Is Erdoğan’s ‘transformation roadmap’ ready?

Is Erdoğan’s ‘transformation roadmap’ ready?

One of the key points in President Tayyip Erdoğan’s address to the congress of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) on May 21, after he took back the helm as a result of the April 16 referendum, was his heralding of a “six-month roadmap” for the transformation of Turkey’s political and administrative system.

But he did not give any clue about what this would entail, apart from saying that the details would be announced at a later date.

Sources in Ankara say this is because the fine tuning of such a roadmap is not completed yet. Erdoğan is likely to finalize the roadmap after evaluating a number of domestic and international criteria in the coming weeks and months.

The main factors in the completion of such a roadmap, which Erdoğan thinks will bring brand new political circumstances to Turkey by November 2017, could be summarized as follows:

* The pace of in-house cleaning will accelerate within the AK Parti. This will include the party headquarters, the parliamentary group administration, the provincial organizations, the cabinet and the team of advisers that Erdoğan has been working with. He has shown through the changes of names in the party executive bodies on May 21 that he wants to work with a new generation, regardless of their age, who have opened their eyes to politics in the AK Party under his leadership and who have no previous political history. What Erdoğan wants now is to not comfort potential dissidents in the party but to bring together a team that would implement his decisions at once without asking many questions. 

* This process may not be as easy as it sounds. But it is directly related to the parliamentary work necessary to pass the harmonization laws in accordance with the new constitution. One of the most crucial issues in the harmonization laws is likely to be the abolition of the Prime Ministry, an institution that has operated for many years (even going back to the last years of the Ottoman Empire). Another issue could be changes in the election laws, with henceforth a 600-seat parliament being elected and the president, holding all executive powers, also serving as the head of the ruling party in parliament, which could further weaken the border between the executive and legislative branches of power.

* Erdoğan is holding a number of trump cards, including the calling of another referendum or perhaps a snap election. There is also a trump card on the reinstitution of the death penalty. Yesterday, on May 22, the main trial of the former generals who allegedly led the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt, masterminded by U.S.-resident Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen. A crowd, including relatives of those killed by coup-attempting soldiers, gathered in front of the courthouse and threw nooses at the suspects as a symbol of their demand for the death penalty to be reinstated. That issue is likely to emerge as the most crucial test of Turkey’s relations with the West, particularly with the European Union.

* Erdoğan is set to hold a series of important meeting in Brussels on May 25. He will be meeting not only NATO leaders, (including U.S. President Donald Trump it seems, for second time in 10 days), but also top EU officials for their first meeting in a long time. Erdoğan reiterated in his May 21 address to the AK Parti congress that Ankara does not want to cut its ties with the EU, but demands that relations be on “fair and equal terms.” Linking the migration deal with prospective visa flexibilities and the opening of new accession chapters, Erdoğan said “everyone could go their separate ways.”

* Social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu also urges the EU to open up the 23rd and 24th chapters, on judiciary and freedoms, which would allow the EU to regain some political leverage over Turkey. Those two chapters cover the most problematic areas regarding Turkey under the state of emergency, but all chapters remain under the veto of the Greek Cypriot government. Still, if Erdoğan returns from Brussels with some hope about the future of Turkey-EU relations, that could affect his line of action in domestic politics and eventually his “roadmap.” 

Other factors include the upcoming Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) report about claims of voting irregularities in the April 16 referendum, as well as the CHP’s pledge to take the referendum complaints to the European Court of Human Rights. Erdoğan will also certainly be looking ahead to the German elections on Sept. 24, in which Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to be reelected.