Turkey’s Political and Economic Future under Erdogan

Turkey’s Political and Economic Future under Erdogan
Marcus Templar
U.S. Army Cryptologic Linguist, and All-Source Intelligence Analyst of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Retd.)
30 July, 2018

The Hellenic Cultural Commission sponsored a panel discussion on July 25th in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The panel discussion transpired during the Convention of the Family Supreme of the American headquarters for the American-Hellenic Educational Progress Association, or AHEPA. The moderator of the panel was Mr. Lou Katsos and the participants in the discussion were professor Alexander Kitroeff, former ambassador Karolos Gadis, and I. The subject of the discussion was “Turkish Irredentism and the Finlandization of the Eastern Mediterranean”. As it is known, finlandization is the process or result of being obliged to favor for economic reasons, or at least not to oppose the interests of the great power, as in the case of Finland, the interests of the former Soviet Union despite not being politically allied to it.

The panellists suggested and discussed several points of view from historical, political, diplomatic, and psychological aspects of Turkey and its present leadership, especially of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some of the opinions expressed below were also communicated during a radio program and individual conversations. The core of the discussion was Erdogan and the new Turkey as he has envisioned it. And to implement his vision even before he took an oath as president he issued a published 143 page dictum changing the operation of every single ministry and other agencies under the ministries.

After that Erdogan continued issuing decree after decree making the Republic of Turkey a fully functional dictatorship that Ataturk would be jealous and the Sultan disgusted. Controlling all political life, Erdogan could essentially become president for life whose psychopathic cruelty would make Francois Duvalier of Haiti, and also known as Papa Doc, a cub scout. The man fundamentally caused unchecked, wicked authority as Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. They all use democracy to expand their influence in the same manner that the Communists had done in the past.

But Erdogan’s vision for Turkey is magnificently ambitions and costly. Because the Straits are getting shallower and narrower, Erdogan is determined to open a canal from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara near Küçükçekmece, 25 kilometres west of Istanbul. The name of the canal is Kanal İstanbul and Erdogan is determined to make the canal the rival of Suez and Panama. He has brushed around aside legal, environmental and budgetary questions to make the canal a central plank of his re-election bid in June 24th.

But the Financial Times stated that according to Erdogan one of his first projects in the new era will be to start building Kanal İstanbul. There might be a Suez somewhere, a Panama somewhere else, but the Kanal İstanbul will send the world a message. The problem is that when Erdogan announced the canal in 2011, the estimated cost was 13 billion US dollars. Today it has increased to 15 billion US dollars and by the time the project ends its price could reach 20 billion US dollars. That’s very expensive.

Also, Erdogan wants to build at least one runway long enough to take care of the taxiing needs of F-35 aircraft. However, it always depends on specific variants as whether Turkey will be trusted to own such an aircraft, the capacity for such a heavy and costly aircraft to manoeuvre, like turn, climb, run, the specific models of the aircraft like traditional takeoff, landing, versus vertical takeoff, landing, guns, and a few other variants. With a price tag of 94,6 million US dollars each, for only the basic F-35A; the price for a more advanced model of F-35 could include and increase its cost to 132,44 million US dollars.

If we add the grand plan for the Istanbul Airport that Erdogan has in mind we can quickly add the cost of 12 billion US dollars as he wants to improve the airport by adding six runways across a strip-like land. It will take about a decade to complete with a projection of making the busiest airport not just in the region but also on the planet. The projected number of passages could hit 200 million people annually.

However, in a global economy which is afflicted gradually by worries from an unfolding trade war to higher oil prices, Turkey could be very close to comfort. Turkish economy is 22nd in the world, below that of the state of Illinois of the United States, which is 20th, and below Russia, which is 13th in the world.

Starting a business is not an easy venture, but including family in the government is unwise. Yet in a country whose finances constitute a bubble ready to burst, the worst thing anyone wants to do is having a relative as finance minister. Berat Albayrak is a Turkish businessman and politician, but also Erdogan’s son-in-law. The question is whether Erdogan will listen to his relative or he will tell his son-in-law to implement his personal policies. As a Bloomberg business week out it, it is abundantly clear that the president’s whim will appraise the all future strategic decisions taken about anything in Turkey and the new cabinet will function purely as the rubber-stamping forum.

The only constraints set to be imposed on Erdogan are those likely to derive from bond and currency markets which may inhibit any overtly reckless economic polls-making. The chances in the function of the government are expected to have a severe impact on Turkish assets and it is assumed that Turkish assets to remain under pressure, unless policy measures address the country’s high inflation and external dependence, it won’t make it.

The Central Bank has not raised rates enough like some other countries given the government’s focus as GDP growth rather than inflation or currency stability. On the other hand, Turkey is likely to face more challenges ahead and it is running a massive fiscal deficit but don’t have savings to fund it.

So, Erdogan atop of it was the only one who actually decided Turkish monetary policy keeping the Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey captive. He has prevented any recent Central Bank constraints and in the last two years under Erdogan’s control, because he helped the Turkish voters to do better by offering cash bonus and other trading methods.

