A crucial turn for Turkey
Early elections on June 24 will likely mark a crucial turn for Turkey not only regarding the country’s administrative system but also in domestic and foreign policies.
Regarding the systemic change, Turkey will either officially shift to an executive presidential system, as decided in the April 2017 referendum, or abandon that system as promised by the rivals of President Tayyip Erdoğan if any one of them wins. If Erdoğan is re-elected and the alliance of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Greater Unity Party (BBP) wins a parliamentary majority, then a new government will be established without a prime minister. Erdoğan would be able to establish that government without needing a vote of confidence in parliament, and he maintains that this would mean a real separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches of state.
If Erdoğan is not re-elected, or his alliance does not win a parliamentary majority, then a majority bloc could take immediate steps such as lifting the state of emergency. It could also start working to change the system back to a parliamentary or perhaps semi-presidential model, in which all executive power is not in the hands of the president alone.
In either case, the election is likely to lead to shifts in the domestic political scene, which will be closely linked to the current state of the economy. If the state of emergency is kept in place, with restrictions on rights and freedoms, it would mean that the government could continue bypassing parliament through decrees with the force of law, especially on security-related matters that can be stretched to cover a number of fields.
Amid warnings of “overheating” from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Turkish government has made a number of generous offers and lucrative promises to voters ahead of the election. Seasoned economist Mahfi Eğilmez noted in a televised interview on May 7 that it was extraordinary to observe inflation, interest rates and the current account deficit rising all at the same time, as they are currently in Turkey.
In foreign policy, a big change could be expected in Ankara’s Syria policy if Erdoğan is not re-elected. But even if he is re-elected, which seems most likely, a fine-tuning of policy regarding Syria, Iran and other Middle Eastern countries could be expected. If Erdoğan is re-elected and decides to lift the state of emergency, it could help bring some moderation in Turkey’s relations with the European Union. No big changes would be likely in relations with Russia, China and Japan.
But the key factor in Turkey’s foreign policy is likely to remain relations with the U.S., with all their angles in relation to Syria, terrorism, Russia and European security. The expected visit of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu to Washington for talks with new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will give some idea about the way relations may evolve, for better or worse. The current state of tensions can certainly not be sustained between the two NATO allies for much longer.