How will Turkey remain governable?

How will Turkey remain governable?

Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç is a veteran member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who is caught between what reason tells him and what commitment to his party requires.

Speaking on CNN Türk a few days ago, Arınç referred to the 50 percent of the electorate that does not vote for the AKP and said: “Before, when we went out on the street, our supporters would love us, but our opponents would still respect us. I now feel that they look on us with hatred.” 

Arınç said this would not prevent the AKP from getting 50 percent of the vote again, but added that “it could turn Turkey into an ungovernable country.” He went on to underline the importance of using a “soft tone in politics,” rather than “shouting and yelling.”

It is hard to say who exactly Arınç was thinking of when uttering these words, but it is not hard to imagine who comes to mind immediately. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is on record, after all, as saying that “fury is part of the art of oratory.” He is clearly determined to maintain his angry tone, which is highly disagreeable to a large segment of the population, even if it goes down well among his supporters.

However, the key point – which Arınç underlines in a broader context without referring to Erdoğan - is how Turkey is to remain governable with a president who is not averse to alienating half of the population.

Erdoğan admitted only recently that he was not elected to be an impartial president, even though the present constitution requires him to be so. He also continues to utter remarks indicating that he is at war with a significant portion of the population.

He is, in short, seen as a divisive figure both inside and outside Turkey.

However, Erdoğan does not appear to be overly concerned about the need to maintain national unity, even though this is the prime function of the president who, constitutionally speaking, represents the whole Republic without any discrimination.

Neither has Erdoğan made it a secret that he intends to be around until 2023, the centenary of the Republic, and will try and force his ideological outlook on the country in that lead-up to that. This does not appear to be a recipe for stability and good governance.

Arınç is right, therefore, when he says that having 50 percent of the electorate hating you could make Turkey ungovernable. What’s more, he is not even a member of the opposition but rather comes from the bosom of the AKP.

One wonders how many more people there are within the party who think like this, and who are prepared to continue supporting Erdoğan and his fury unquestioningly even if it is seen to be leading the country to instability.

One also wonders how long “green capital,” as it is known in Turkey, will continue to bankroll Erdoğan if his every remark contributes to economic instability. Beyond a certain point, capital is not “green” - or any other color - but just self-interested capital.

In the background to all this we have moves from the AKP to introduce legislation curbing individual rights and freedoms even more, as if these are not already under sufficient pressure. Despite signs indicating that not everyone in the AKP is happy about this, we also have Erdoğan’s dream of turning Turkey into an unrestrained presidential system.

The AKP seems to be going along with this for the moment. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu is paying lip service to the idea that such a system may not be so bad for Turkey, whether he honestly believes this or not. No wonder there is concern among a large segment of the population about where the country is heading.

Given Erdoğan’s blatant authoritarian tendencies, his defiant confession that he is not there to be an impartial president, and his well-known fury against those who do not share his ideological vision, it is an open question how Turkey will remain governable if this trend continues - let alone how it will remain a democracy.