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MURAT YETKİN > Erdoğan’s time in Turkey

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was elected as Turkey’s 12th president in the first round of voting on Aug. 10, winning more than 52 percent of the votes.

That level of support falls in the limits (52-58) of the forecasts before the voting of both the polling companies and of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti).

The main reason for Erdoğan’s victory is an extremely energetic and aggressive election campaign by Erdoğan. He did not want to leave anything to chance, despite the estimates predicting his victory in the first round. He maximized the use of media, was criticized because of using government capabilities as the prime minister, enjoyed the inflated numbers of polling companies and tried to turn even the slightest bit of antagonism to his advantage, from Israeli army attacks on Gaza, to highlight his Sunni Islamic belief against other faiths.

Another reason is the lack of enthusiasm for Erdoğan’s main rival in the presidential race. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, who was supported by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) (among  10 other smaller ones), only received nearly 39 percent of the votes, a number behind even the sum of the two parties in the local elections of March 30, namely 43.2 percent.

The number of votes Erdoğan received in the locals, some 20 million remained the same in the presidential elections, whereas, the number of votes the CHP and MHP received in total, which was again 20 million, shrank by one fourth to 15 million on Aug. 10.

That lack of enthusiasm seemingly turned into indifference by the supporters of the opposition parties from going to the ballot box. Actually, both CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli had urged their followers a number of times about the importance of casting their votes, since low turnout would be to Erdoğan’s benefit, but it seems it did not echo enough, especially in the MHP’s ears.

That interpretation does not apply for the third candidate, Selahattin Demirtaş of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is centered on the Kurdish problem. His supporters rushed to the polls. He lost the game and despite support from the Turkish left, he narrowly missed the 10 percent he had targeted; but could increase the 5.9 percent of support from March 30 to 9.1 percent. It’s not wrong to say that he managed to be the smiling face of the Kurdish problem in Turkey and the new rising star of Turkish politics in this election, since Erdoğan’s star has now hit its zenith.

Erdoğan got what he wanted. He wanted to consolidate all the executive power in his hands and now he has the chance and capacity for that after taking the Presidential Palace on top of Çankaya Hill in Ankara from Abdullah Gül.

Erdoğan’s support for presidency was more than the support for his party in the last general elections in 2011, which was nearly 50 percent. So he will feel comfortable shaping the AK Parti and government after himself, despite Article 101 of the Constitution, which says the president’s membership in a party and Parliament automatically drop when his win is officially declared. Erdoğan has the upper hand now to do it de facto.

That means, following an ascending graphic since his AK Parti came to power in 2002, Erdoğan’s time in Turkey has started, which he likes to call the “New Turkey.”

That will have consequences in reshaping the Turkish political system, for example, a shift in the regime from a parliamentary to a strong presidential model. And Erdoğan’s time will have reflections in Turkish foreign policy at a time when the region Turkey is a part of is burning in flames. Erdoğan, after Vladimir Putin of Russia and Hassan Rouhani of Iran, will endorse his role in regional geopolitics and in Europe, following in the footsteps of Angela Merkel of Germany, a leader who renewed her public support in a clear way.

Erdoğan may start to build his new Turkey from today on, without the need to wait for the handover ceremony on Aug. 27, since he thinks the winner should take all with such popular support.

August/11/2014

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