Which way will Turkey’s Erdoğan go?

Which way will Turkey’s Erdoğan go?

Three weeks have passed since the July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey and the country is still trying get over the trauma.

The effects of that trauma are strongly felt in politics. From the first hour of the bloody coup attempt by a junta within the military, all four parties in parliament have stood united against it.

Members of the ruling and opposition parties have attended each other’s rallies, where only Turkish flags - no party or organization flags - are allowed, both seen in Turkish politics for the first time.

This is an atmosphere that perhaps the perpetuators of the coup attempt had not calculated, that the coup would work as a catalyst for the moderation of the polarization in Turkish politics, which had reached a peak before July 15.

But how long will it last? Will it help Turkey upgrade its democratic standards, strengthening rule of law, separation of powers and reconciliation on a new constitution? Or will it result in more centralized power and less checks and balances with the excuse of taking prompt executive action under a continuing threat?

Those questions are valid because opposition parties have started to voice complaints about the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) imposing radical changes to the system, taking advantage of this united atmosphere against the coup attempt and using the capacities of the state of emergency declared after it.

For example, the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) protested that they have not been invited to meetings for a joint constitutional committee; Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said it would not be possible unless the HDP unequivocally condemned the acts of terror by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

For example, Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said the government’s move to radically change the military’s structure with a decree in effect of law enabled by the state of emergency was “hastily” made and weakened the army. 

For example, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) said he would not voluntarily attend a super rally in Istanbul on Aug. 7 – while still asking party members to go - on the grounds that the government has not been taking into account his party’s criticism and suggestions about the implementation of the state of emergency and redesigning the entire state structure.

All those questions and complaints will find an answer, as which way Turkey goes from here mainly depends on the way President Tayyip Erdoğan chooses in the coming weeks.

If Erdoğan acts in line with his past record, one could guess that he is likely to speculate on his increased popularity in Turkey and do as much as he can for his target of an executive presidential system.

On the other hand, he might choose a new path and search for reconciliation with opposition parties, assessing that walking alone has not brought much credibility in international politics and the economy. It was a shock for him - like all the nation – when a military coup manipulated by - as he seems totally convinced - a former ally, U.S. resident and Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen, tried to overthrow him and he was saved by secular-oriented parties, along with his own supporters.

Erdoğan publicly admitting that he made a huge mistake by putting trust in Gülen and asking for forgiveness from the people had never been seen before. Likewise, the president repeating his invitation to Kılıçdaroğlu and saying the CHP head’s attendance would make him happy had also never been seen before.

It may be too early yet to comment on which way Erdoğan and Turkey will go. The chances are 50-50.