Vigorous presidential involvement on Cyprus issue
Hours after he delivered the oath and started his second term in office, Turkey’s strongman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made sweeping changes to the state system, gathering the power to appoint all civilian and military bureaucrats, including the power to single-handedly decide on the promotions of ranks and retirement in the military. Erdoğan has become the sole decision-maker.
It would probably have been an insult up until a few years ago, but currently, a celebrative mood regarding the appointment of the country’s top military leader as defense minister has demonstrated at the same time what a great advance civilian governance has achieved in the country.
No one has any doubt regarding the legitimacy of Erdoğan’s presidency. The nation has expressed its will. Democracy does not only consist of the ballot box. The free vote of the people is one of the fundamentals of democratic governance. The will of the people must be respected. As of the moment, Erdoğan has delivered the presidential oath for a second time, he should be considered the legitimate president of Turkey, and of each member of this nation of over 80 million people. No one should have any doubt about that.
The right to criticize, on the other hand, should be considered a fundamental right in full respect to the tenants of democratic governance. This ought to be the fundamental role the media must play in this new era almost absent of a checks and balances system. Unfortunately, most newspapers, magazines, TV, radio and even electronic media outlets of the country have been effectively domesticated over the years and very few independent, objective, and courageous voices have survived to this day.
What will the situation be now? Will Erdoğan be a law-respectful chief executive opening fresh avenues of prosperity and tranquility not only for this nation of over 80 million people, but also for this very tumultuous geography? Despite all worries, it is the sincere hope of even his worst critics that Erdoğan will not push troubled Turkish democracy down the drain and introduce an iron fist governance.
Erdoğan’s first trips as the new president of the country were to Azerbaijan and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Those lightning trips were followed yesterday with a trip to Brussels for a NATO visit and contacts with Turkey’s allies, that demonstrated the continuation of tradition but also more so a determination to preserve the “pacta sunt servanda,” particularly in regards to the fundamentals of Turkish foreign policy.
Can Erdoğan manage to soothe worries of Turkey’s allies at the NATO summit? American President Donald Trump has his own priorities. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is having difficulty in pulling together her cabinet, facing serious hurdles in carrying Brexit to its last stage. Yet, Turkey is a very important ally not only of those two countries or France, but for the entire NATO alliance.
Contacts of Erdoğan in Baku, as well as in Northern Cyprus have demonstrated, according to friends in the delegation, a relaxed and self-confident president approaching issues with humor and optimism. Yet, Erdoğan’s public remarks in Cyprus demonstrated he might not be as forthcoming to compromise on the issue as many people have suggested.
Still, it was obvious for Turkish Cypriot executives after talks with Erdoğan that from water, electricity and foreign currency woes, to the issue of Cyprus talks, there will be vigorous presidential involvement in the period ahead.