Turkey has had an extraordinary loose both monetary and fiscal policies. Turkey is facing the variety of issues. The Turkish lira has declined, the inflation rate is in the area of 12%, although the target was 5%, and also Erdogan’s restriction of the Central Bank’s independence. Setting interest rates which opt in for a monetary policy that prioritizes growth over controlling the inflation, is a real problem. Nevertheless, the voters preferred the man, who as a mayor of Istanbul had cleaned this  city, even if their first choice was a bit shaky – and that is an understatement.

Democracy in Turkey suffered since its inception, oscillating from the socialism of Ataturk to the right-wing Islamists of Erdogan, and that includes about 1.5 million people who live abroad, most of them in Germany. The burst of the economic bubble and the consequent implosion of the present political survival of Turkey is not a matter of supposition but a matter of time.

The Aftermath of the 2018 Turkish Elections

 

Aftermath of the 2018 Turkish Elections
Marcus Templar
U.S. Army Cryptologic Linguist, and All-Source Intelligence Analyst of the Defense Intelligence Agency (Retd.)
16 July, 2018

The elections in Turkey were nothing more than the continuation of Erdogan’s grasping of all the powers he could and more in Turkey since the coup two year ago. Last year they had the referendum which changed the political system and this year he actually took officially, I would say, the radar of Turkey in his hands. He has more powers than Kemal had and definitely has more powers than our President, because in our democracy in the United States there is a balance of powers. Erdogan doesn’t have any balance. He controls everything and he has put either relatives in cabinet posts or very close friends and associates – the Minister of Finance that is very important for a country is in the hands of his son-in-law Berat Albayrak.

And then we have a number of others that are already known in Turkey and they are very rich people, like the Minister of Education, who is the owner of a private college, the Minister of Health owns a chain of pharmacies, and the Minister of Culture and Tourism has a successful travel agency. So the whole thing is now in his hands. He has control over sixty five boards, commissions, committees, established with laws and other regulations and are merged in nine entities, namely social policies council, law policies, security  and foreign policies, local governments, health and food, economy, education and science, technology and innovation. Now, the President is on a chair in these boards, but at the same time he has already installed other chairs because he cannot be President everywhere, he has his own representatives in the same boards. So, these boards, according to the new system, propose policies, oversee implementation of the policies, make decisions, long-term strategic decisions and these decisions are beyond the responsibilities of the ministers. So, in essence Erdogan controls even the ministries.

He has installed eight directorates which include the Directorate of General Staff, Directorate of National Intelligence, Directorate of Religious Affairs, and for the first time Turkey sees the Directorate of Strategy and Budgeting. So, how it is going to work? I am not sure and I don’t believe anybody can be sure, but also he has the Directorate of Communications which actually will organize media and communications activities. In essence, he is going to control even the press and he has already thrown to prison a lot of journalists, religious people who are against him, other politicians, and that’s how he got actually elected, because he didn’t have any real opposition to begin with.

So, slowly he’s trying to become a modern sultan and he hopes to get the caliphate again. But in my opinion he has a problem with that because the caliphate was a product of occupation of lands, and since he had occupied all the Islamic centres and mostly Sunni people, he became himself a caliph, like the Pope, if I could say, like the Ecumenical Patriarch, this kind of a thing. There is no democracy in that caliphate. So, what he wants to do is to control even the religion of other countries, and through the religion of other countries impose his own power to other countries, his own influence. And that would be Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo in Europe, and also he could control the Muslims in Greece, in Thrace especially, the Dodecanese islands, the occupied territory of Cyprus in the north and also Saudi Arabia, all the Arab countries, Iran, Afghanistan, Western India and Pakistan. So, this is what he wants to do. The problem he has with that is that he is not in political control of those countries. Also, most Arabs, most Muslims, I should say, do not consider the Turks to be real Muslims. And this is because they gamble a lot, which is against the Quran, and also they drink alcoholic beverages, which is also against the Quran. So, that’s what we have on the religious side. I don’t believe he’s going to make it.

At the political side, I think he might keep the power for a few years but I don’t see him staying, because the world is unlike when Kemal was, or sultans before. Today, even if he controls the social media, there is always a way for people to find out what is happening outside of the country and to get to be influenced from outside of the country.

I don’t believe that he will be able to control the Muslims in Western Europe, although I’m sure he will send his own people to agitate, I would say, other countries, mostly Germany, and I say that because in Germany, in the west, most of the Muslims there that come from Turkey are not Turks – they are Kurds and that would be a problem.

Also in Constantinople most of the Muslim inhabitants, the non-Greeks of Constantinople, are Kurds – they are not Turks. So, I believe it is a matter of time. He is not going to stay like that and I do believe that Turkey, because of the control he has, might not be able to sustain the economy it has right now. Some people say it will be stronger. I am not an economist, but I don’t believe in a controlled economy. I cannot see how a controlled economy can flourish. Economy requires innovation, education is very important. And if these two are controlled, investments are controlled, I don’t see how can the economy become better.  Again, I’m not an economist – that is just my belief.  In a free economy you have movement of ideas, movement of economic culture, businesses come and go, if they don’t like what they see they can always change the product, they change the way it works. When you control the economy like that, I don’t know how he can make it better, allow the economy to grow. That’s my belief as a non-economist.

