Political tension rising in Turkey

Political tension rising in Turkey

The stakes have never been so high for Turkey. It is clear that the general elections on June 7 are not going to be just regular elections. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan clearly intends to use these for regime change. He wants the executive powers legally vested with the prime minister for himself. 

He needs to fashion a constitution to achieve this and is expecting the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to get strong results in June to do this. Otherwise he will be caught in a constitutional limbo where the carpet could eventually be pulled from under him.

Erdoğan has strong public support, but he is not in a position to say that he is the people’s president. He has made his religious-based ideological colors more than apparent, and is therefore only the president of those who voted for him. 

Constitutionally, the president should be above party politics, but it is no secret Erdoğan had a hand in preparing the list of the AKP’s candidates for the June elections. It was one of Erdoğan’s former close associates, Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arınç, who said recently that “half the country hates the AKP,” and by implication Erdoğan, its “spiritual leader.”

While Erdoğan may have a strong support base, there is equally strong opposition to him. The number of people who do not want to see him realizing his presidential ambitions is by no means negligible. 

This makes for a very dangerous and explosive political environment for Turkey in the lead up to the elections. The latest clash between the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the military in the Diyadin region of Van province is a case in point. 

There is confusion as to what actually transpired there, with the government presenting one version, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) another, while the military eventually issued a statement corroborating some of what the HDP said. 

We have had other attacks recently, including the killing of a prosecutor and the attempted mass murder against Fenerbahçe, one of Turkey’s best known football teams. All of these have been used politically. Turks say that wolves like to hunt in the mist, so we have to prepare for all types of provocations in the lead up to the elections. 

Erdoğan, who has proved to be such a divisive figure with his political ambitions, which are rejected outright by Kemalists, nationalists, leftists, liberals and autonomy seeking Kurds alike, has added immensely to social tensions in Turkey.

These tensions are expected by many to continue after the elections. This is why it is believed that Erdoğan has been pushing for a draconian internal security law and encouraging curbs on the media and the internet. He reveals in this way that he also expects trouble up ahead is and acting preemptively.

As Erdal Sağlam, the well-connected economic commentator for daily Hürriyet, wrote yesterday, there is also serious uncertainty concerning the state of the economy after the elections.

It is being speculated that the current level-headed economic team led by Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan, who is respected internationally, will be replaced by one close to Erdoğan. The names being mentioned are unknown figures at best or not well-thought-of ones at worst. The fear is that the economy will be handed to those who, like Erdoğan, believe there is a Jewish-led international conspiracy to undermine Turkey. 

Having had a hand in stirring the cauldron it seem unlikely that Erdoğan is the leader who can chart a healthy course for Turkey through a minefield strewn with threats to domestic security, to democracy and individual freedoms, and to the well-being of the economy. 

If he was such a leader, he would not have allowed things to get out of hand in the first place.