Tuesday,14 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)
Tuesday,14 August, 2018
Issue 1251, (18 - 24 June 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Erdogan frustrated

The ramifications of the loss of the 13-year legislative majority of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party continue to unfold, though Erdogan is doing his best to appear unruffled, writes Sayed Abdel-Meguid

Al-Ahram Weekly

Last Sunday’s electoral earthquake must have thrown the Anatolian sultan entirely off balance. He had been so sure of the landslide that would confirm him as imperial president. Instead, the Justice and Development Party (JDP), which he co-founded, dropped nearly 10 per cent in popularity since the last general elections, losing, as a result, 53 seats in the legislature.

On Tuesday, still reeling and perhaps anticipating the aftershocks, he boarded the presidential plane in Istanbul, leaning on the arm of his wife, Emine, and soon landed in Ankara’s Esenboga Airport. He needed to catch his breath, bend a bit before the storm, and set his priorities for the coming years in light of the grim reality that his party had just lost the parliamentary majority it had enjoyed for 13 years. Perhaps he would grasp the message conveyed to him through the ballot box by 60 per cent of the Turkish electorate.

Initially, he appeared calm and subdued. But he soon reverted to his haughty and pugnacious form. On his way back from Azerbaijan on Saturday evening, aboard the luxury presidential jet with an exclusive entourage of loyal columnists and reporters, he revealed some of his carefully studied plans. In fact, the long-time former leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (RPP) Deniz Baykal had hinted at them following a meeting to which Erdogan had invited him earlier last week and that Baykal accepted on condition that it would not take place in the controversial presidential palace. The plans call for early elections. However, as Erdogan explained to reporters, he does not like the terms “early elections” or “snap polls”. Rather he refers to them as a “re-run”. Perhaps this is his way of trying to persuade the public that this is perfectly normal and that another round of parliamentary polls will not cost the taxpayers time or money.

The following is the logic. After parliament later this month is sworn in, Erdogan is expected to formally empower the JDK to form a new government. If it does not succeed in doing so within 45 days, he is empowered, by way of the constitution, to call for new elections.

Erdogan’s cronies and disciples have also begun to rally after the shock and, as though to signal that the battle is not over yet, they lashed out at Nokta, a political news weekly that had been closed down in 2007 and re-launched in May this year. They were incensed by a cover on the “Kemalist” (in reference to founder of the modern Turkish republic) magazine, featuring an image of Erdogan in the process of being erased.

The Nokta cover was a take off the pro-government Sabah says “plagiarised” of a May 2011 New Yorker cover showing Osama Bin Laden being erased.

In front of security forces, Ridvan Bural, head of the Turkey from Internationalism to Localism Society, who organised a demonstration in front of the Nokta offices, said that the magazine had “committed an act that could only be described as immoral”. This, he continued, was further proof of the existence of certain media bent on disseminating spite and hatred. “We cannot tolerate in any manner an insult to the president of the nation through the publication of an image of him that associates him with leaders of a terrorist organisation,” Bural added.

The political news periodical refuted the charges. Its intent was not to suggest that Erdogan was a terrorist, or to liken him to Osama Bin Laden. It merely wanted to drive home the fact through illustration the Turkish people had erased “the lion” inside Erdogan, in reference to his designs to transform the Turkish system of government to a presidential one. Or, as Nokta’s management put it, “His dreams of one-man rule have evaporated.”

Fortunately, the voices of change have not and will not remain silent. Opposition parties have made it clear that Erdogan has no role to play in forming the forthcoming government. There are constitutional lines that the president should not cross, and these parties, now armed with confidence bolstered by the results of the 7 June polls, are determined to keep him on the constitutional side of those lines. This is why RPP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu and National Movement Party (NMP) leader Devlet Bahceli both refused to meet with Erdogan, who had just said that he would meet with political party leaders to consult with them over the formation of Turkey’s 63rd government.

Naturally, the opposition parties are not the only adversaries of the ruling party and Erdogan. Large numbers of civil society organisations, intellectuals and writers are urging opposition parties to make common cause and act even before a government is formed. These forces, in parliament, can draft and enact laws, writes Ibrahim Asalioglu in Zaman newspaper. More immediately, they can work together to create a new parliamentary hearing committee to investigate the graft and corruption scandals that were revealed on 17 and 25 December 2013. They do not have to wait until a government is formed for this; they can do so in a short period of time. They might even find support from some JDP members, the columnist added.

Asalioglu points out that with their combined votes, the opposition parties have a sufficient majority to pass legislation they want and to abolish the anti-democratic laws that the JDP had forced through with its previous majority laws that had gnawed away at the rule of law and human and civil rights. He underscores the need, in particular, to roll back the laws that led to the creation of those sectors of the judiciary specifically tailored to target current and potential opponents to Erdogan, and that eroded the autonomy of the judiciary. In short, writes Asalioglu, the opposition parties must shoulder the task of “repairing the law”, which had been turned to ruins during the JDP era, and they should embark on this task as soon as possible.

Clearly, Turkey cannot return to where it stood on the eve of the parliamentary polls. As the eminent columnist Mustafa Unal writes, the surprises ushered in by the results will continue to unfold during the forthcoming days, weeks and months. The age of JDP rule is over and JDP officials and supporters would be wise to take the initiative to engage in a frank and honest process of bringing themselves to task. “If they do this, they can look forward to better days. If they don’t they can only expect worse to come.”

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