A difficult year for Turkey

A difficult year for Turkey

The parliamentary elections scheduled for June is likely to be the major political issue of Turkey in 2015.

It is also likely that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) will stay in power for another four years, since no major shift in the political spectrum has been observed in the from two elections last year; the locals in March and presidential in August.

Yet there is a challenge for the AK Parti, such as to keep the 50 percent of votes taken in the last Parliamentary elections in 2011, or reach 52 percent so that Tayyip Erdoğan has had what he wanted since 2013. In that sense, it will be a test for Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who was selected among others by Erdoğan to succeed him.

But for Erdoğan, the real importance of the elections is whether or not receiving the majority of the vote to write a new constitution to change the administrative regime from a parliamentary to presidential system, or semi-presidential one, whether the parliamentary majority or a referendum. That’s why it is likely he would stand by the suggested “impartiality” of the president in the Constitution and join the AK Parti campaign by not decreasing his near daily addresses to the daily to the people.

The government’s dialogue with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is one of the major issues to affect the AK Parti’s election performance, let alone Turkey’s domestic peace. The PKK and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which represent similar grassroots in the Parliament, want the Davutoğlu government to fulfill a series of legal adjustments before the elections, claiming the government could return to security-based politics after the elections.

On the other hand, if the HDP challenged and failed the 10 percent election threshold, nearly all of the seats in the predominantly Kurdish populated East and Southeast might go to the AK Parti, which could gift them a Parliamentary majority to rewrite the Constitution without the need of going to a referendum.

Another issue that could affect the AK Parti’s election performance, yet not as important as the Kurdish one, is the fight between their former ally, U.S. based moderate Islamist ideologue Fethullah Gülen and his sympathizers in the state apparatus. Denouncing as the “Parallel structure in the state”, Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are determined to root out the Gülenists, especially from the judicial, security and educational systems.

Foreign policy is likely to have a series of problems in 2015. Despite Davutoğlu listing the leaders visiting Ankara as evidence of Turkey’s role in international politics, it has been a fact that Ankara has had no ambassadors in the Egyptian, Syrian and Israeli capitals for the last two years; there were no ambassadors in the Greek Cypriot and Armenian capitals already.

Cyprus is likely to remain as a major stumbling block in relations with the European Union, but it is not the only one. Some of the legal moves the AK Parti governments have been making with security justifications are more like political control over the judiciary or media are considered as taking steps back for harmonization with the EU.

The civil war in Syria, unrest in Iraq made with the emerge of the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) much more complicated and will remain to be a serious problem in 2015 with effects on the Kurdish issue. Turkey’s relations with its major ally U.S. is currently at the “let’s just be friends, keep in touch” level. Yet, the Erdoğan-Davutoğlu administration does not see the diplomatic picture as isolation, but on the contrary, value that as “precious loneliness”, as evidence of its righteousness.

Armenian groups all over the world are prepared to put pressure in 2015 on both the U.S. and Turkey to officially recognize the 1915 massacres as the “genocide” of Armenians under Ottoman rule. That is expected to reach a peak in April.

That means almost all major political issues will seemingly take place in the first half of the year in Turkey.

Economy, on the other hand, will not be immune of problems. In 2015 as Turkey will have the yearly chair of the G-20, Turkey could be announced as the 19th biggest economy; that would be two steps down from the previous year. If the inflation, unemployment and cost of living starts to force the voters, that could turn into the biggest challenge for Davutoğlu; much bigger than the political ones.