IAHIN – ErdoIan’s problem: How to escape prosecution?

ErdoIan’s problem: How to escape prosecution?Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan is the politician that has put his stamp on the last two decades of Turkey. Since the beginning of his political career, he has pursued different visions in different periods. The first period in his career as a major player began in 1985, when he was elected party chief of the Islamist Welfare Party (RP) in Istanbul and continued with his election in 1994 as mayor of the city. In this period which came to a close when he was sentenced to prison due to a speech he made, his vision as a member of the “renewalist” faction in the party was to help reform the RP into a well-organized mass party and moderate its image in order to appeal to society beyond religious Sunnis. The second period extends over the time between his assumption of the prime ministry, when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) he helped found came to power in 2002, and the referendum on constitutional amendments held in 2010. In this period ErdoIan said he had “taken off his Islamist shirt” and led his party toward appealing to as broad a segment of society as possible by declaring European Union membership as the centerpiece of his political platform. His vision then was to put an end to the political role of the military and consolidate a market democracy based on EU norms. With this vision he helped build the image of Turkey as a source of inspiration for all Muslim-majority countries and gained global acclaim. He defeated military and judicial coup attempts against his government and garnered as high as 58 percent of the vote in favor of constitutional amendments toward consolidating democracy that his government had proposed.The third period in ErdoIan’s career opened with the AKP scoring as high as 50 percent of the vote in the parliamentary elections of 2011. ErdoIan’s professed vision now focused on making Turkey one of the 10 largest economies in the world by the 100th anniversary of the republic in 2023. In order to achieve this he believed he had to concentrate all the power in his own hands. With overblown self-confidence from having garnered half of the vote and establishing de facto control over the military, he turned increasingly toward arbitrary and authoritarian rule bolstered by an Islamic populist discourse. When he was confronted with mass protests last summer, at a time when he thought he was at the peak of his popularity, he panicked. Instead of trying to understand the causes of the protests and correct his ways, he blamed foreign — mainly Western — conspiracies that he said were aiming to destabilize his government and began polarizing society in terms of those who are with or against him as a strategy to win the coming three elections in the next two years. The fourth and current period in ErdoIan’s career began with the corruption scandal, revealed last December, that implicated him and his cronies. Ever since ErdoIan has no longer a vision but a problem: How can he escape eventual prosecution? After taking all legal and administrative measures to bury the graft probe as much as possible, he could not make up his mind whether it would be in his best interest to keep to the prime ministry or run for the presidency this summer. The decisions that came out of his party’s executive board meeting last Friday to keep the party rules limiting re-election to three terms and the proportional representation election system with a 10 percent threshold seem to indicate that he has finally made up his mind in favor of the second option. His game plan appears to be: Get elected president and thus rule out prosecution, as the Constitution stipulates that presidents can only be prosecuted for treason and only with three-fourths of Parliament voting in favor of impeachment. Continue to control both the government and the party and assure that the Parliament to be elected next summer is composed of loyalists. There are, however, many risks involved with this plan. Mainly the following: Keeping the 10 percent threshold may dissuade the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) from supporting his presidency. Supposing he takes measures to appeal to Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) voters to ensure his election, what will happen to the peace process with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)? The future for both ErdoIan and Turkey, unfortunately, is full of risks.

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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