Win-win or lose-lose

Win-win or lose-lose

Turkey is fast becoming an elected autocracy; very conservative, Sunni Islamist, and expansionist. The elections of this summer will probably be a real turning point. Will the de-facto absolute rule of the tall, angry and always yelling man of the grotesque palace become the de jure one-and-only chief executive? Or will the country have to suffer through the present day awkward circus-like situation until a corrective move eventually comes? In any case, for a considerable period of time, the present government will remain in force.

Many friends are asking the opinions of journalists, particularly those who have spent many years covering Turkish politics. What will be the situation in Turkey after the June elections? Can the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) indeed receive over 55 percent or more and capture two-thirds of parliamentary seats – that is 367 seats, enough to pass constitutional amendments without the need to go to a referendum?

With months to go to the polls, it is difficult to say what the preference of the electorate will be on that hot June voting day. What is clear, however, is that Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is in a rather awkward position: If under his leadership the AKP wins overwhelmingly and with a majority of at least 330 seats – the minimum parliamentary majority that enables constitutional amendments with a referendum – he will be forced by the president to make the amendments and carry Turkey to a presidential system. The problem there is about who the AKP will align with, as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will not push for a referendum before he is sure that he will win. Will he opt for the Kurds, or for the de-facto secret allies the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)?

While Kurdish support might be a disaster for Erdoğan, an alliance with the MHP might be quite successful. But it will be difficult to manipulate the MHP. The Kurds, meanwhile, have expectations, and with some palliative but symbolically meaningful gestures – such as allowing municipalities to serve in the Kurdish language as well – they could be enrolled. Still, the Kurds, have so far stressed their intention to enter politics as a party, not as independents as they have done in the recent elections. If they enter as a party, they will not be elected because of the 10 percent threshold, and the second party in those areas, the AKP, will win their seats.

Therefore, it is most likely that Turkey will become far more conservative and religious in the immediate future. The results of this accelerated tilt in Turkey toward becoming a Sunni Islamic Middle Eastern state with neo-Ottomanist utopias have already made great contributions to the worsening situation of the entire region. Is there not an aspiration to enhance the Turkish territory to cover the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Syria and “win back” the oil-rich Mosul province, which the young Turkish Republic had to relinquish in exchange for the British promise to stop abetting the 1925 radical Islamist-Kurdish uprising? Has this not long been behind Turkey’s Sunni-obsessive foreign policy?

This is a losing strategy for Turkey. While trying to become a more conservative, Islamist and enhanced new and federal “Ottoman republic” – which many people believe will be the easiest way of resolving the Kurdish issue altogether – not only might Turkey lose precious territory, but the sectarian and religious divide would become so wide that it might pull everyone in.

The plot or conspiracy-obsessed mentality is not peculiar to Turks; it is widespread in this region. This mentality is feeding the atmosphere of growing intolerance and vendetta in the Muslim streets against the “Christian Western conspirators.” Whatever happens is often attributed to a “foreign hand.” Still, are not there “foreign hands” behind many unfortunate developments? Indeed, this has been proven repeatedly throughout the recent history of the area, for example with the 1916 Sykes-Picot arrangements that more or less produced the present-day borders.

At this historical junction, modern, secular Turkey could act as a role model for the Muslim neighborhood and to help nourish the needs of democracy with an anchor in the West. Without the West, Turkey will drift toward becoming one of those obsessively religious, conservative, narrow-mindedly nationalist countries. In the absence of Turkey in the European or Western family, on the other hand, the West will continue at an accelerating speed, becoming the "evil other” that “suppurate all of the troubles.” Charlie Hebdo was not an isolated terrorist incident. It was just the alarm bell.

With or without European Union membership, the status of a “member of the European family” would compel the Turkish state to abide with the Western norms of democracy, human rights, liberties and such and help defend the modernity in this land, while such a Turkey in the European family with its overwhelming Muslim population and conservative democratic lifestyle would serve as a bridge to cross over the divide - even if it unable to narrow it - between the Christian and Muslim worlds.

What do we want? A win-win or a lose-lose resolution?