Erdoğan presidency unlikely to bring stability

Erdoğan presidency unlikely to bring stability

Turkey is facing increasing risks on its borders. Syria was bad enough and now we have the situation in Iraq. Turkey also has strained relations with the West due to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s policies and generally abrasive attitude, which is seen as being authoritarian in nature.

The situation inside Turkey is no better. The government’s “Kurdish Opening” is facing an uphill struggle with the possibility that attacks by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) may resume. Recent events in Lice do not portend well in this respect.

Alevis, on the other hand, continue to be restless because they continue to believe they are being discriminated against due to their religious identity. This is a fault line that will remain active and can be aggravated by developments in the Middle East.

The western orientated educated urban elite, whose youth mostly comprised the Gezi Park protestors, also remains wary and restless, concerned that the secular Turkey it believes in is being eroded by Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Meanwhile the Soma disaster has shown the potential for labor strife in this country. Soma has injected a new sense of mission to the working class that union leaders will not want to squander. These are just some of the main points of tension within Turkey presently and there are others.

Given this backdrop, it is no wonder that there should be great discomfort over the prospect of Erdoğan running for the presidency in the Aug. 10 elections. It is generally assumed that he is likely to win, if he does, whether this victory comes in the first round of the elections or the second.

AKP supporters are relying on their victory at the local elections on March 30 in this respect. They say the presidential elections will also be democratic and so no one has any right to complain. But this will only be a ballot box victory for Erdoğan. He is unlikely to emerge as the president of the people, as he wants to be, because of his incapacity to be a unifying figure.

If anything, he is deepening social divisions in Turkey in the lead-up to the presidential elections with his angry and vitriolic rhetoric. This can be seen from the fact that the 55 percent that did not vote for the AKP in March remains unhappy.

This 55 percent does not represent a unified bloc, of course, but those who make it up are united in not wanting to see Erdoğan as president, and this complicates matters for Erdoğan because he wants a strong result from the presidential elections.

Neither does this fact augur well for domestic peace if Erdoğan comes out of the Aug. 10 presidential elections as the ballot box victor. A political party under Turkey’s present Constitution is elected on its political platform, which can have ideological undertones.

But it is not allowed to tamper with the democratic and judicial system in order to encroach on the rights of those that did not vote for it. That, however, is exactly what the AKP has been doing, and promises to do even more if Erdoğan is elected president.

A president under the present constitutional arrangement has to be impartial and represent the people without discrimination. Erdoğan is very unlikely to be so. Neither does a president have unlimited powers – although he is imbued with strong powers – under the present Constitution.

Erdoğan however is making no secret that he intends to exercise unchecked executive powers if elected. His intention is to make this de jure when the AKP is re-elected with a strong result in 2015 – as he hopes – by changing the Constitution. This at least is his plan.

Given the tense situation around Turkey, Ankara’s strained ties with the west, and the domestic unrest from one unhappy quarter or another, it is hard to imagine how an Erdoğan presidency will bring stability to Turkey at this critical juncture. It is equally hard to imagine how a domestically unstable Turkey will contribute to regional stability.