LALE – Turkey after presidential elections

Turkey after presidential electionsThere has long been speculation in Turkey that a credible opposition will emerge from within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) itself. This speculation is based on the fact that none of the opposition parties represented in Parliament have been able to provide an alternative to the AKP’s strategy of addressing people’s long-neglected social and economic needs.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) — Turkey’s oldest party — for example, has failed to really address the country’s long-standing need to improve democratic standards in a government that has been interrupted by three military coups and three memorandums, staged and issued, respectively, by the military between 1960 and 2007.The CHP has never been able to formulate economic and social strategies to become a credible alternative to the ruling parties since the 1980 military coup.

This phenomenon occurring within the CHP became evident once again recently when it re-engaged in a fierce internal battle among the nationalist wing and the relative reformists.The battle within the CHP has been taking place following the election defeat of former presidential candidate Professor Ekmeleddin IhsanoIlu, jointly nominated by the CHP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the junior opposition party.

Nationalist CHP deputies who are indifferent to the country’s serious democratic deficit — and who did not lend their support to IhsanoIlu’s candidacy — have called on the party’s leader, Kemal KIlIdaroIlu, to resign, blaming the management of the party for the election defeat.However, any presidential candidate given full support by the CHP did not have a chance of winning the election, considering the CHP’s failure to produce policies to address the people’s social and economic needs.

Opposition candidate IhsanoIlu took only 38.5 percent of the vote in the presidential election last Sunday, losing to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, who ran on the AKP ticket.

Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP)andidate Selahattin DemirtaI, who received over 9 percent of the vote, has, in the meantime, demonstrated that a Turkish Kurd can compete for a top post in Turkey, where ethnic and sectarian identities have long been suppressed.It is true, on the other hand, that the AKP is no longer the party that put its stamp on democratic reforms in an effort to bring Turkey closer to the European Union’s democratic standards during its first term in office in 2002 and onwards.

On the contrary, under its president-elect and incumbent prime minister, ErdoIan, the party has already raised concerns over its authoritarian instincts, distancing itself from democratic standards. The more ErdoIan consolidates his power the more his draconian measures to silence the opposition have come to the surface.

As the international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Aug. 12, Turkey has seen a very real erosion of human rights and the rule of law over the past two years as ErdoIan has consolidated power“If the days of military tutelage in Turkey are thankfully over, that doesn’t yet mean that Turkey has a government that is fully accountable to the people or a justice system that is independent and can guarantee that the law applies to everyone,” Emma Sinclair-Webb, a senior researcher on Turkey for HRW, said in a written statement.

Sinclair-Webb said that since a corruption scandal broke out in Turkey in December 2013, ErdoIan and the AKP have sought to change laws to suit their own agenda and muzzle social mediaDespite such increasing criticism leveled against ErdoIan and his AKP from outside as well as from within the country, the party has won nine national and local elections since November 2002. In addition its 12-year-long prime minister won the first direct presidential election in the history of the country.

Hence, at the moment President-elect ErdoIan and his party do not seem like they are in a position to be challenged.In addition, ErdoIan pledged he would continue to influence the policies of the AKP from the ankaya presidential palace.

This is despite the fact that the current Constitution stipulates that he cut off his relations with his party immediately after being elected president and that the presidential post is relatively symbolic. He has to end his membership in Parliament as well after he is elected president.

But ErdoIan has opted to stir a debate over his legitimacy by continuing to keep his position as prime minister and leader of his party as he prepares to head an extraordinary congress of the party on Aug. 27, a day before he takes over the presidency.

Yet, the opposition’s justified accusations against ErdoIan, that he is creating a problem of legitimacy, is not expected to bring him in line with legal procedures.ErdoIan, meanwhile, has been a crucial figure who has kept his party intact.

Hence, there is a need to focus on the developments that will be taking place within the ruling AKP to, perhaps, better understand the future course of Turkey in the coming years.Within this context, will ErdoIan as president be able to keep his party intact? Can the AKP win another election victory in the June 2015 national elections without ErdoIan as its leader? Will serious cracks begin to appear within his ruling party? And how much weight is there to the long speculation that a credible opposition to the ruling party will emerge from within itself? These are the questions whose answers we will most likely find in the coming months.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman