Erdogan: Blessing or Blasphemy for Turkey


Edmond Azadian

Edmond Azadian

By Edmond Y. Azadian

Post-mortems and horse-trading between the political parties are continuing in the aftermath of the June 7 parliamentary elections in Turkey. While Erdogan personally had garnered 52 percent of popular vote, which lodged him in the presidential office, his AKP party barely passed the 40-percent mark, which still keeps the party in the lead, but limits its powers to rule the country singlehandedly.

Erdogan’s hope was to win enough votes to form a government without begging other rival parties to join it as coalition partners. He was further expecting a majority in the new legislature to revamp the constitution and concentrate the executive powers in the office of the president.

Many reasons are being cited for Erdogan’s failure to achieve his goals, after ruling the country for 13 years with absolute authority.

Chief among the reasons was Erdogan’s ambition to rule the country as a dictator. Of course, revelations about the corruption cases played their role as well as the whistle blowing on Turkey’s military support for ISIS, which was obvious all along but was adamantly denied by the government.

Three days after the elections, a European Union report was released, adding insult to injury, with its reference to the Armenian Genocide, the closure of borders with Armenia, Turkey’s non-recognition of the legitimate Cyprus government, which is a full member of the EU, along with restrictions on the press and lack of progress on the Kurdish issue.

Even an AKP official commented on the Kurdish issue, citing it as one of the causes of election results. Indeed, AKP party spokesman, Beshir Atalay said it was wrong for his party to “postpone” some steps planned to be taken in the process which aimed to end the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorism resulting in the loss of votes in the predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern regions.

A columnist in Today’s Zaman newspaper, Gokhan Bacik, added to that statement: “It was all show and talk. But thanks to the Kurdish initiative, Erdogan drew crowded rallies in Diyarbakir. Throughout those years, he did nothing in terms of implementing any practical initiative during the peace process.” (Today’s Zaman, June 15)

During the election campaign, Erdogan and his sidekick Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu did something that turned out to be counterproductive. They blamed the leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) for colluding with Armenians and hiding 100 masked Armenians as Kurdish candidates, while Erdogan’s AKP had on the slate an Armenian without the mask, called Markar Yessayan.

Despite vitriolic criticism of the pro-Kurdish party, the latter not only passed the threshold of 10 percent, but was able to garner more than 13 percent, which translated into 80 members in the new parliament.

The virulent attacks by Erdogan and his partisan press against HDP turned out to become a blessing in disguise. Being part of the legislature, the Kurds will be hard-pressed to resort to arms. This is one blessing on the domestic front. Internationally Turkey will earn brownie points with the EU for having allowed the Kurdish minority to become part of the democratic process.

HDP’s Selahattin Demirtas is an articulate and charismatic leader who does not mince words. He has vowed to bring the Armenian Genocide issue to the floor of the Turkish parliament. Some in the Kurdish press compare him to Barack Obama, but he could more appropriately be compared to Gerry Adams, the leader of the Sinn Fein party, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army in Northern Ireland. Adams always denied his association with the Irish Republic Army, all the while negotiating with the Protestants and the British government, throughout the years of the IRA’s bloody campaign. Demirtas similarly denied having any links with the militant PKK but he is an interlocutor in the peace process with the government.

The most urgent issue at the present time remains the formation of a coalition government. AKP is represented with 256 members in the parliament, constituting 40 percent of the 550 members. The CHP Kemalist party has elected 132 members (24 percent), the MHP racist nationalist party 80 members  (16 percent) and the pro-Kurdish HDP 80 members (13 percent).

Davutoglu still remains the main candidate for the prime minister’s job, although some rift has occurred between the two recently. Erdogan is personally conducting the potential coalition negotiations, which ordinarily is the task of an incoming prime minister.

Only the Kemalist and the nationalist parties have some affinity for Erdogan in terms of a political coalition. No one is thinking that AKP can even consider negotiating with Demirtas. But no potential partner shares Erdogan’s vision of changing the constitution, allowing for the president to rule as a dictator.

The current parliament has a 45-day window to form a government. If no coalition is formed by the end of those 45 days, snap elections will automatically take place.

There seems to be no hurry on any party’s side to meet this deadline. Instead, negotiations are carried out to kill time, as each party is planning to go to new elections, having learned from their mistakes in order to maximize their presence in the parliament. AKP leaders believe that this time around, they can push back the pro-Kurdish party below 10 percent and convince devout Muslim Kurds to return to their fold. Already, some bombs are being detonated in Diyarbakir and other Kurdish regions to discredit Demirtas’ party. Any social or militant disturbance at this critical time can give an advantage to Erdogan, because that will allow him to wear the mantle of a savior and guarantor of stability.

Although the June 7 elections clipped Erdogan’s wings and his Ottomanist ambitions suffered a serious setback, he is still at the helm of his government and he will certainly continue his domestic and foreign policies, especially contributing to the instability of the region. He is openly supporting and arming ISIS, contrary to the US government’s warnings. Turkey is also supplying arms to Islamic militants in Libya, to Bedouin tribes in the Sinai peninsula, encouraging insurrection against the Egyptian government. Erdogan’s support for deposed Islamist Mohammad Morsi is no secret. (Incidentally, the Turkish-Egyptian tiff is helping the Armenian Genocide issue to receive coverage in the Egyptian media.)

Adding to these mischievous policies, Erdogan has the arrogance to arbitrarily shut the Inçirlik NATO base for carrying out missions. What certainly will break the camel’s back will be Erdogan’s courting Putin, especially in the energy sector, blunting the West’s sanctions on Russia for its actions in Crimea.

Already many think-tanks have been recommending to replace Turkey as a launching pad for Western policies in the region.

One think-tank in particular was recommending Azerbaijan and Georgia, which not only serve as military bases now, but will become handy in curbing the Russian and Iranian influences in the Caucasus.

Azerbaijan and Georgia being Armenia’s enemies — the first one openly and the latter stealthily — the danger will grow on Armenia’s borders. Thus far, the US and France, as co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group, along with Russia, have been pursuing a peaceful policy for the Karabagh problem. Once their policies are bifurcated, instability will take over and perhaps a flare up will be in the interest of the West for an excuse to intervene.

As we can see, Erdogan’s policies have far-reaching ramifications for all the parties in the region. For now, his ambitions seem to have been tamed.

But in the long haul, he remains a political time bomb.