures are compatible with democratic principles. According to his purely majoritarian and thoroughly illiberal understanding of democracy, opponents who speak up are stooges of sinister lobbies and allies of foreigners bent on keeping Turkey down. The rule of law is the choice of the chieftain; freedom of expression is the obligation to obey and conform; transparency is the state’s right to control and manipulate information; and human rights is an elastic concept that depends on political imperatives. (…)
Voters who stuck by Erdoğan knew that he would regard another electoral victory as a renewed mandate to govern autocratically and silence his critics even more definitively. They had heard him thunder, in speech after speech, that he would fight his enemies, rather than seek consensus, and disregard the international community’s protests. And that is exactly what he has been doing. (…)
Erdoğan did not stop there. He also declared that Turkey’s elections had taught the world a lesson in administering democracy. In fact, the main lesson is that democracy comes in many forms. In a purely majoritarian system, voters are free to elect a leader committed to extinguishing liberalism and pluralism. In other words, a purely majoritarian democracy may produce an electoral dictatorship.
If there is a silver lining in Erdoğan’s transformation of Turkey, in barely three years, from a model for liberalizing Arab countries to a dictatorship resembling those overthrown in Egypt and Tunisia., it is that many Turks have a clearer understanding that liberal democracy requires sustainable checks and balances. Those who participated in ending the military’s role as a political guardian now recognize that Turkey needs new institutions to protect basic freedoms and ensure limited government. Full opinion.