Yaşar Yakış
Jul 12 2018

Erdogan begins a new era in Turkey's political history

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began a new era in Turkey’s political history with a sumptuous ceremony held in his new palace in Ankara on Monday. With this step, Turkey moves from a parliamentary democracy to a self-styled executive presidency. According to news released by the Presidential Office, a to-do list for 100 days will be announced soon, which will be followed by another list for the subsequent 100 days.

Finally, a last list that will cover the next six months will be issued, meaning that the transition will be completed in a little more than a year, if obstacles do not arise in the meantime. Many institutions will be re-modelled or abolished and new ones created. The names and name-plates of the institutions will change. Every reference to the prime minister or to his office will have to be erased.

The ministers appointed by Erdoğan are a reflection of his determination to maintain his policy in three major fields: Security, the economy and foreign policy.

He kept the Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in place. Soylu is known for his hard line policy in the fight against terror, especially for the acts committed by the terrorist organisation, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The co-chair of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Pervin Buldan, said that the minister telephoned her and told her: “We will bring you into line. You have no right to live anymore. Go wherever you want”.

The minister confirmed what he had said. Furthermore, Soylu said he had instructed governors not to let the heads of the local branch of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) attend funerals of soldiers killed by terrorist organisations. By re-appointing Soylu as interior minister, Erdoğan signals his fight against terror will continue with the same vigour.

The second signal is the appointment by Erdoğan of his son-in-law Berat Albayrak as minister of treasury and finance. Albayrak served as minister of energy in previous cabinets. The international finance community was watching to see who was going to become the top man in economy.

There are two types of economist: market-friendly and growth-friendly. Albayrak is known as growth-friendly. His appointment means that Turkey will pay less attention to how the markets respond and will focus more on economic growth. This was also made clear in an amendment on the method of appointment of the deputy governors of the central bank. The opinion of the governor will not be sought any longer when the president appoints a deputy-governor to the central bank. The market reacted negatively to the publication of this rule and Turkish lira dropped to 4.74 to the U.S. dollar from 4.58.

Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was also re-appointed as foreign minister. This may mean that Turkey will maintain the line it was following in the major foreign policy issues. Çavuşoğlu was supporting the “megaphone diplomacy” that Erdoğan used for several years. Minor adjustments may be made in the implementation of foreign policy that will be forced by the reality in the field, especially in Syria.

The agreement reached between Turkey and the United States on Manbij is a small but significant step in the right direction. The United States has finally understood how determined Turkey was to prevent the establishment of a Kurdish belt in the north of Syria. On the other hand, Turkey also must have understood that there are limits to what it can achieve in the north of Syria. The United States seems to be determined to support the Kurds in the north west of Syria, both as part of its policy of supporting the Kurdish cause and as a leverage to impose stricter conditions on the Syrian regime when the time comes for a democratic transition. In light of this U.S. policy, we will see to what extent Turkey’s intention to extend military operations to the east of the River Euphrates is realistic.

Erdoğan’s new set up will bring dynamism to the slow-functioning Turkish bureaucracy. How it will improve Turkey’s prospects remains to be seen.