Turkey is losing its importance. Turkey kept importance all these years because of the location.  The Straits do not have the importance they used to have. Never mind that people say they still do. They don’t. And number of reasons is supporting this. One is that they are getting shallower and shallower, while the ships are getting bigger and bigger, so you cannot pass through the Dardanelles big ships like they used to pass one hundred years ago, because the ships were smaller and the bottom of the Dardanelles were deeper. At the same time we have different weapons that we didn’t have a hundred years ago like missiles – you do not need to be close, let’s say, to Crimea if you want to bomb it. You can do it from Chicago. So, they have lost that. And Erdogan has realized that and I’m sure he wants to open a canal, the Istanbul Canal, which will be actually a line from Küçükçekmece down south, up north – I don’t remember the town today. But it’s like an alternate route which is going to be dug like a regular canal.

Also, he wants to expand the airport in Istanbul, Constantinople, which is actually outside in Yeşilköy, and some other airports, so that he can buy the F-35s. Personally, I don’t believe the United States will sell F-35s to Turkey, but Turkey has a very strong lobby. It has a very strong lobby because it pays money to lobbies. I was reading the other day that the President of PSEKA (The International Coordinating Committee “Justice for Cyprus”), Mr. Christopher, stated that Turkey spent a hundred and two million dollars just in lobbying. Greece, for example, has spent nothing.

The problem now would be that if Turkey continues to be the way Erdogan wants it to be, it is going to come in opposition mainly of Germany, and this is because Germany would never allow Turkey to direct traffic, if I can say that. I don’t know how NATO is going to take care of that because he is becoming more of a liability as he goes and against NATO standards. To be a NATO country you have to follow the OSCE, and have democracy, and Turkey is losing it. The question I have is how NATO is going to handle this, because to my knowledge there is no mechanism to kick a country out, just like in the EU. I have not seen anywhere a mechanism that allows the other party members to say to the country, to Turkey or whosoever, “We don’t want you, you are a liability to us, you don’t serve anything, get out of here.” But, again, that would be related to how Russia is going to act. And to tell you the truth, I’m not really sure about the United States because it seems to me that the exception of the President all the others are against Russia and our President now says, “Russia is our friend.” That makes a few countries, especially in the Baltic Sea, nervous because they used to be under the Russian occupation since 1918, or so. I don’t know how that is going to work. It is a matter of, I think, a guessing game right now. But as long as Erdogan is pushing the West, the West is going to react against him. And I don’t know how Russia and Turkey are going to work together or against each other, because now they have the problem in Syria, the problem of Kurdistan in Iraq, in part of Syria. I’m sure in few years we are going to see the tiles will fall where they may and we will see how it’s going to go.

The 2018 Turkish Presidential Election Results

 

The 2018 Turkish Presidential Election Results
Alan Makovsky
Center for American Progress, Senior Fellow
4 July, 2018

As everybody knows, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was re-elected President on June 24th, 10 days ago. He won with 52,6% of the vote, far ahead of his next closest challenger, Muharrem İnce of the Republican Peoples’ Party, or CHP by its Turkish acronym. İnce received 30.6%, 22% points less than Erdoğan. By winning a majority, Erdoğan averted the need for a second round runoff against İnce. The result continued the pattern of narrow Erdoğan victories, a reflection of the deepening polarization of Turkish society between pro and anti-Erdoğan forces.

This is only the second time that Turks elected their President directly. The first time was 2014, when Erdoğan also got slightly more than half the votes in the first round. However, this election marks the first time in Turkish history that Turks voted simultaneous and separately for the head of their government and for their parliament. The election and swearing of Erdoğan and the parliament on July 8th this coming Sunday will trigger a new system in Turkey with greatly enhanced powers for the Presidency. This is the result of wide ranging government-sponsored constitutional amendments, narrowly passed, possibly of the result of fraud, in a public referendum last year. In this system the President will be the all powerful master of the executive branch with unreviewable powers of appointment and a broad ability to govern through decree. The Prime Ministry will seize to exist. Nevertheless the Parliament will retain some important powers at least on paper, including the right to overrule presidential decrees.

Let’s look at the parliamentary vote as well.  In the parliament vote Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party, AKP by its Turkish acronym, won an unprecedented sixth straight election although for the second time in the past three elections it failed to win outright parliamentary majority. It came very close, it won 295 seats in the 600-seat Parliament leaving it just six votes short of a majority. Erdoğan is likely to pick up the extra votes he needs in Parliament through the alliance he has maintained over the past three years formally during the election campaign but otherwise informally with the hard right Turkish nationalist Party, called the Nationalist Movement Party or MHP by its Turkish acronym. Erdoğan will also probably try to allure a few parliamentarians to AKP from other parties to ensure an absolute majority for AKP on its own so that it won’t have to rely on MHP. In that regard a likely target is former Interior Minister Meral Akşener of İYİ Parti or Good Party.

