Tough year ahead for Turkey
One does not need a crystal ball to see that 2015 is going to be a tough year for Turkey. Elections, corruption allegations, the Kurdish peace process, Syria, to name a few cases, will ensure that tensions remain high.
The elections planned for June will be bitterly contested because there is more at stake this time than there was ever before. Given the present distribution of power in Turkey, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will most likely be the winner.
A victory on its own, however, is not enough.
The AKP needs a strong win to overcome the anomaly we have presently with a constitutionally mandated executive prime minister, on the one hand, and a president with executive ambitions, on the other. If the AKP cannot muster the necessary numbers in Parliament to change the Constitution and empower the president, it will be unable to overcome this anomaly.
This will leave President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in legal limbo. He will, of course, force the limits of the present Constitution to fulfill his ambitions. But his legality in exercising powers that normally do not belong to the president will remain controversial and result in acrimonious political debates and fuel social tensions.
There is also no guarantee that everyone in the AKP is happy to see the system in Turkey changed from a parliamentary one to a presidential one, especially one that is unencumbered by checks and balances the way Erdoğan and his supporters want.
There could be a historic rift within the AKP. In the meantime, corruption allegations against the AKP will continue to dominate the agenda in conjunction with the politicking aimed at the general elections and attempts to change the political system.
The AKP appears to have painted itself into a corner in this respect and it remains to be seen if it will allow the former AKP ministers accused of graft and malpractice to be tried. This is another issue that could split the party.
If the former minister are to be tried this will leave Erdoğan and his supporters in the AKP in a very difficult situation. Their claim that the accusations leveled against the former ministers was part of a planned coup again the government will fall through.
If the ministers are not tried, the stigma of corruption will continue to hound Erdoğan and the AKP and be used by their opponents to the hilt. It will also force Erdoğan and the government to instigate steps like arresting teenagers or gagging journalists who highlight corruption. This in turn will continue to shed negative light on Turkey internationally.
Meanwhile, the government’s so-called Kurdish peace process will continue to cause trouble in the background. It is still not clear to the public, Turkish and Kurdish, if the government has a tangible process underway in this regard, or is merely kicking the can down the road in the hope that something will turn up.
We saw the potential for social violence involving the Kurdish problem throughout 2014. There is a real possibility, given the present climate at home and developments in Syria, that we will see much more unrest in relations to this issue in 2015.
The Syrian crisis, on the other hand, appears set to fester for another year unless a new peace process that involves the Bashar al-Assad regime is announced and makes headway. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) will also continue to wreak havoc and Turkey will continue to be the prime recipient of the negative fallout from these developments on its borders.
In the meantime Ankara’s insistence on maintaining failed policies will ensure that Turkey remains isolated in the region, while Erdoğan’s angry anti-Western rhetoric will continue to estrange Turkey in the West. As mentioned at the start, one does not need a crystal ball to see all this.