Bringing back Turkey is no easy matter

Criticism against Turkey has become personal in recent years, with most Western analysts, and even politicians, directing their barbs at President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Whether Turkey will change if the strongman leaves the stage is the big question that inevitably arises. The signs so far are not encouraging.

Turkey has lost what few democratic reflexes it possessed. Inside the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), everyone is in Erdoğan’s shadow and it’s hard to imagine anyone having the courage to break away from the “supreme leader” and his ideological legacy, which now also encompasses the ideas, aims and visions of the far-right Gray Wolves. Instead, they will likely stay the same course.

Even prominent figures like former president Abdullah Gül, ex-prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and the former minister of finance, Ali Babacan, have failed in their efforts to create a serious alternative trend from within the AKP.

The main opposition party – Kemalist Republican People's Party (CHP) – meanwhile, has stayed put over the last 20 years with a popularity rating of 25 percent and with respect to foreign policy is trying to outdo Erdoğan in nationalist grandstanding.

With the exception of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), every party across the political spectrum in Turkey is engaged in an escalating nationalist agenda and even when this does not contain Erdoğan’s expansionist vision, it entails friction with the West.

It has become clear that after completely dominating Turkey’s political scene for two whole decades, Erdoğan’s vision is gradually elbowing out Kemal Atatürk’s.

Given the absence of an influential political figure with the vision and popular appeal to steer Turkey back onto a different path, there is little to be optimistic about.

This is starting to become apparent in Western capitals and at most institutions and think tanks, which are no longer focusing as much on how to bring Turkey back into the Euro-Atlantic fold as they are on strategies for managing this confrontational new Turkey – strategies which must also include ways of stemming its expansionist ambitions.

(A version of. This article was originally published by the Kathimerini newspaper and is produced by permission.)