Erdoğan is driving Turkey into a hole

Erdoğan is driving Turkey into a hole

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s inability to accept the results of the election on June 7 is driving Turkey into a hole it will be difficult to get out of. His plan to steer the country towards early elections appears to be working. What he hopes to achieve in this way, though, is not clear. Many say he is moving in a blind alley and taking the country with him for the sake of his insatiable political ambitions.

Using his hold over the Justice and Development Party (AKP), Erdoğan has effectively prevented Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu from forming a coalition government thus far. This does not mean Davutoğlu wants to enter a coalition, but politicians have to work with the realities they are faced with. Turkey has seen strange political bedfellows in the past, some who ended up in coalitions and quickly forgot all the nasty things they said about each other before.

But Davutoğlu is too weak to make his own decisions, and looks to the “palace,” where we now have a “pretender to the throne of Turkey,” for his cues. Erdoğan made his intentions amply clear only a few days ago when he openly said Turkey’s political system had changed, adding all there is left to do now is to fashion a constitution to accommodate the new system. 

Erdoğan was referring to the fact that the president in Turkey is elected directly by the people now, following the constitutional amendments introduced in 2007 and accepted by referendum in October that year. Having been elected president by 52 percent of the voters in August 2014, Erdoğan believes this gives him the mandate to become Turkey’s ruler.  

But the constitutional amendment in 2007 does not say, suggest or even intimate that the elected president will become the head of the executive branch. It only says the president, who was previously elected by parliament, will henceforth be elected by the people. There are examples in Europe - one that comes immediately to mind is Ireland - where the president is directly elected but power is vested constitutionally in the elected prime minister. 

But this is no good for Erdoğan, who wants an even bigger stick than the one he is currently wielding in defiance of the constitution. He has also made it clear that he is not interested in a U.S. or French type of system where the president is answerable to the legislature, and is hemmed in by constitutional checks and balances which guard the system against the abuse of power by the president. 

So all Erdoğan really expects now is for what he believes are his “de facto” powers to be made into “de jure” powers through a constitution tailored to meet his needs. He does not explain, however, how he plans to achieve this in a hung parliament, where opposition parties without exception are targeting him, and calling for corruption allegations against him to be investigated. In fact, many believe it is these investigations that Erdoğan is really trying to guard himself against by taking full control of the reins of power. 

Even if the AKP wins enough votes to come to power on its own in early elections, and that is a very big “IF,” it will most likely have insufficient seats in parliament to realize Erdoğan’s dream. In the meantime Erdoğan’s attempt to secure his own political future - which could become even shakier if his gamble on early elections fails, as many predict it will - has turned Turkey into a rudderless country, with no sense of perspective as to what it wants to achieve, or can achieve realistically. 

Put in a nutshell, every attempt by Erdoğan to secure his one-man-rule by any means is driving Turkey into a blind alley. But how long can his supporters in the lame duck AKP government carry on with this charade, before realizing where they are taking the country in their attempt to serve Erdoğan? The fate of the country rests as much on the answer to this question as it does on Erdoğan himself.