Erdoğan’s presidential target: Transforming society

Erdoğan’s presidential target: Transforming society

The most significant aspect of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “Presidential Vision Document,” publicized last week with the title, “On the Path to New Turkey,” is that he is defining the presidential elections to be held next month - more precisely, if he ends up ascending to the Çankaya presidential mansion by popular vote - as a “historic event” and a “revolution.”

This will be such a revolution that it will “transform every field” - from the Constitution to the function of institutions, to social peace, to Turkey’s role in world politics.

While the vision document revealed ambitious targets for the future within the framework of a “revolution” thesis, it also contains assessments that cannot be described as humble regarding the last 12 years of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) era. For instance, the document claims that after 2002, in democracy, stability, security, welfare, and quality living spaces, “a leap has taken place that has exceeded all that was done in the last century.”

Thus, an argument has been presented that in all these fields, whatever was achieved throughout the entire republican era, has been outdone. As a matter of fact, the argument that we come across from time to time in PM Erdoğan’s discourse is also reflected in the “vision document,” which contains a challenge of seeing himself in competition with the 1923-2002 era of the Republic - indeed, trying to outsmart this period.

The “Republic” issue constitutes a significant theme in the document which starts out with the message, “We embrace our history as a whole.” Frequently, along with the expression “Our Republic,” a warm, adopting view is echoed in the text. Moreover, while evaluating the Republic, the need to highlight the particular circumstances of the foundation years is not a situation one comes across often in AK Party texts.

In any case, by calling it the “New Turkey,” a new milestone is being marked for the Republic in this document. According to this document, the making of the “New Turkey” is a vision that started with the breakthroughs made by the AK Party over the past 12 years, which will be carried further with the transformations to be introduced in Erdoğan’s presidential term, after he is elected.

We also see the clues of the “Turkey project” in the text that Erdoğan wants to shape in the event that he is elected president and has the opportunity to rule the country in the way he wants.

Two targets of “social transformation” and “institutional transformation” are prioritized in the text.

“Social transformation” is described, in a nutshell, as “the harmonization of the effects of urbanization and the growth in welfare with the diverse identities and demands of civil society.” After this description, it is emphasized that it is indispensable that “all civil societies, all foundations have a right to exist and sustain their lifestyles.”

In parallel with this, the “institutional transformation” target is described as a necessity for “state institutions to go through a transformation in harmony with the expectations, developments and will of the society.”

In short, while he is preparing to ascend to the Çankaya presidential mansion, “social transformation” and the “state’s institutional transformation” are among the most important targets in Erdoğan’s mind.
When looking at the place of secularism in the targeted social transformation, the “civil” emphasis in state-religion relations is highlighted in the definition of secularism. 

The “restructuring of the judicial organization” stands out as another important target for the new term. The expression “the highest authorities of the judiciary should be granted democratic legitimization over Parliament” seems like the manifestation of the intention of changing the structure of the Constitutional Court.    

“The advancement of fundamental rights and freedoms in every field and according to universal dimensions” is one of the strong commitments contained in the document. On the other hand, the lack of specific commitments toward interiorizing European Convention on Human Rights and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judicial rulings stands out as a significant omission.