Erdogan Pulls A Putin

by Dish Staff

In yesterday’s vote, current Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan decisively won his election for Turkey’s presidency, a position which is which normally is “largely ceremonial.” Alexander Christie-Miller explains the situation:

Erdogan has insisted on the campaign trail that he will not overstep the role’s constitutional powers, but members of his Justice and Development Party have fallen over themselves to make clear that he will remain, in effect, the leader. … A loyal placeholder will occupy the role of prime minister, allowing Erdogan to remain in effective control, in a manner similar to Dmitry Medvedev’s one-term puppet presidency for Vladimir Putin in Russia, according to Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies.

“For all practical purposes, he will be trying to be both president and prime minister,” says Ulgen.

Cenk Sidar casts doubt on whether Erdogan’s scheme will go as planned:

By far the biggest roadblock on Erdogan’s path toward the accumulation of greater power, however, is the parliamentary election next summer. In order to give the new presidential office the broad powers he wants, Erdogan will need to change the constitution — and that requires a clear majority for his coalition in parliament. The governing coalition will be able to amend the constitution outright if it has two-thirds of the seats in parliament (367); a three-fifths majority (330) will be enough to pass amendments that must then be approved in a national referendum. In Turkey’s last parliamentary election in 2011, the AKP fell just short of the two-thirds threshold. But this time, post-Gezi Park, Erdogan and his allies will be facing the legacy of an unprecedented year-long wave of national discontent. Turkish civil society has been galvanized by Erdogan’s power grab, and the effects are likely to have a discernible effect on the elections.

But, according to Piotr Zalewski, changing the constitution might not be necessary:

The current document, say some legal experts, already gives him enough power to do so. Enacted in the aftermath of an army coup, Turkey’s constitution allows the President to chair Cabinet meetings, veto laws, issue governmental decrees and decide on the internal rules of the national parliament, says Riza Turmen, an opposition lawmaker and a former judge of the European Court of Human Rights. “He can decide to call early elections, he appoints the head of the general staff, the members of the board of higher education, rectors of state universities, members of the Constitutional Court, and [some] members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors,” says Turmen.

Turkish Presidents, including Abdullah Gul, Erdogan’s predecessor, have heretofore refrained from using the full range of these powers. “But Mr. Erdogan is a different case,” says Turmen. “One difference is that he will be the first directly elected President of Turkey. The other is character. He wants to control everything.”


Halil Karaveli contends that Turkey’s business community won’t tolerate Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism:

In Turkey, the relationship between the state — the military and the bureaucracy — and the business community has been symbiotic. Business interests have been paramount; the state has looked after them since the founding of the republic. Moreover, Turkey’s integration in the global economy since the 1980s has made the state even more sensitive to the dynamics of capitalism. Over time, however, the relationship between economic political freedoms has changed. In 1980, business interests were served by an authoritarian regime. Two decades later, however, business had come to have a vested interest in democratization. Economic necessities forced the Turkish government to introduce political liberalization, in order to gain the confidence and support of the European Union.

Meanwhile, Michael Koplow and Steven Cook look at the role of religion in Turkish politics. They argue that “the secular old guard has lost the battle with the political forces that represent piety and religious conservatism”:

The AKP’s success has been built on many factors besides for an appeal to religion, including nationalism, economic growth, and regional political power. Even if a majority of AKP voters—in the last parliamentary elections AKP voters represented a majority of the country—do not vote for AKP primarily because of its religious appeal, they are nevertheless made comfortable by the religious sensibility that the party conveys. The CHP and MHP have finally bowed to the demands of the electorate and through Ihsanoglu have communicated that they understand this message. The dividing lines in the presidential race have nothing to do with religion, but rather revolve around the role of the state, Turkey’s place in the West, its treatment of minorities, and economic inequalities. Those looking for staunch defenders and guardians of a secular tradition that never really existed to begin with are fated to be eternally disappointed.