Lacking solutions to national crises, Erdoğan using foreign adventures as decoy – Turkey expert

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has no domestic message for an increasingly troubled population and is increasingly resorting to "desperate measures" to maintain his hold onto power, Sinan Ciddi, associate professor of National Security Studies at Marine Corps University, said.

Turkey has no consistent economic recovery plan or an institutional road map to that will get the country back on the straight and narrow and develop a mental path to normalcy, Ciddi said in a conversation with Yavuz Baydar, the Editor-in-Chief of Ahval.

Instead, the Turkish president is focusing on headline-grabbing issues, such as the proposed conversion of Istanbul's Hagia Sophia museum to a mosque and extraterritorial activities in foreign policy in an attempt to captivate the minds of voters, he said.

Turkey maintains military intervention in Syria and Libya, while Turkish drill ships, accompanied by military vessels, have been operating off the coast of Cyprus, escalating tensions further in the eastern Mediterranean. But, Erdoğan cannot sustain a battle on so many fronts due to the severe economic downturn in the country, Ciddi said.

"There are a limited number of battles the government pick due to financial limitations, which were compounded with the pandemic," he said. 

Ciddi blamed Turkey’s transition to the executive presidential system in July 2018, which transferred vast powers from the parliament directly to Erdoğan, for the dire straits Turkey has reached.

"Erdoğan is trying to micro manage everything from who to arrest to which tender to give to which company. We are seeing it that is not taking the country to anywhere," he said.

“But if you look at the bare bones Turkey is internally headed towards even more difficult times economically, socially and politically because there is no substance,” the academic said.

Ciddi also questioned the legitimacy of the current presidential system, citing its unaccountability, as its finances have not been audited for nearly a decade.

“Due to the declaration of the imperial presidency, financial situations and lack of auditing for a decade now, we are losing the muscle memory and getting to look like Central Asian countries like Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan. That is where we headed,” he said.

The lack of auditing of the Turkish government means “we don’t know how the government runs, how it is financed or how the pay checks are issued. One day when they discover these, it will be very disturbing and shocking to many citizens,” the academic said.

“We need to steadfastly move back to the institutions, but this will not be easy at all,’’ he added.

Erdoğan appears to be "increasingly cornered", with public disquiet over Turkey’s struggling economy and the increasing strength of the political opposition, he said.

Turkey’s ruling coalition of Erdoğan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) will fall short of a combined support of 50 percent of to win next presidential elections scheduled for 2023, because the Turkish president "is showing fundamental incapability to govern," he said.

Ciddi also pointed to the significance of two breakaway parties formed by former AKP heavyweights, despite modest support for the groups based on the latest opinion polls.

"They do not have a large percentage (of support) now, however, they will chip away from the coalition," he said.

Ciddi recalled however the intimidating political strategies of the Erdoğan government, which is aiming to marginalize the opposition.

Unless a political opposition party is willing to the Turkish people what it stands for, then its role needs be questioned, Ciddi said.

 “If the opposition parties are not willing to take risks, then they should not suffice with saying Erdoğan is a menace, because we already known that,” he said.