“Good” is the English translation of the name of her party, it perhaps might strike some people as a funny name, it doesn’t tell you much about what the party stands for except that it inspires to be good, but when written with upper case letters is it is reminiscent of a symbol that is dear to many Turkish nationalists, that evokes an ancient Turkic people. Akşener herself is seen as quite nationalist, and indeed she used to be a member of MHP. Akşener’s party, newly formed last year, as in fact a breakaway from MHP was expected to far outpace its nationalist rival MHP in the parliamentary vote. In fact, MHP won the intra-nationalist contest finishing fourth overall, with 11% of the vote and 49 seats to the İYİ Parti’s fifth place finish with 10% of the vote and 43 seats.

Many who joined İYİ Parti  did so because they expected it to be a winner or at minimum at least the winner of the nationalist right with the prospect of absorbing what was anticipated to be a collapsed MHP. Now, that that prospect is no longer tenable, that is the MHP very clearly did not collapse, and now that Iyi is out in the wilderness of the opposition with no real leverage to speak of within Parliament, it will not be surprising to see some of its members of Parliament seduced into singing up with Erdoğan’s AKP, providing AKP with the few extra MPs necessary to achieve the absolute parliamentary majority it could not win at the polls.

I have mentioned that AKP came first, MHP was fourth, İYİ was fifth, so what about the in-between? The secular Republican Peoples Party, or CHP, that’s the Party of presidential candidate Muharrem İnce who we mentioned a few minutes ago, and more famously the party established by Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, nearly a century ago, that party finished second in the parliamentary vote, with 22,6% of the vote and 146 seats. It marked the sixth straight parliamentary election in which CHP is finished at distanced second to AKP. In third place, which is the the Kurdish rights-focused and Kurdish-dominated, Peoples’ Democracy Party or HDP with 11,7% of the vote and 67 seats. Under Turkish law a party must receive 10% of the national vote in order to enter parliament. HDP succeeded in doing that for the first time in June 2015 and this is now the third consecutive election in which it has managed to win parliamentary seats. In both, the presidential and parliamentary elections, the basic pattern of recent elections remained intact. The secular CHP wins the western Aegean coast and the western Mediterranean coast. The HDP dominates the Kurdish population in the south-east and MHP, Turkish nationalists have a meaningful presence in central Anatolia which they share as a junior partner to AKP. But the AKP itself remains the only Party in Turkey that is competitive all over the nation winning the overwhelming majority of the provinces and rarely finishing worse than second anywhere.

The elections results provoke myriad of questions but let me just try to address four of them in the brief time we have. They are: First, was the election free and fair? Second, why did AKP get so many fewer votes for Parliament than its leader Erdoğan received for President? Third, why did MHP performed so much better than expected? The polls were showing prior to the election that MHP would get somewhere between 3-6% of the vote which is what led to the expectation that it might crumble and be absorbed by Akşener’s İYİ Parti. And fourth, how significant is it that the Kurdish-dominated HDP got into Parliament for the third consecutive election? Does it hold any meaning for the prospect of a solution to Turkey’s long-standing and most difficult issue, the Kurdish problem?

First, was the election free and fair? Clearly, the campaign wasn’t fair. Turkey’s media industry is overwhelmingly controlled by pro-Erdoğan forces, it is said that roughly 90% of the media is pro-Erdoğan and that media made sure that the opposition got minimum covered even when millions attended opposition rallies in the closing days of the campaign. In the Kurdish dominated south-east, access to the ballot box was suppressed for at least tens of thousands of voters and possibly up to 200.000, whose place of voting, polling stations were moved to distanced towns, ostensibly for security reasons. This was somewhat odd, because if anything, security is much better now in those areas. There is less violence in those areas than there was during the last several elections, when the polling stations were not moved.

Further, thousands of members of the pro-Kurdish rights HDP were arrested in the course of the campaign and to top it off, the entire campaign and election were conducted under emergency rule, which has been in place for two years and gives Turkish security officials extraordinary powers to suppress demonstrations and other manifestations of free speech. Ok, but was the vote count itself honest? There are plenty of rumours of ballot box staffing and tampering and the election was conducted under an election law passed in March that seemingly facilitated ballot box staffing. Nevertheless, no clear proof of fraud has emerged; unless and until it does the count must be deemed legitimate. In his concession speech widely viewed as gracious, the candidate who finished number two in the presidential race, Muharrem İnce, claimed that there had been fraud, but not enough to explain what he calls the ten million vote gap – it was actually eleven million – between him and Erdoğan. And therefore, he said, Erdoğan should be seen as the legitimate winner. This is somewhat puzzling, because İnce did not address the issue of whether the fraud had been large enough to explain the roughly 1.8 million vote gap between Erdoğan’s official vote total and the 50% mark that would have forced the second round run-off. And I should mention, 1.8 may sound like a lot but in the referendum on the constitutional amendments last year the OSCE delegation that monitored, estimated that it was possible that up between 1-2.5 million votes were fraudulent. So, that 1.8 would fall within the range between 1-2.5 million. That doesn’t means there was that much fraud, only that the vote total that put Erdoğan over the 50% mark in the first round is far more significant than the vote gap between him and İnce. OSCE election monitors were also present this time around and they will issue a report in just a few weeks rendering their assessment of the election and the vote cap. That report will be important in shaping perceptions no doubt, but whatever the verdict of the OSCE, the official results as announced by the Turkish government already are the ones that will stand.

