Prospects for political stability in Turkey
Scenes from the Turkish Parliament on Monday, May 5, when deputies met to decide on a commission that will investigate corruption allegations on four former ministers from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, were nothing new for Turkey.
The animosity and the fighting this time, however, has provided us with an early picture of what can be expected under an Erdoğan presidency, which the Justice and Development Party (AKP) says will be an executive one, while the opposition insists it will not.
Erdoğan – if indeed he runs for presidency in August and wins – will have enough deputies in Parliament to rubber stamp his decisions. Every AKP deputy today is an unquestioning soldier acting according to his directives and orders.
These deputies will therefore fight Erdoğan’s fights in Parliament willingly if and when he becomes president. There was a telling photograph from Monday’s acrimonious session which appeared to herald things to come.
It showed the former ministers accused of corruption standing silently aside, after having delivered their highly unconvincing defensive speeches, while other AKP deputies fought with opposition deputies for them.
The opposition will, of course, continue to oppose the AKP at every step, under an Erdoğan presidency, even if it does not have the numbers to do much in the end. It is therefore not difficult to predict the chaos we will witness in Parliament, at least until Erdoğan, as president, has the legislature fully under control.
The AKP’s plan is to achieve that in the 2015 general elections, and that is why it is mulling over which electoral system to adopt for those elections. It wants a system that will provide it with the largest bloc of deputies, and enable it thus to change the Constitution in order to make Erdoğan the sole and unchecked leader of Turkey.
That is a risky gamble though. While the chances are that the AKP will come out strong from the general elections, there is no guarantee that it will get the numbers Erdoğan wants in order to achieve his political ambitions.
In other words, there is a very good chance Erdoğan will be elected president under the present system, but the executive powers he plans to exercise will be contested, not just by the opposition, but also by the Constitutional Court.
Given this prospect, it is not hard to understand why Erdoğan and the AKP have declared war on the Constitutional Court over its recent rulings on the government’s Twitter ban and its law on the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK).
It is extremely difficult to see Erdoğan as a unifying president under these conditions.
One cannot imagine him acting like incumbent President Abdullah Gül, who may have compromised his supposed neutrality by making his AKP identity apparent in recent months, but who at least tried to pay lip service to the principle that “the president is of the people, and not the party.”
Erdoğan says, of course, that he will be the president of the people if he runs in the August presidential elections, and has asked the electorate to elect the AKP’s candidate in the first round in order to augment his claim.
It is obvious, however, that the opposition will make sure that he is not the president of the people, but only of those who elected him. Given his by now well-known nature, it is more than likely that Erdoğan will in return continue with his divisive ways as he hits angrily at his domestic opponents.
It is also likely that he will continue to isolate Turkey from the West; as he reacts angrily to criticism, he will no doubt get from Europe and the U.S. over his undemocratic ways.
I have often repeated in this column that it is hard to imagine political stability in Turkey at least until after the 2015 general elections. But the way things are going, it is becoming harder to imagine it after that, too.