Erdoğan’s year in presidency marks more instability
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan concluded his first year in the presidency on Aug. 28, 2015 on the same day as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu submitted to him the interim government that will take Turkey to early elections on Nov 1. Even this coincidence gives us sufficient evidence to analyze the one-year performance of Erdoğan as president.
Erdoğan took office from his predecessor Abdullah Gül last year with high hopes that the upcoming parliamentary elections would give his Justice and Development Party (AKP) a good majority at parliament, so it would be able to change the constitution in line with Erdoğan’s ambition to become a super-powerful president.
After an adaptation period in the presidency of a few months, Erdoğan started to show that he would not be just an ordinary, symbolic president - opting to convene a cabinet meeting under his helm and to intervene in governmental affairs, even sometimes at the expense of violating his constitutional boundaries.
However, the greatest blow he dealt to the Turkish political system was his decision to carry out his own very ambitious election campaign, during which he engaged in harsh quarrels with three opposition parties. That resulted in zeroing the credibility of the presidential position in the eyes of the opposition and closed the doors to potential efforts to normalize Turkish politics.
Parliamentary elections, however, resulted in upsetting Erdoğan, as the AKP lost its 13-year privilege of ruling the country on its own. Falling 18 deputies short of forming a single-party government, AKP leader and Prime Minister Davutoğlu failed to save himself from Erdoğan’s tutelage and failed to form a coalition government with any of the three opposition parties.
Erdoğan’s post-election game plan was based on taking Turkey to early elections, hoping at least to form a single-party government and to gain a parliamentary majority to nix the opposition’s plans to re-open corruption and graft cases against four former AKP ministers. Instead of trying to remove hurdles in front of a coalition government - as an ordinary president would do, in the national interest - Erdoğan decided to import some more instability to the country for his own reasons.
As an irony of fate, Erdoğan is now scheduled to approve an interim government formed by Davutoğlu, a first in the 92-year history of the Republic of Turkey. This marks the first time that the Turkish Parliament has failed to form a government after elections, and thus the first time that elections have had to be renewed based on articles 114 and 116 of the constitution. Snap elections, which should be used as a remedy during extraordinary political situations, are thus being used as a tool to realize the president’s personal ambitions.
What is ironic is that Erdoğan has chosen to frame the upcoming elections as a choice between stability and instability. His game since the June 7 election has resulted in more waves of instability in various fields. In the economy, the free fall of the Turkish Lira was precipitous, losing around 30 percent of its value against the euro and the U.S. dollar since the beginning of this year. On security, the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) resumed its terrorist acts in July after the government announced the end of Kurdish peace process. The PKK’s attacks claimed the lives of dozens of security personnel since last month, ending a years-long period of peace and comfort in the country.
In addition to the terrorist threat imposed by the PKK, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has begun to target Turkish citizens, as a suicide bomber killed 32 youngsters in the Suruç district of Şanlıurfa province on July 20. With Turkey joining the U.S.-led international aerial campaign against ISIL positions in Syria, there are concerns that the extremist jihadist group will engage in more deadly attacks inside Turkey.
On the domestic political front, there are no clues that the upcoming elections will change the picture and give a majority to any of the four parties trying to form a single-party government. Current opinion polls indicate that a similar parliamentary composition will emerge on Nov 1, forcing parties to compromise for a coalition government. Of course, this is only a political forecast based on today’s picture, without knowing what Erdoğan’s next steps to change it will be.
The only thing obvious today is that Erdoğan’s way does not promise a very stable Turkey.