Plans and Prospects for Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is considered one of Turkey’s strongest prime ministers, has announced early parliamentary elections in the country on November 1. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost an opportunity to form a government single-handedly after the June 7 elections and had to seek out forms of coalition cooperation.

Eventually a four-party government was established. This was a "democratic slap in the face" for Erdogan, who is trying to keep his position.

Erdogan lost the elections despite dozens of rallies that he organized as the head of the AKP. The refusal of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli to form a coalition with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) became a life preserver for Erdogan, who announced that a coalition could not be formed. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu demonstrated his loyalty to Erdogan by his successful efforts to prove that a government cannot be formed. The failure of 35 hour-talks with the Republican People’s Party (CHP) was no surprise in the midst of a 45-day period allocated for the formation of a government under the Constitution. What was surprising was Erdogan’s decision not to go for a coalition but to elect a government. It caused deep disappointment in society and drove the country into decline, but Erdogan gained time to build up strength. After the failure of two brief talks with the MHR, Erdogan opted to go for early elections.

Today Davutoglu’s attempts to form "a transitional elected government" seem to be successful, but the real problem is Erdogan’s ambitions to win 367 seats in parliament and turn the AKP into Turkey’s single ruling party. The latest opinion polls show that four parties will enter parliament – the AKP will not considerably increase its number of seats, the CHP will gain more seats than before, the HDP will make a comeback to parliament and the MHP will lose seats.

Despite the absence of a coalition after the latest elections, early elections determine the need for its formation. The MHR, which opposed the coalition, is expected to change its position. Turkey is gradually entering a period of coalition rule.

As an ingenious politician, Erdogan is not giving up his ambitions to become a strong president. However, he knows full well that he will not be able to restore the presidential system in the desired form. Recent rhetoric shows that he has become perfidious in pursuit of his goals. Changing his position, Erdogan opted for peaceful dialogue with the HDP and increased his attacks against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The growing number of young people who gave up their lives for the homeland is turning “the popular leader” into “a leader who must be responsible for his actions.” It's clear that Erdoğan’s prestige in society is falling. This is why Erdoğan, who wants to consolidate his positions, is looking for new strategies in order to retrieve his former title of “the president of stability.”

Elections are scheduled for November 1 to avoid problems during the holding of a G20 summit in Antalya on November 15-16. Foreign analysts consider it normal to elect a government before holding a summit. The AKP's striving for a non-coalition government is probably part of Erdogan’s plans. Economic stagnation and accumulated social problems will keep growing in the run-up to November 1. For the first time in its history, democratic Turkey cannot form a coalition. This situation is truly unique.

The gist of Erdogan’s future plans and goals can be found on the agenda. The Erdogan-Davutoglu duet is working smoothly, without a hitch. It's no wonder Erdogan has planned to hold an AKP Congress on September 12. The prime minister wants to continue cooperating with Davutoglu, who is easy to control. Davutoglu was convincing in proving that a coalition was impossible. Analysts believe that Davutoglu will not oppose Erdogan, either now or in the future. Indeed, there are no conditions for such a turn. In the final analysis, Erdogan has been a mentor to Davutoglu and has brought him to big time politics, and he has the right to expect political obedience from him. Erdogan is the president of Turkey and is compelled to become president under the Constitution, no matter what. Despite daily violations of the 1982 Constitution, Erdoğan is the only Turkish president to receive 52 percent of the votes. At this point democratic Turkey is again in a unique situation. Politicians are increasingly often speaking about the need for a new Constitution.

None of the political parties that oppose Erdogan’s "presidential system" will change its position. Indicative in this respect is the slogan, "We won’t make you president", which was voiced by the HDP before the June 7 elections as a result of Erdogan’s policy towards Kurds and the change in his position on the Kurdish peace process.

It is obvious that Erdogan has lost the support of Kurdish voters because of his radical policy. His AKP party is likely to lose the elections in eastern and southeastern Anatolia, with their large Kurdish populations. Erdogan is being perceived today as a separating rather than a uniting leader. Erdogan came to the Turkish political arena as a political strongman. How will he save face? This is an important question. Another urgent question is whether he is going to violate the Constitution daily, given his intention to be president until 2019 under the same Constitution and without the ruling AKP party, which won 367 seats in parliament. This situation does not make Turkey any more sensible or stable. Under the circumstances, Erdogan will look like a lion kept in a cage in his enormous palace in Ankara. After all, he promised to be a different president at the elections. His field of activity should be limited by law and the constitution. If these limits remain the same after the elections, what will his de facto presidency be like after them? If his hands and feet are bound by law, he will do everything he can to untie them and expand his field of activity.

It is common knowledge that Erdogan is one of the strongest politicians in modern Turkey. However, Turkey has a powerful parliamentary democracy that is striving to limit his desire for one-man rule. It would be a bit of an exaggeration to say that Erdogan is a dictator, as he is sometimes referred to. Sooner or later Erdogan will have to act in the vein of democracy and in accordance with the Constitution. This will be better for him and for Turkey. Erdogan is an exception among political leaders seasoned by democracy. And as we know, exceptions do not refute the rules.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.