Questions two and three. The gap between the Erdoğan presidential vote and the AKP parliamentary vote on the one hand and the unanticipated success of MHP on the other are linked. Those two questions are linked. For the first time Turkish voters were casting separate and simultaneous votes for the head of government, the President, and for parliament, as I pointed out. Also for the first time, some of the parties were running for parliament in blocks. There were two main blocks. The Cumhur İttifakı or People’s Block, which grouped AKP and MHP, and the Millet İttifakı or Nation Block which grouped three main opposition parties: the secular CHP, Akşener’s nationalistic İYİ Parti  and a small Islamist but anti-Erdoğan party called Saadet Partisi (Felicity Party).

Besides the parties in these two blocks, the only competitive party in the election was the Kurdish-dominated HDP, which did not affiliate with any block. Actually, it was widely reported that HDP wanted to be part of the opposition block but that idea was vetoed by the Turkish nationalist Meral Akşener, the head of İYİ Parti. So, AKP ended up with 42.6% of the parliamentary vote, exactly 10%points less than Erdoğan received in the presidential contest. We don’t know why so many Erdoğan voters chose not to vote for his party but we can hazard a reasonable guess. It’s seems likely that many voters recognising that Erdoğan was about to assume immense new presidential powers decided to check his power by voting for AKP’s only block partner MHP. For such voters, those who wanted Erdoğan as President but with some degree of checks and balances, MHP really was the only choice since they weren’t going to go so far to vote for a party in the opposition block.

This also helps to explain why MHP ended up outdistancing the İYİ Parti. Originally, Akşener was hoping her party would attract not only most of the former MHP voters but also former AKP voters. I think she might have been able to do that but for one fact, she wanted to run for president and her presidential campaign was an abysmal failure. A part of that was that she couldn’t get any traction in the media which wasn’t entirely her fault for reasons we have already mentioned. But she came in a distant fourth in the presidential race with only 8% of the vote. Not only did she trailed Erdoğan and İnce, but she trailed the Kurdish party’s candidate as well who was actually forced to campaign from prison – that’s another story in itself. Thorough presidential campaign was a failure. In retrospect it seems her best bet would have been to run only for parliament unaffiliated with any block, while declaring her party would work with whoever wins the Presidency on an issue by issue basis. Had she done that, her party may indeed have attracted some of the checks and balances voters, those who voted for Erdoğan but not his party that otherwise went to MHP. Of course this is only my speculation.

The fourth question is: What’s in store for the HDP, the pro-Kurdish rights party? They were celebrating in Diyarbakir, the main city in the Kurdish populated area of Turkey, celebrating that is on June 24th because HDP had once more succeeded in getting over the 10% threshold and getting into Parliament. But there is little prospect in my view that anything good will come of it regarding the long standing Kurdish problem. The HDP was helped getting over the 10% threshold by small numbers of non-Kurdish Turkish liberals, some supporting HDP’s liberal agenda and some voting merely tactically to get them into parliament to diminish AKP’s portion of parliament. I won’t (inaudible) you with further explanations of Turkey’s electoral system, but suffice it to say that had HDP fallen below 10% and thus failed to get into Parliament, AKP would have won dozens of additional seats and thus would have had an overwhelming parliamentary majority instead of falling just short of a majority, as actually happened. And that’s why some voters who did not necessarily agree with or like HDP voted for HDP tactically as a means of suppressing AKP’s parliamentary representation.

Erdoğan dislikes the HDP which has actively opposed him and he shows no interest in reviving the peace process he once courageously pursued with the Kurds. That process came to a decisive end with the Turkish military’s onslaught against several Kurdish towns where pro-PKK forces were (inaudible) three years ago. To the extent Erdoğan might be inclined to renew the peace process the MHP, his unofficial coalition partner, will be there to make sure he gets back to the Turkish nationalist path. The Kurdish problem anyway is unlikely ever to be solved through a parliamentary process unless there is initiative from the head of the government and there is no prospect of that now. 20% of HDP MP’s from the last parliament are in jail, many others were detained and then released during their term of office. Nobody should be surprised if the current incumbents meet a similar fate.

Notwithstanding the implementation of a new presidency-focused system in Turkey, governance probably won’t look much different to outsiders than previously, particularly not much different than it has for the past two years since the declaration of emergency rule following the failed coup attempts of July 2016. Under emergency rule Erdoğan has essentially been able to decree whatever he wants and the constitutional court has said that it has no jurisdiction over emergency rule decrees. So, opposition efforts to contest those decrees have fallen on deaf ears.

Now, following this election Erdoğan will continue to call all the shots and he will be able to do so constitutionally by decree, based on these new powers given in last year’s referendum. Given AKP’s near majority in Parliament and its close working relationship with the Turkish nationalist MHP as well as its prospect for using its considerable patronage and other forms of leverage to allure other MPs from other parties, Erdoğan can pretty much count on having a rubber stamp parliament. Continuity in foreign policy is also likely, which isn’t good news for the US, the western alliance, Israel, Egypt and many of the Arab monarchies. It is good news for Qatar where Turkey has established a small military base and which has come to view relations with Turkey as critical in fending off the isolation and boycott imposed on it last year by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Erdoğan’s resentment over Greek refusal to extradite accused Gulenist Turkish soldiers who fled Turkey in the wake of the coup is likely to continue to rile Aegean relations.  Nor is there any prospect of Turkey’s softening its approach to the Cyprus problem and related eastern Mediterranean gas exploration issues.

