Game Of Thorns In Turkey: Presidential Polls Could Determine “Democratic Or Autocratic” Rule In The Country

Unsurprisingly, the last quarter-century has brought intense international political volatility. Especially political actors, borders, and interests have been rapidly changing in the Middle East.

Turkey, the most active country in this area, continues to protect its position at the top of the global agenda with domestic and foreign policies.

For the last 20 years, the AK Party has ruled the country with a Neo-Ottoman ideology, aiming to become a dominative regional power. The AK Party has enacted changes that penetrate all areas of the country, including but not limited to the notion of statehood and the way of life.

The government shaped its electorate profile and challenged the oppositional electorate with their greater impositions daily.

The biggest criticism of the West in this process is Turkey’s deviation from the path of democracy. It would not be wrong to state that the political impact and activities of the AK Party have spread to all walks of life, particularly following the failed coup of July 15 last, in a more repressive manner compared to the past.

Erdogan, the co-president of the Greater Middle East Initiative just until 13 years ago, now claims Turkey is a target of the Western world’s plans towards the Middle East. This is probably the first time in Turkey’s history that Erdogan has opposed the United States, NATO, and the European Union on this scale.

Allying With Russia-Iran Axis

Foreign policy objectives that have marked the recent past of the AK Party, such as “Zero Problems with the Neighbors” and “Regional Peace,” are now leading Turkey into a vague state of chaos due to:

  • Neo-Ottomanism mentality
  • Political moves toward claiming to be the mentor of the region
  • The “Arab Spring” processes that were designed in 2011 and the Syrian crisis which has turned into a chess match between America and Russia

While the West does not want to lose its faithful ally Turkey, the West has stated that Erdogan’s “personal greed” shall not go unpunished. Apart from this, Turkey has been getting one step closer each passing day to the axis of Russia and Iran with its endeavor to find solutions to its regional problems.

This disturbs Western powers, especially the United States, and invites them to answer with countermoves. Moreover, the Middle East and Arab geographies are getting rather uncomfortable, as always, with Turkey becoming a dominant power in the region.

Meanwhile, the AK Party presents various dissident actors and incidences in the foreign policy block, which daily comes to the table as “being the sole proof that they have been proceeding in the right direction” to their supporter circles in domestic politics.

This makes Turkey the “Lonely Man” who fails to satisfy the East or the West.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Twitter)

Impact Of Geopolitics

In particular, the problems stem from the following:

  • Poor relationship with the European Union and the suspension of the accession
  • Increasing political aggression between Turkey and Greece
  • Political conflicts with the United States which cannot be settled in the short-run
  • S-400 missile crises have caused the highest tension with NATO to date
  • The deep divergence between Turkey and other NATO members toward considering the membership status of Sweden
  • Turkey is ignoring embargoes in its bilateral relations with Russia and Iran
  • The Syria Problem & threats against national security (US Forces supplying arms to the PYD “Democratic Union Party,” ongoing refugee problems, etc.)

Political strategists interpret an increasing number of similar problems related to highly sensitive foreign affairs, which have significant adverse effects on the national economy, as “Turkey is closing her doors to the Western World.”

The AK Party seems to play both sides. On the one hand, they are focused on solving the aforementioned international problems. On the other hand, they are assuring the party members that this loneliness is based on the righteousness of their cause as they work to regain power in domestic affairs. However, the economic recession, the depreciation of the Turkish Lira, and increasing poverty are slowly causing the AK Party to lose its electorate.

Erdogan is losing power in the face of the “will of the nation,” which he has always trusted upon. Varying socio-economic populations holding various political allegiances (Democrats, Conservatives, Liberals, Islamists) hold the AK Party government responsible for the current unfavorable living conditions. After 20 years under the AK Party, they are raising their voices now together, louder and with a more explicit discourse.

In summary, Turkey’s economic stagnation with its increasingly-felt adverse effects, the increasing polarization among society, and mistrust in the concept of justice have slowly brought the apparent “strong” AK Party to its end.

Beyond all, some main reasons congregated the AK party opponents. They all believe that the AK Party government has devastated the principle of “separation of powers” and the constitutional foundation of Turkey.

Both left-and right-wing opposition is saying that the AK Party has shown itself incapable of overcoming the trauma of July 15 and has been using its autocratic regime as an unlimited tool in line with its political interests.

According to the opposition, the controversial presidential system has had and still is intervening in almost every issue affecting the country’s fate. All measures, actions, and strategies, including the presidential system, aim to eliminate the possibility of losing power one day.

At this point, all these developments are ironically suggestive of the historical “surprising reaction reflex” of the Turkish electorate.

Center Right As Political Fulcrum

In Turkish political terminology, “Central Right” is predicated on a combination of ideologies of democracy, liberalism, nationalism, secularism, conservatism, and Kemalism to a certain extent. The Central Right (or Centre Right) movement has been the most stable and broad-based political ideology in the recent political history of Turkey before the time of the AK Party.

Concerning Turkish political history, it would not be wrong to state that positioning in the Central Right is the key to political success in Turkey, notwithstanding all other parameters.

It is also apparent that the central right electorates, the decisive power in Turkish political life, have always been the preferential target group of the “new political” movements in their exit strategies.

Therefore, a political movement bracing the Central Right electorate may have fulfilled the first condition of becoming the right candidate of a ruling party in Turkey.

As a result, it seems that the elections that will be held on May 14, with their distinct structure, have the potential to change the dynamics of domestic politics compared to the previous elections.

To be more precise, upcoming presidential elections will not only determine Turkey’s social and political destiny towards “democracy or autocracy” but will also radically impact the balance of powers in the West and perhaps even the dynamics of global politics.