The onus is on Erdoğan to prove his critics wrong

The onus is on Erdoğan to prove his critics wrong

There is no surprise in the announcement by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) that its candidate for the Aug. 10 presidential elections is Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The surprise would have been if he wasn’t.

All eyes will be on the AKP now to see how it manages the succession process after Erdoğan leaves his position as party leader. We do not know at this stage who will replace him and whether that person will be able to maintain party unity.

Addressing party members and supporters after his nomination was announced on Tuesday, Erdoğan said “an elected president and an elected prime minister will make Turkey soar.” This not only presupposes that he will be elected in Aug. 10, but also that the AKP will come out a strong winner in the presidential elections planned for 2015, producing a prime minister who will work under Erdoğan’s directives.

Erdoğan intends to be a “de facto” executive president with support from the AKP in Parliament, until the Constitution can be amended to make him a “de jure” one. He needs the AKP to come out strong from the next parliamentary elections to do this.

Otherwise, Erdoğan will be stranded in the presidency with a prime minister who will not have the necessary majority in Parliament even if the AKP wins the elections. Such a prime minister will be unable to fulfill Erdoğan’s directives in the way he wants.

During his emotional address after his candidacy was announced, Erdoğan claimed he had not discriminated against those who did not vote for him in the past, and said he would be everyone’s president if elected in August. Given his actual record in this respect, this claim will have to be proved before it can be accepted at face value.

Even his speech after his nomination on Tuesday had acrimonious and deeply divisive elements in it. The simple fact is that Erdoğan has been a divisive figure for Turkey and there is little to suggest that he will be changing tack.

This is also the conclusion of foreign professionals who are watching Turkey closely, and particularly those who are trying to advise investors about what to expect under an Erdoğan presidency. In an assessment post made available to the Hürriyet Daily News on June 10, Wolfango Piccoli, the managing director of the New York-based Teneo Intelligence consulting company had this to say: “As president, Erdoğan will preside over a divided country, where deep polarization will continue to trigger outbursts of violent protest. At best, this setup will preclude Turkey from adopting a more liberal and inclusive understanding of democracy; at worst, it will further push the country towards authoritarian governance.”

Piccoli, a long-time observer of Turkey whose advice has proved to be astute in the past, continued by declaring the following: “Having gained control of the presidency and secured yet another electoral victory, Erdoğan would likely be tempted to stick to his strategy of polarizing the electorate thereby seeking to maintain the AKP’s dominant position in Turkey’s politics.”

In a separate post sent on June 30, Piccoli predicted that “Erdoğan’s ascension to the presidency will mark the opening of a new and radically different phase for Turkey’s politics and institutions.” He went on to warn investors to “brace themselves for a more erratic and intrusive style of policy-making, which is also likely to affect the Central Bank.”

This warning is clearly related to the war Erdoğan has declared on the Central Bank for acting independently, as any serious Central Bank should, and refusing to follow his politically motivated directives. If Piccoli’s predictions, which are shared by quite a number of Western diplomats in Ankara, prove to be correct, Erdoğan’s presidency will hardly make Turkey “soar,” leaving it instead facing one crisis after another.

The onus will therefore be on Erdoğan to prove these predictions wrong.