Now, is there any chance that Erdoğan will alter the nationalist, (inaudible) Muslim Brotherhood-sympathetic path he has pursued in recent years? It seems to me, perhaps, only in this case. Many economists are expecting a very serious economic downturn in Turkey in the months to come. Many are saying a crisis is likely. The Turkish lira has lost roughly 15% of its value against the dollar already in 2018. Year on year inflation is at a 14-year high, measuring it just over 15% in June. Now, it should be remembered that the Turkish economy has often proven more resilient than economists’ predictions, we should keep that in mind, still should the worst happen and should Turkey need an IMF bailout, Turkey might just project a friendlier attitude toward the wealthy western nations that dominate IMF decision-making. At this point, however, the reasonable overall conclusion must be that Turkish voters have chosen five more years of continuity and Erdoğan dominance. The only exit from recent policies during those five years being the whims of an all-powerful President, Recep Tayipp Erdoğan – the longest serving leader of Turkey in the history of the Republic.

Thank you very much.    

Turkey’s Election 2018

 

 

Turkey’s Election 2018
Alan Makovsky
Center for American Progress, Senior Fellow
22 June 2018

Hello everyone. Our topic is the Turkish elections which will be held on June 24th, about 16 months ahead of schedule. Usually when we talk about elections, the first question that we ask is who is going to win. It’s a reasonable question. In this case we really have to ask a preliminary question. Will it be fair? Will it be free and fair? There is, unfortunately a lot of reasons to be suspicious that it might not be fair. Why is that? Basically, three reasons.

First of all, recent history. In April of last year, Turkey held a very significant referendum on thoroughgoing change of its constitution through a series of amendments which greatly empowered the Presidency far beyond what it had been before and abolishes the prime ministry and diminishes the power of parliament, although it does not totally eliminates parliament’s powers. The vote was very close, roughly 51,8 % was the winning total as officially reported but many people suspected that the vote was unfair, that it had passed because of fraud. Many unmarked ballots, unstamped ballots were counted, according to Turkish law only officially stamped ballots are supposed to count, nevertheless these unstamped ballots were counted, there were counter-arguments by the Turkish government as to why these votes were counted. But nevertheless there was a lot of suspicion about it. I would say this and I think it’s very important; Turkey has had its democratic problems over the years. But until the election last year, starting in 1950, Turkey had had more than twenty, almost two dozen, national, parliamentary and referendum elections and this was the first time in all those elections that the losing side said we lost because we were cheated. Of course there is always been issues of localized fraud, there have been local elections where the loser cried “faul”, but this is the first time in a national election, that that happened and there is concern that there will be a repeat of cheating in the upcoming elections.

Second of all, there is a new election law which in fact makes cheating, seems to make cheating much easier, by making it official that unstamped ballots in certain circumstances can count and also by limiting the monitoring that can be done by other parties. In fact, one of the reasons that early elections were called according to the Turkish opposition was so that they would have less time to train monitors. One political party said that it was planning to train 200.000 election monitors, now it only has time to train 50.000. And the access of those monitors will be limited.

Thirdly, there is the issue of the media environment. Turkey has been under emergency rule, something very akin to martial law, since the failed coup d’etat of July 2016. That means that president Erdogan can really do almost anything he wants and he has been doing that. He can limit the rallies that the opposition holds. One thing that is clear is that he overwhelmingly dominates the media. It’s hard to put a number on it but I don’t think anyone will quarrel with the idea that 90% of the media is a mouthpiece for President Erdogan and his supporters. So, for all of those reasons it’s not clear that the upcoming election will be fair.

Now, why would Erdogan want to cheat? Obviously, the reason is to win. But, those people who are expecting, who think that he is willing to cheat really cite two reasons. One is that he is power hungry, he is in power since 2003, his party won in 2002, he did not formally become the Prime Minister until 2003, then 2014 he became the President. The other reason is, since 2013, there have been corruption allegations swirling around him and his family and some of his supporters. Some people feel that if Erdogan should lose, his fate would be prison. And, therefore, he cannot let himself lose. People argue how much can he change, how much is he willing to change. I think most people agree that there could be significant cheating in rural areas and in the Kurdish dominated southeast, where there is a strong military presence. But most people feel there is a limit to how much he can cheat without being fully obvious.

Anyway, this is the environment in which the election is taking place. And what about the election itself? Let’s put aside the issue of fairness and let’s just look at what is about to happen, let’s assume it will be fair. This election is unique in Turkish history in terms of its mechanics and in terms of the political tactics being used. What do I mean by that. So, I mentioned that the referendum passed; at least legally it passed last April that brought in a new system of an empowered Presidency. There were several other changes related to it, one of them is that for the first time in Turkish history Turks will vote separately but on the same day for Parliament and for the President. The first direct presidential election in Turkey happened in 2014 when Erdogan was elected, before that the President was always elected by Parliament. However this is the first time that the presidential election and parliamentary election will be held on the same day. And constitutionally now, so long as the new amendments that were passed in the referendum last year are in place, that will be the case from here on in Turkey.

