After the first direct presidential elections in Turkey I wrote an article with the title of ‘The Next Sultan’. Two years ago it was predictable that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was planning to keep his executive power, but because of the Turkish Constitution, his hands were tied. However, that did not make him stop, and although two years later the constitution is still the same, Erdoğan is controlling the government, the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi – AKP), the media, etc. Being probably the most influential politician in Turkey, I can risk saying that he has already passed Atatürk.
Officially, he still leads the country without any executive power. In order to turn it official, Erdoğan need to change the constitution, which was impossible to concretize until now. The AKP did not have enough lawmakers in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (Türkiye Büyük Millet Meclisi – TBMM) to change the Constitution of Turkey alone. The opposition parties do not pretend to give more power to Erdoğan, they are aware of the risk, namely this can provoke for Turkey and surely for themselves. But the President has had something else on his mind, and his dream of being a President with all the power got even closer last week.
The TBMM voted to lift the deputies’ immunity of the People’s Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi – HDP), who, in his words, ‘are terrorists, not politicians’. Now the HDP deputies can be judged by their supposed links to terrorism. The HDP is normally referred as the political wing of the Kurdish terrorist group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê – PKK), which is also considered a terrorist group by the EU and the USA. HDP’s main influence might be Kurdish, but they are not a Kurdish party, they represent different Turkish minorities. In its list for the elections last June, the party had Armenians, Yazidis, Syriac, Alevis, Christian, Roma and LGBT candidates, and half of its MPs candidates were women, showing that they constitute a multicultural and ethnic political party.
Last summer, with some surprise, they won 80 seats in the TBMM, passing the necessary 10% threshold to be in the Turkish Assembly. AKP could not have a majority, so Davutoğlu was unable to form a government. New elections were held in November last year, this time AKP was able to form a government but HDP lost 21 seats. This variation in the seat numbers was not enough for the AKP to achieve the necessary number of lawmakers to change the Turkish Constitution alone. The current problem is now that the HDP, without immunity, can be banished from the Turkish Assembly. If the AKP makes an agreement with the Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi – MHP), they will be able to change the Turkish Constitution in favour of Erdoğan.
Ahmet Davutoğlu stayed as prime minister until last May when a rift with the President made him resign. Erdoğan thought that Davutoğlu would maintain obedience during his mandate but the former prime minister had his own ideas, sometimes making Erdoğan feel that he was not the only one exercising the executive power in Turkey. The new Turkish prime minister brings Erdoğan’s dream closer to reality. Binali Yıldırım, is expected to have a low profile, and possibly will focus on giving the Presidential system to his leader. The first meeting of the new Turkish government was even chaired by President Erdoğan in his new ‘White Palace’, which is about to be expanded even more – with a concert hall and a library.
During the AKP congress, which has chosen Yıldırım as chairman. A message from Erdoğan was listened by the AKP militants standing in front of the screen, showing their respect to the Turkish President. This is an image normally seen in non-democratic regimes. This shows how important and influential Erdoğan still is in the AKP, despite the fact that he as a President must not take a role any political parties. Clearly this is not happening in Turkey. We all saw the political speeches carried out by Erdoğan during the latest election campaigns showing his support to the AKP, in an attempt to elect enough lawmakers to be able to implement the Presidential system that he is so obsessed with.
A few weeks ago, Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman stated ‘secularism cannot feature in the new constitution’, so thinking of turning it to a religious constitution. Turkey’s Islamization scares secularists in Turkey, who since Atatürk’s times have been able to maintain their secularism, mainly with the help of the Military Power, one of the remaining guarantees of the Turkish Secularism.
Freedom of speech is another matter that must worry Turkish people, but especially foreign journalists in Turkey who have seen their entry in the country denied or their residence permit extension or accreditations refused by Turkish authorities. In the eyes of the Turkish Government they are spies, even the AKP are threatening them.
The numbers of terrorist attacks are also increasing in Turkey, carried out not only by Daesh but also by the PKK and one of its old branches Kurdistan Freedom Falcons (Teyrêbazên Azadiya Kurdistan – TAK). Turkish people and tourists are also scared because of this. Tourism has decreased this year, the relations between Turkey and Russia, after shooting down a Russian helicopter, are also not helping the tourism industry. This, together with the high costs with the refugees and the distrust in the Turkish government, can lead the Turkish economy into a bad situation.
Erdoğan’s New Turkey has been already showing its first steps, soon the ‘little baby’ will grow up and Turkey will be unrecognizable, which consequently will move Turkey further from European values and closer to non-democratic regimes. Not even the EU-Turkey agreement about refugees is provoking changes, contrariwise it gives more voice to Erdoğan against the EU values.
For the best of Turkey, a change is necessary: The country needs more freedom of speech, more respect to women and minorities, more stability and security, a better coexistence between religions and different ethnicities. Turkey needs to develop itself, otherwise, if Turkey keeps following Erdoğan’s ideas, it will end up being as his dream of ‘New Turkey’ where he is a one-man ruler of a powerful country.