By Halil Karaveli
April 5, 2016
The outsize personality of President Erdoğan obscures the systemic dynamics that sustain his exercise of power. Erdoğan’s push for an executive presidency corresponds to the “logic” of Turkish state power. Erdoğan’s personal ambitions and raison d’état coincide to reinforce authoritarianism. Ultimately, democracy in Turkey is crippled because no major political force, representing the Turkish majority, challenges the dominant mentality that holds that the survival of the state requires the checking of ethnic and cultural diversity.
Fatih Yaşlı in Birgün writes that at first glance, the terror attack in Ankara on March 13 would appear to have been “wrong and a mistake” from the view point of PKK, which has also been pointed out by leftist circles that are close to the Kurdish movement. These make the point that the massacre in Ankara circumscribes the political room of maneuver of the leftist-democrat forces in the west of the country and that it has undermined the position of those who call for a democratic and peaceful resolution of the Kurdish problem. What this criticism overlooks is the fact that the dynamics of war has changed since the state abandoned the “solution process”, and that the PKK – in response to the state violence that has been escalating since then – no longer gives priority to forcing a solution with “democratic” methods. Instead, PKK is spreading the war in the Kurdish areas to the rest of the country. As war has become the way of conducting politics, it leads to new alignments: MHP edges closer to the government, while CHP’s statist reflexes are triggered and the party’s discourse becomes similar to that of the governing party. And we know who’s going to benefit from that. Unfortunately, we can expect that the worst is yet to come, lest the two sides are bluffing, which they don’t seem to be doing. When the “spring war” intensifies, attacks like these are going to become routine, and with growing polarization in society, there will follow an increased risk that civilians are going to take on each other directly.
Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet writes that Turkey is not making headway in the Middle East, which means that AKP’s strategy to swallow MHP is endangered. Turkey’s “arrows” are not only missing their targets, they are also provoking a backlash. The Sunni Turcoman areas in Syria are now under the control of the forces of Assad. The military incursion into the Mosul region backfired. The downing of the Russian plane has backfired even more dramatically, with Russia deploying strong military, economic and political pressures in response. And now, after Putin has deployed S-300 and S-400 missile defenses in Syria, Turkey cannot even send up an airplane against Syria. Ankara is left without a single political card to play in the Middle East. It is left alone at the chess table. The political meaning of the command of the U.S. to Turkey to leave Mosul is “You are not going to have any influence on the drawing of new maps in the Middle East.” Thus, it is becoming impossible to achieve the kind of results in the Middle East that would satisfy the Turkish nationalism of the MHP voters. Nonetheless, the single most important internal political tool that will help AKP detach voters from MHP is the operation against PKK.
Kadri Gürsel on Diken news site writes that Erdoğan’s big aim is to change the constitution and formally introduce a presidential system. This is aim is going to be accomplished by political cannibalism, by AKP swallowing MHP. The Sunni conservative and nationalist bases of these two parties are more or less identical. The relentless fight against PKK that the Erdoğan regime has started has satisfied the Turkish nationalist base, while at the same time depriving MHP of an important asset, and has significantly weakened the opposition base against AKP. When it becomes clear that MHP is going to fall below the threshold to parliament in the next election, it will become possible to attract around twenty or so MPs from MHP, which Erdoğan’s goal requires. Then, AKP’s constitution will be approved in parliament, and subsequently also in a referendum with over fifty percent of the votes as the AKP base will have been extended with the absorption of the MHP base. If on the other hand the necessary MPs from MHP don’t join AKP, a snap election will be called in an appropriate moment and MHP will be pushed under the threshold to parliament… Of course, the precondition for the execution of these scenarios of political cannibalism is that the crises in Syria and Iraq evolve according to Erdoğan’s wishes.
Ergun Babahan in Özgür Düşünce writes that the southeast of Turkey is awash in blood. In areas near the border, the state is only able to demonstrate its power with tanks and armored vehicles. Those who look at Cizre or Diyarbakır are reminded of Iraq during the American occupation. The risks are extremely great. There is a possibility that the fighting is going to spread to the Kurdish area in Syria. The AKP is taking steps that are going to raise tensions further, and remove the possibility of finding political solutions. The atmosphere of fighting is likely going to enable Erdogan to pursue his repressive policies and help him win a probable referendum on the introduction of a presidential system, as the fighting ensures that he will get the support of MHP voters. Yet the government should recognize that it is not facing a group of armed youth. It is facing a movement that has a strong popular support. Turkey is racing toward a big fire.
The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.