Turkey in 2015: My predictions
As I wrote in my previous piece, 2014 was a horrible year for Turkey, as the bitter political war in the country led to a downward spiral for democracy. The worse news is that 2015 will probably not be any better, for the dynamics that initiated the downward spiral seem quite persistent and even well established; the government now has many “enemies” that it wants to crush or subdue. In return, those “enemies” are willing to fight until their last drop of blood.
To give you some highlights, here are the probable top three themes of 2015 and my predictions about them.
- The war between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gülen movement: This was the dominant matter in 2014, and it is likely to be quite dominant in 2015 as well. However, the balance of power certainly has tilted toward the AKP’s side. This is likely to continue throughout 2015, and we will probably be not speaking about “the AKP-Gülen war,” but rather the “AKP purge of the Gülen movement.”
The government is taking every measure to define its former ally as the greatest threat that the Turkish Republic has ever faced, and it is using every bit of leverage possible to demonize and bring it down. This means that we will probably see more arrests of police officers, bureaucrats and journalists in the coming year.
Perhaps some of these arrests will be related to real wrongdoings, in which certain members of the Gülen movement might have been engaged during the witch-hunt against the secularist “coup-makers” between 2008 and 2012. But it is very likely that innocent people will be persecuted too, because what the AKP is doing is nothing short of another witch-hunt, driven by a passion for revenge rather than justice.
- General Elections: These are the elections that will redesign the Turkish Parliament. They are expected to be held on June 7, but could be moved forward to May (nothing is certain in this country until the last moment).
Few have any doubts that the AKP will again be the winner, while the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will be second and third, without much of a change in their vote rates. The big question is the situation of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the party that represents Kurdish nationalists. They have claimed that they will enter the election as a “party” and not as “independents,” which means that they will be taking the risk of falling under the 10 percent national threshold. If they fall under the threshold, they will be completely left out of Parliament, and most of their would-be seats will be taken by the AKP.
If the AKP comes out with such a major electoral victory, it could gain more than 330 of the 550 seats in Parliament. That number is crucial, as any party that has 330 seats can make constitutional amendments, or even write a whole new Constitution and take it to a referendum. The AKP's supporters are eagerly waiting for that moment, to mark the final shift to a glorious “New Turkey.” The opponents of the AKP are quite distressed for the exact same reason.
- The “peace process” between the government and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK): This is one of the few current events in Turkey that is able to make one hopeful for the future. Since both sides have interest in the continuation of the peace process, it is likely to continue rather than fail. But its failure is also possible, as both sides' expectations for the process are quite different from each other. In that case, Turkey may enter a bitter era of renewed violence between its security forces and militant Kurds, which would further poison the already tense political scene.