Turkey heading toward a new era
It might be an underestimation to say Turkey will become a “peculiar democracy” once Turks approve constitutional amendments, which would provide the country’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan vast presidential powers. Once it enters into force completely in 2019 or at an earlier date, if an early election is called for, the process of Turkey becoming a Middle Eastern-style super presidential regime, with limited or no checks and balances at all, will be completed.
The new era, proponents claim, will bring sustainable stability to the country as the president, elected popularly by the people, will be the head of the executive. He at the same time will continue to have - if he desires - organic links to his party and can even be the leader of that party. Since he and the parliament, where his party might have a majority, will be appointing members of high courts, particularly the High Council for Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), making the president at the same time the boss of the judiciary.
In any case, his justice minister and undersecretary will be the chairman and vice chairman of the HSYK. Thus, the president as the chief executive, chief legislator and top judge, will be the absolute boss of the country.
Turkey is of course different from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or Muammer Kaddafi’s Libya, though the Turkish nation is not much different from the power-worshipping Libyans and Iraqis. When I hear statements from some women saying they’d be willing to be one of the wives of their leader or a deputy in parliament and saying that touching their leader is equivalent to praying, I remember the woman, who was crying in the streets of Iraq, vowing to sacrifice her life for Saddam. As the famous dervish story also says: it is not the sheikh but those worshipping him that makes him fly.
Will the nation approve the constitutional amendment package in the April referendum? Some people continue to preserve optimism that democracy and common sense will prevail and at the end of the day Turks will vote for the defense of a democratic, secular governance instead of making the country a Middle Eastern autocracy. I seriously doubt it.
Erdoğan launched the referendum campaign moments after parliament approved the constitutional amendment package on Jan. 21. He, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and his new-founded coalition partner the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will use every possible opportunity, organize lavish inauguration ceremonies for trivial projects, repeat the same ceremonies, use every possible public funding into converting the referendum propaganda period into a massive “yes” campaign. The referendum date might be an advantage for opposition secularists and elites, unlike in hot summer months when they were in their summer resorts; most will actually be going to voting booths. Still a “no” vote will be an extreme improbable expectation.
In the meantime Turkey’s parliament will usher into a two-party state. In the new period it won’t be an exaggeration to say that the MHP, which has already surrendered to the AKP during the constitutional amendment process, will melt down to become another addition to the web of Islamist groups within the ruling party. On the left, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the main obstacle for the emergence of real leftist political formations, is very likely to continue condemning the left and will remain as the permanent opposition.
I believe Erdoğan will have to make a decision. He has years before 2019, the expiry date of his current tenure. If he calls for early parliamentary elections, that would mean an early presidential election. Thus, instead of ending his presidential tenure in 2024 – a second five-year term included – would he want to be reelected in the fall of 2017 and complete his second term in 2022? On the other hand, the Fetullah Gülen supporters in parliament – who were allegedly forgiven in exchange for voting “yes” in the referendum – cannot be held at bay for ever, there will be a need for “cleansing.” This will be a difficult decision to make, and I believe a decision has already been made, according to which swiftly after the April referendum vote the nation will be taken to a parliamentary election and the country will be carried to a new league Erdoğan aspires to achieve.
There are some good news as well amid all these events. The lira will be taken under firm control, and its stagnating trend against leading currencies will be curbed. Furthermore, not only because of lavish inaugurations and such disguised referendum campaign events, the market will be flooded with currency and the economy will be revived.
An increase in terror attacks, on the other hand, will become an added advantage for the “yes” campaign. And who are against the super presidential powers? The left, the Kurds and the non-AKP people. The other day, people attacked the CHP for sending flowers to the funeral of a martyred soldier, who was killed in Syria’s al-Bab. The crowds were chanting “How dare CHP, a supporter of terrorists, send flowers to the funeral of our son?”
The CHP must perhaps stop questioning why Turkish soldiers are getting killed in a war they shouldn’t have been sent to in the first place.