Erdogan will continue to help consolidate Islam’s influence in public life and use Islam as a political issue. It is hard to say what Turkey will do in the Muslim world, but Erdogan obviously does not need any more turmoil in neighboring countries.
The outcome of the recent elections in Turkey was fairly predictable, and confirmed that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has no personal rivals in Turkish politics. However, it also became clear that his authority in the country is not absolute. Many Turks are displeased with him, and dissatisfaction may grow if he makes political mistakes or ignores the views of an energized opposition.
The ambitious Erdogan will likely try to change the Constitution to gain even more power. Failure to do so could marginalize Erdogan over time, which is exactly what he fears. Amending the Constitution will anger Turkish society, except for Erdogan’s supporters, and accelerate authoritarian trends in the country.
The Islamization of Turkey promises to continue. Erdogan, a moderate Islamist, will continue to help consolidate Islam’s influence in public life and use Islam as a political issue. The problem is that about half of the Turkish population, primarily in large cities, does not support the country’s growing Islamization. Therefore, Erdogan will not accelerate the process, not least because of the deterioration of his relationship with the popular preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is the most influential religious figure in Turkey and has sway all over the world, including former Soviet republics.
As for Turkey’s Kurdish population, they have become used to Erdogan, and this has led to stability during his time in office. While they may well develop apprehensions over the almost inevitable entrenchment of the regime, Erdogan himself will not challenge the Kurdish population, especially given the mutual understanding and economic cooperation between the Turkish government and the de facto independent Iraqi Kurdistan.
Turkish foreign policy is unlikely to change. It will remain multi-pronged, seeking engagement with the West, Russia and the Muslim world. It will not have any special priorities. There will be no change in Turkey’s position on the Karabakh issue. It is hard to say what Turkey will do in the Muslim world, but Erdogan obviously does not need any more turmoil in neighboring countries. Chastened by its mistake on Syria, Turkey will pursue a softer and more cautious policy.
EU membership is a goal that Erdogan will continue to work toward, understanding that it’s not in the cards for the foreseeable future.
Turkey is also concerned about Ukraine. Ankara would like to keep Turkish-Russian relations at their current high level, and for this reason Turkish politicians are relatively reluctant to criticize Russia over Ukraine. However, if the conflict in Ukraine is not settled peacefully and the West decides to ratchet up sanctions, Erdogan will have to take a clear position. Considering that Turkey is keeping a close eye on the Crimean Tatar community in Crimea and that Turkish politicians have said repeatedly that Ankara bears special responsibility for their Muslim brothers there, Turkey may eventually adopt a pro-Western position.