Erdoğan needs to be prudent in one-man rule

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, having reaslised his dream of ruling Turkey under a full presidential system, needs to be more prudent if he is to survive his term, writes Hanif Ghaffari in Modern Diplomacy.

Erdoğan has no choice but to look directly at the realities in his country, the region and the international system, said Ghaffari, an Iranian journalist and commentator. The president should hasten to redefine the country’s political, social and international approach, but with great caution, he said.

Erdoğan won presidential elections on June 24 with 52 percent of the vote, beating his nearest challenger by more than 20 points. He will enjoy enhanced powers approved in a nationwide referendum last year as the post of the prime minister is abolished and the executive shifts to the presidential palace.

Opposition groups will be motivated by the fact that Erdoğan’s majority was still a slim one and therefore the elections mark “a new round of power play” in Turkey. Erdoğan’s rivals were able to mobilise parts of society against his policies,  both during the referendum last year and the June elections, Ghaffari said.

Erdoğan should also not discount the powers of his old allies in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who include former President Abdullah Gul, who almost ran against him in the election with about one-fifth of the support of AKP officials, Ghaffari said.

The Turkish president must also reflect on his recent foreign policy adventures, including a foray into Syria to threaten U.S. interests there, which had some Western politicians calling for Turkey to be kicked out of NATO. Erdoğan’s job is all the more complicated by a requirement for his AKP to form a coalition with an ultranationalist party in parliament, which is fundamentally opposed to Turkey’s European Union membership.

Erdoğan’s approach to foreign policy is threatening his ambitions to revive the powers of the Ottoman Empire and to lead the region politically, Ghaffari writes.

“The more Erdoğan insists on his current foreign policy, the higher Turkey’s political and security costs will become,” he said.

“Erdoğan should now rely on the capacity of independent players in the region, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, and he has to perform a major surgery on Turkey’s foreign policy” said Ghaffari. “The Turkish president knows well that the slightest risk and mistake in his country’s foreign policy will undermine the balance of power in Ankara.”