Let me say a word about those two elections. According to the polls they are both surprisingly close. Foreigners tend to look at Turkey from the outside and they see Erdogan and his party, the Justice and Development Party known as the AK Party in Turkish, as unassailably dominant in Turkish politics and governance. And that has been true. However, the opposition has never been so united as it is for this election.

Let’s look first at the presidential election. The rules are basically the same as the rules for the French presidency election. That is, in the first round there are multiple candidates, the top two candidates then face off against each other in a subsequent round with the winner becoming President. In 2014 the first direct presidential election in Turkey, Erdogan won in the first round with approximately 52% of the votes. Nobody is expecting him to win in the first round this time. It is a virtual certainty that he will finish first but it seems unlikely that he will get more than 50% in the first round. By the way, if you get more than 50% in the first round, it is over, there is no need for a second round. There are several other presidential candidates but in particular there are two very strong candidates who are also strong campaigners. Many people feel Erdogan is a very tough style of campaigning that he often just railroads over his opponents. At least two of his opponents have a very strong style of their own. One is Muharrem İnce, who is a center – left candidate for the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) which has for several elections now been finishing second to Erdogan’s party. The other candidate is Meral Akşener. She is originally from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), she broke away from it, has formed her own party (İyi Party), she is still somewhat finding her identity, but she is generally seen as nationalist, some people see her as more center-right. She is drawing some votes from the AKP voters according to the polls, some votes from her former party and some votes from Muharrem İnce’s center – left CHP. The big issue will be which of those two candidates finish second and will all of the opposition then support the candidate that finishes second in the following round assuming Erdogan fails to get 50% plus in the first round. That’s the real fight in the presidential election, it’s between the two opposition candidates. Now, there is a third opposition candidate of prominence who is running, his name is Selahattin Demirtaş. He is Kurdish, he leads the Kurdish dominated Kurdish HDP party – Peoples’ Democratic Party and he, like almost a dozen of his colleagues from his party have been arrested and he’s been in jail for over a year. He has announced that he is going to run for President from jail. He was a very impressive candidate for President in 2014 when he got just under 10% of the votes but really made a big splash in the Turkish media and showed that he was not frightened to go up against Erdogan. He will certainly get a lot of Kurdish votes but he will unfortunately not be able to campaign unless he gets a last minute reprieve that nobody is expecting.

On the parliamentary side of the election and this the second really unique feature of this year’s contest, we see two blocks running against each other. Historically, in Turkey parties run separately not as blocks. There is some exception here and there, where a couple of parties run as a block but basically parties run separately. This year, Erdogan and the nationalist party decided to run as a block. That is the nationalist MHP that I mentioned a few minutes ago from which Meral Akşener departed in order to form her own party and run for President. In response to the block that Erdogan and the nationalists forged the opposition, most of the opposition forged its own block. So, now this is just on the parliamentary side, I know this is complicated, but these are two separate elections happening on the same day. The opposition block consists of the center – left secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), the righter – center, more nationalist İyi Party (Good Party) that was formed by Meral Akşener, who broke away from the nationalist MHP, and there is a small conservative party called The Democrat Party and most surprising of all, the most religious party in Turkey is part of this block, is called Saadet Partisi (Happiness Party). Now, the ultimate odd couple in Turkish politics is to have the CHP, the highly secular party, that was actually founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, in a block together with Saadet Party which is the most religious party. On most issues these two parties are completely at loggerheads, can’t agree on the time of day. But there is one thing that these two parties, as well as Akşener’s party and the small Democrat Party do agree on and that is that Erdogan must go. And that the presidential system is bad and that they should try to take power and get rid of that. There is an ”X” factor here, the Kurdish party, the one that I said is led, by the way not formally led because he is in jail, but he is the face of the party – Selahattin Demirtaş. That Kurdish party is not part of either block. There may be a Kurdish block, but it is the dominant element. And, there is a trick to the Turkish parliamentary system, it was there before, it’s not new with this parliamentary election. In order to get into Parliament you need to get 10% of the vote. Otherwise, you get 9,99%, all those votes are wasted because your party doesn’t get in. The Kurdish party HDP did get in, in the last two elections, in last one just barely, it got between 10-11%. Most polls are showing that Erdogan’s block, AKP along with MHP, is not getting 50% of the vote. Now, that won’t matter, if HDP doesn’t get into Parliament, almost certainly Erdogan’s block will come in first. But will they have enough to have the majority in Parliament? And that will probably be determined by the success or failure of the Kurdish party to get more than 10%. Should the Kurdish party get in and ally itself with the opposition block and should they have a majority, they can create a lot of problems for whoever is President. Now it’s widely believed that under this new system Parliament has zero powers. So, it doesn’t really matters what happens. But that is not accurate. Again, we are assuming that the system is going to be applied fairly for these purposes of this discussion, so by what is on paper, by what is in the amendments that were passed in the referendum in April last year, Parliament does retain some very important powers. For one thing it can overrule any presidential decree. Another thing is, the President is not supposed to do any decree in an area where Parliament has already passed law. And third of all, there are certain powers in the constitution, such as the power to declare war, but others as well that are specifically reserved for Parliament. I don’t want to say that Erdogan’s party and his block, cannot win a majority of Parliament, they might. But the polls right now are not showing that.

