A brief history of 2013

A brief history of 2013

First, I should perhaps note that I have zero faith in astrology, or the pseudoscience that claims to read the earthly future by looking at the stars. I also have no belief in “historicism,” or the view that assumes that there are “laws of history” that can allow us predict the future. Rather, I am pretty confident that no mortal can know what will happen tomorrow, let alone in the next 365 days.

However, as a long-time observer of Turkey, I am still tempted to offer some political predictions about the year 2013 at its very beginning. (If they turn out to all be false, please feel free to make fun of me in a year’s time.)

To begin with, let me suggest that unless something lethal happens to Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey will not experience any political crisis in 2013. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government is the one of the strongest and most stable administrations Turkey has ever seen, and it faces no visible risks in terms of its survival. We will, in other words, have yet another AKP year.

But what will the AKP do? It will probably continue managing the economy well, rebuilding the country, and elevating the middle class — the main reasons for its decade-long success. There also will be some political reforms with regard to minority rights and religious freedom, but these will fall short of making the liberal community happy. This is because the AKP believes, wrongly in my view, that it has been able give Turkey an “advanced democracy” with only minor improvements needed.

With regard to the AKP’s most controversial aspect, its commitment to religion, Turkey’s paranoid secularists will continue to be disproved: No “shariah state” will be established and no Saudi-like “religious police” will be employed. Quite the contrary, Turkey will continue being a free country where one can choose between the mosque and the nightclub. Alcohol will be freely available, beaches will be bikini-rich, and famed visitors such as Madonna or Jenifer Lopez will continue delighting Turkish audiences. The AKP will only promote “moral values” and religious symbolism, with religious education and giant mosques.

Meanwhile, the illiberal side of the AKP will continue its love of power - particularly Erdoğan’s personal love of power, which only becomes deeper as the party stays in power. Loyalty to Erdoğan, rather than objective merits, will be the key quality within the AKP, making the party increasingly dull. Erdoğan’s ambition to become an all-powerful president in 2014 will continue dominating the party’s agenda, and will probably create an additional deadlock to the drafting of the “new civilian constitution,” on which the Turkish Parliament has been working and disputing.

Two particular issues will also continue to be quite burning and concerning. One of them is the conflict between the state and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is coming to the end of its third decade. The AKP government will try to disarm the PKK by using its jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, as an envoy, and whether that strategy will actually work is one of the most intriguing questions.

The second key issue is the civil war in neighboring Syria, in which Turkey - rightly in my view - has taken sides with the opposition. My optimistic bet is that the regime will fall before the end of 2013, and the post-Baath Syria will be a great ally of, and an asset for, Ankara.

In short, Turkey will continue being an often maddening yet always interesting country to watch. I hope you will continue to enjoy it.