Elections in Turkey: Erdogan’s Political Era Set to Continue

Оn June 24, 2018, Recep Tayyip Erdogan gained an absolute majority in the presidential elections. According to Andrei Areshev, expert at the Center for Central Asian, Caucasian and Volga-Urals Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Science, Erdogan’s political era will extend beyond the five-year term and even lifetime presidency is now a possibility for him.

On the eve of the elections, many European and other experts and media spoke of the high probability of the second round with participation of Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his main rival Muharrem İnce from the Republican People's Party, a very ambitious politician, who loudly manifested himself during the election campaign, which he conducted quite actively.

Nevertheless, there were no sensations. The years-long experience of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a public politician and business executive, with whom Turkey’s successes have been associated for the past 16 years, played its part, and a second round was not needed. As for the parliamentary elections, his Justice and Development Party in alliance with the nationalists performed quite strongly. Although Erdogan’s party itself did not get 50% of votes, the alliance will enable Erdogan to get serious support in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

These elections are important to consolidate the transition to the presidential form of government, when practically unlimited power is concentrated in the hands of the head of state. The president is not only the head of state, but also the head of the government: the prime minister’s post is abolished and the deputies appointed by the president will perform the corresponding duties.

Other innovations, approved at the 2017 referendum on the amendments to the constitution, also constitute the new reality. Turkish experts draw attention to the fact that Erdogan could open the way to an indefinite, lifelong presidency. Such an opportunity may appear in case of early elections during the second five-year presidency cycle, which Recep Tayyip Erdogan enters. For some reason it seems that he will take advantage of this opportunity and his political era will extend beyond the five-year horizon.

I believe that this model is quite natural for Turkey – the country has been moving towards it for a long time, although, of course, a significant secular part of society does not accept either it or the increased role of the Islamic factor as a structure-forming element of the national identity.

However, if one looks at the results of the vote in the provinces, we see that the west of the country (Izmir, Istanbul etc.) are still voting for the Kemalists, but the south, which previously demonstrated quite secular sentiments, is now painted in the same electoral colors as most other provinces, especially the inland ones. This indicates that the vector of public sentiment has shifted towards Erdogan and his party.

The coming years will not be easy not only for Turkey, but for the whole region. There can be serious economic problems associated primarily with inflation and rising unemployment. Although the data of the national statistical service for the first quarter shows unprecedented growth by the standards of both Europe and the Middle East, due to the world economic instability and political crisis different scenarios are possible.

Therefore, the consolidated power in Turkey is perhaps the best response to these challenges – including the challenges in the Middle East, where Turkey closely cooperates with Russia as one of the guarantors of the political transition process in Syria.

The differences that existed between Moscow and Ankara in the previous years, are gradually to be overcome, and the two countries act in Syria on the basis of common understanding that the armed conflict should be ended and translated into a political phase.

As for the economic and military-technological projects, which Turkey undertook in recent years, the extension of Erdogan’s presidential term is the most acceptable option. This leader is not short-sighted ideologically and considers mutually beneficial options for cooperation with Russia and other countries, for example, with Iran, while remaining in NATO and continuing to be a partner – albeit a difficult one – of the United States.

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