Jun 29 2018

"Recep Tayyip the First" - The Economist

The evening of June 24 marked day one of what Turkey’s re-elected President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan calls the New Turkey, a synthesis of Islamic nationalism and Ottoman nostalgia, and possibly the last day of the old republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Economist said on Thursday. 

According to the Economist, the new Turkey will be more nationalist, Islamist, and authoritarian. The new government to be formed by President Erdoğan and its ultranationalist allies follows an unfair election with limited media coverage given to opposition parties and held under a state of emergency, it said. 

“For Mr. Erdoğan, the victory marks the last step on the road to a constitution that replaces the parliamentary system put in place by Ataturk, the country’s founding father, with a presidential one,” the Economist said. 

Under the new executive presidency system approved in a referendum in 2017, Erdoğan will be able to govern the country with powers to issue decrees, appoint his own cabinet, draw up a budget, dissolve parliament by calling early elections, and pack the bureaucracy and courts with political appointees. The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Erdoğan’s ultranationalist ally, will be the only actor able to check the president’s powers.

“Mr Erdoğan’s party, of which he is absolute master, will ensure that whatever comes out of the president’s mouth becomes law. The MHP and its septuagenarian leader, Devlet Bahçeli, who went from calling Mr Erdoğan a dictator to becoming one of his biggest cheerleaders, will pull him even further to the nationalist right,” the Economist said. 

Bahçeli’s influence in the new government will prevent any new overtures towards Kurds and other minorities and will keep many jailed members of the mainly-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, including its former co-chair and presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, behind bars. The MHP is also likely to oppose any attempt from Erdoğan to lift the state of emergency.

“Even if Mr Erdoğan ends the state of emergency, there is little reason to think he will stop hounding opponents (tens of thousands have been jailed following a bloody attempted coup in 2016), muzzling the press (the number of journalists behind bars would be enough to staff a couple of newspapers) or picking fights with the West,” the Economist said. 

Karabekir Akkoyunlu, a Turkish scholar at São Paulo University, told the Economist that even if the new system fulfilled Erdoğan’s wish to remove the secular elite, public institutions, and parliament from his way, the president might nevertheless find that remaking society, using a mix of Islamism, nationalism and nostalgia for a vanished empire is harder than remaking its institutions.