A survey that upset Erdoğan

A survey that upset Erdoğan

The latest survey by “Metropoll,” has upset Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan just prior to his party’s general congress this weekend. According to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) charter, he cannot run as party head after 2014, even if he wants to – which he apparently does not. So this weekend, he will in effect be addressing his party’s congress for the last time as leader.

Erdoğan is not planning to pull out of politics, however. He has made no secret of his desire to run for president in 2014, when Turks will be electing their president for the first time by popular vote. In the meantime, his party is working hard to vest the presidency with added powers for Erdoğan.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Erdoğan feigned modesty on this topic again. “So far, I have not come to any of the positions that I have filled through wanting to be there. I was sought – people wanted me to come to these posts,” Erdoğan said. Deciphering these remarks it is clear Erdoğan believes the public wants to see him as president.

But if one is to go along with the findings of the Metropoll survey, 51 percent said they would rather see the incumbent, Abdullah Gül, win the contest for the presidency if he were running against Erdoğan. Erdoğan, as expected, dismissed these findings as pointless since there are two more years to go before the elections.

But it is becoming clearer that it is by no mean a foregone conclusion that Erdoğan would easily win against Gül, should the latter decide to run. This puts Gül in a difficult position since he is faced with the choice of stymieing his “fellow traveler” in 2014, or engaging in a grand sacrifice out of ideological solidarity with Erdoğan by not running, even if he might win should he do so.

In the meantime, other developments may also hinder Erdoğan’s ambitions, especially if he cannot secure some successes on issues that the public is increasingly wary about today. The most important of these is of course the Kurdish issue and the unprecedented rise this year in deadly attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Meanwhile, the Metropoll survey also showed that 56 percent of those questioned did not approve of the government’s Syrian policy. In addition to this, there is the fact that Erdoğan, who is increasingly accused of displaying authoritarian tendencies, has been a divisive, and not a unifying figure in Turkey.

Today we see a country that is even more divided than before along the religious-secular, Alevi-Sunni, Turkish-Kurdish fault lines. This is clear evidence that Erdoğan has not used his strong mandate (he got one out of every two votes in the June 2011 elections) to unify the country.

His and the AKP’s mission appear instead to push an ideological line that has Islamic conservatism at the core. This is apparent, for example, in the changes to the education system that have opened the path to more Islamic education at a younger age. This appears to be in line with Erdoğan’s openly declared desire to see a “religious generation emerge in Turkey.”

Then there is the fact that Erdoğan continues to be highly abrasive and vitriolic, not to mention vengeful, against political detractors and critics, especially in the media, none of whom he has much tolerance for.

If Erdoğan does not start delivering on the Kurdish issue, prevent more negative fallout from the Syria crisis, and do away with economic doubts, especially after the latest spate of price hikes that hurt lower-income groups, then the wind could turn against him.

Turks may decide that rather than a person that has not been a unifying figure who is able to solve key issues, who lacks tolerance against other points of view, and attacks his critics in the harshest manner possible, a pacific person who is unifying, truly modest, moderate and tolerant, as well as understanding of the ways of the world, is better for the country.

It is not surprising therefore that the Metropoll survey should have has upset Erdoğan.