By the way, I know this is complicated, let me try one more time. Let’s say Erdogan’s block gets 48% and the opposition block gets 40%, well, if the Kurds get 11% then the Kurdish party plus the opposition block will have 51% to Erdogan’s 48%. Now, seat distribution is complicated, but assuming it’s done proportionately, that will give the opposition along with the Kurds a majority over Erdogan’s party. If, however, Erdogan’s block gets 48%, the opposition block gets 40% and the Kurds let’s say get only 9% with the other votes scattered among various other small parties that are running, then Erdogan’s block wins 48% to 40% and all those votes for the Kurdish party are thrown out. And that would undoubtedly, yield a clear majority in Parliament for Erdogan’s party.

One other factor that I’ll mention. It seems there is a certain Erdogan’s fatigue in Turkey, even among his supporters. His early rallies have not revealed the same exuberant, let’s say, that he is traditionally enjoyed from his supporters. Still, it is odds-on that he will finish first in the first round of the presidential election and odds-on that his block will finish first with the most votes for parliament. The issue is, can the opposition in the presidential race keep him under 50% and then with all their votes coalescing defeat him in a second round. In Parliament the issue is again keeping Erdogan’s block under 50% and between the opposition block the four-party opposition block and the Kurdish party, can they get more votes than the AKP. Here is the ultimate dream scenario for the opposition that they win the parliamentary vote, that is that the opposition block plus the Kurdish party outpaces the Erdogan block, then two weeks later there will be a run off in the Presidency and they would then campaign saying, “Look, don’t vote for a guy who doesn’t have control of Parliament because there would be chaos”. So then they would urge that voters vote for Akşener or İnce, whichever of the two emerges as the run off candidate based on the idea that stability requires it. We will see, there are a lot of possibilities here, too many to talk about.

This is a very momentous election for Turkey. So, what are the issues in this election. The overwhelming issue, as it has been for many elections in Turkey, is Erdogan’s persona. Do people want this person who is been running Turkey since 2003 to continue to dominate to get another five year term? Which, by the way, under the new system could ultimately lead to fifteen more years of Erdogan. That is the dominant issue. But there are other issues. The economy, which traditionally has worked in favor of Erdogan and his party, has been stifling recently and the Turkish lira has dropped to an all time low against the dollar. And people are feeling that, and there is a lot of concern. The one saving grace for Erdogan and his party may be the people also do not have a lot of confidence in the economic stewardship skills of the opposition. Another big issue is education. A surprising number of Turks, even among those who vote for Erdogan’s party feel that Turkey has enough religious schools. The government’s policy of increasing the number of religious schools should come to a halt. But I would say that the two top issues, Erdogan’s persona and the economy, Erdogan is also hoping to score points from his recent invasion, anti – Kurdish, seen in Turkey as an anti – PKK, invasion of Syria.

One way or another this is going to be a momentous election. We know that there’s been increasing authoritarianism in Turkey. Certainly, since emergency rule started in July 2016, but even before that it started. And since July 2016 over 75.000 people have been arrested on charges somehow related to the coup or being Gulenists, the group that Erdogan accuses of being behind the coup. And about over 150.000 civil servants have been fired. This authoritarian trend will likely continue if Erdogan wins the Presidency and his party wins Parliament.

The second possibility is, if the opposition wins the Presidency and wins Parliament that would be an incredible result because it would mean the first time since 2002 that Erdogan and his party will not be governing. The third possibility is cohabitation. Erdogan wins the Presidency but the opposition has the majority in the Parliament or the opposition wins the Presidency defeating Erdogan, but Erdogan’s party, his block has the majority in Parliament. That would be a formula that would be a mess, because those in Parliament would be trying to block the President at every turn in that case. So I think this is a very momentous election coming up and it is very complicated, I tried to make it as clear as possible, there is much more that can be said but it is a highly important election in a highly important country. It is going to take place in a month and it is certainly merits are very close observation. Thank you very much.

Turkish Constitutional Referendum

Marcus Alexander Templar
Former U.S. Army Cryptologic Linguist
and All-Source Intelligence Analyst of the Defense Intelligence Agency

“Considering everything Erdogan has done so far, he is seeking not only political power, but also religious power. If he could, he would become a caliph.” Marcus Alexander Templar comments on Turkey’s drift towards authoritarianism and theocracy, as well as deterioration of its relations with Europe.

EMF Conference – Turkey’s Struggle for World Hegemony of the Islamic Peopl

Dr. David Altman – Senior Vice President, Netanya Academic College Strategic Culture of Turkey
EMF Conference 5-7 December 2016
Larnaca, Cyprus

For centuries Turkey was perceived in Europe as a cultural outsider and a military threat. That changed after the collapse and division of the Ottoman Empire.

Continue reading → EMF Conference – Turkey’s Struggle for World Hegemony of the Islamic Peopl