A tough year ahead
It is not only the Arab Spring, of course. From the Occupy Wall Street movement to the anti-Putin Muscovites, the year 2011 will be remembered by its mass protests. But the Arab Spring was and is by far the most important of them all. It was the uprising of the educated middle class Arabs against their autocratic leaders in search of a modern life they deserved. It is possible their revolutions might be hijacked by Islamists who are also in a process of transformation with uncertainties about where to stop.
Yet in real political terms 2011 will be remembered by two events of milestone value: The killing of Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda, which carried out Sept. 11 attacks 10 years ago and triggered a global guerilla warfare, and the withdrawal of United States troops from Iraq, closing a chapter in the history of the region and in U.S. politics, which may contribute to the chance of Barack Obama for a second term of presidency.
If the economic crisis in Europe will continue to weaken the political leverage of the European Union in 2012, Russia, empowered by the increasing oil and gas prices pumped up by the political crisis, can fill in the power gap. It may even expose the inner contradictions within Europe, which might jeopardize continental peace and stability.
It will certainly have a negative influence on the Turkish economy, which exports half of its available goods to EU markets. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government has made a number of warnings to banks and companies so far to be extremely careful in their spending and investments in 2012.
For the AK Parti, 2011 has been a year of success regarding the election victory of 50 percent in June. In the second half there were a number of foreign policy hiccups: The Syrian situation, the Armenian issue with France and the ongoing confrontation with Israel can be named. In 2012 that cake will be decorated with a cherry on top like the Cypriot confrontation with the EU. Turkey declared that it will not take the Greek Cypriot term of presidency as a political counterpart.
In Turkish politics the work on a new and hopefully more democratic constitution is likely to be challenged by the Kurdish issue. The year is closed with the pain of the killing of 35 villagers in an air raid, mistaken by the aerial intelligence as outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.
That may put the whole effort of a constitution with wider consensus in jeopardy. But a statement by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who said they wouldn’t abandon the parliamentary commission on the constitution whatever the consequences be, is an indirect support for the government on that issue.
On the domestic scene, the presidency debate and the legal amendments for fairer court proceedings, which negatively affect the state of freedom of press and expression in Turkey, are likely to be among the major issues in 2012 in the 10th year of power of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan.
It seems there is a hard year ahead in 2012.