Faking politics in Turkey
Finally, Turkey’s president made it clear the rules of the game have changed, as he recently stated that since the president was elected by the people last year, he cannot be expected to limit himself to the constitutional role of presidents. In fact, it is not that the rules of the political game have changed, but rather there are no rules of the political game anymore.
The election of the president by direct popular vote was indeed a big change in the political system, but then a new definition of the roles and responsibilities was needed. The political system could change to a semi-presidential system to define the new roles. Nevertheless, absolute parliamentary majority is needed for such a radical change. In the absence of such a consensus, the governing party chose to find a way to elect their leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as an elected president without a total change of the system. The goal was to change to a presidential system after gaining a parliamentary majority after the general election and/or achieving a deal with the Kurds to get their support for the presidential system, but both have failed.
Unfortunately, the president and his party did not need to revise their political project after the June election showed the necessity of a consensus government. Instead, they started fake efforts for a coalition with the main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Now, after negotiations failed, it became clearer the governing party’s efforts were all fake, since the CHP proved they were ready to compromise. It has been claimed Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was not reluctant to form a coalition government, but rather he could not resist the pressures coming from the president. It is true and false, since it is irrelevant what the prime minister really thinks and seeks after the prime minister is reduced to a ceremonial personality in the absence of not only his personal political gravitas but also because the political roles were not redefined after the present president was elected by popular vote.
Under the circumstances, Erdoğan turned this political and judicial ambiguity into a political advantage to fake politics. He behaves as if the prime minister has initiative when he wants to, and if not he reminds that he is really in charge. The prime minister also needs to fake politics, since he cannot refrain from his political role and needs to act like as if he has real political initiative, but then hopelessly obliges with what the president dictates. At the end of the day, there are no rules of the game or defined sources of political legitimacy but only political intrigues disguised as politics.
Nonetheless the basic problem is neither the clash of personalities or absence of it, nor the autocratic personality of the president, but rather a bigger issue of the political understanding of the president and his governing party. The opinion leaders of the governing party, or perhaps we should call it “governing ideology,” express what they mean of “politics” more clearly nowadays. Their politics is defined by “Islamic democracy,” and a “powerful Turkey as the leader of umma” and ruling out anything which may be an obstacle in their way as a legitimate “struggle of the great cause, whose leader is Erdoğan.” So much so that even the governing party members and supporters who have been in favor of a coalition government are despised as “Trojan horses.” Under the circumstances, they do not engage in any genuine political game but just fake it. Finally, there are no politics in Turkey anymore but pursuing a grand project by faking politics.