By Halil Karaveli
May 23, 2023
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s failure in the first round of Turkey’s presidential election is a testimony to the waning appeal of liberalism in the face of ethnic conflict and refugee flows. The Turkish nationalism on which Kılıçdaroğlu has fatefully stumbled is fuelled by the Kurdish challenge and the Syrian refugees. But it is also fed by a heightened sense of national insecurity in a global context of escalating geopolitical confrontation. The virulently nationalist rhetoric against the Syrian refugees that Kılıçdaroğlu has adopted in order to make himself a palatable choice to right wing Turkish nationalists does not necessarily offer him a path to victory. Tarnishing his image as a liberal and social democrat, he risks forfeiting the support of the Kurdish voters as well as the support of Turkish liberals and leftists.
By Halil Karaveli
May 8, 2023
It was the perceived need by the Turkish state to check the Kurdish political movement that precipitated the transition to the presidential system. Today, it is Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s determination to abolish this system that has secured him the support of the Kurdish movement and set him on a path to victory on May 14. But conversely this also makes Kılıçdaroğlu unacceptable to the state. A peaceful transition of power – which has been a cornerstone of Turkish democracy despite its deeply flawed character otherwise – cannot be taken for granted. The most optimistic scenario is that decision-makers in the state nonetheless conclude that the democratic legitimacy of the state must be preserved and wager that they can control and constrain Kılıçdaroğlu if he is elected president, ensuring the survival of the system over which Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has presided.
By Barış Soydan
March 24, 2022
While the disaster that struck Turkey on February 6 has brought attention to the collusion between political power and construction companies, the fact that the opposition maintains the same unhealthy relations with business where it’s in charge and its reluctance to address the concerns of the poorer classes preclude deeper, systemic changes if it wins the election. But without holding out the prospect of major social and economic reform, it remains to be seen whether the opposition succeeds in beating Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Orhan Bursalı in Cumhuriyet observes that HDP representatives are now hoping that Erdoğan is going to resume the peace process and that he will make concessions to the Kurds if they back the presidential system that he insists on introducing. But is Erdoğan going to bargain with HDP in the parliament while he is fighting the PKK ferociously on the ground? It’s less likely for the time being. At most, they might consider making minimal concessions to HDP that don’t threaten the unitary state, when they think that they are close to “finishing off the matter.” And this is because of the alliance between Erdoğan/AKP and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). The greatest ally of the AKP in the country is the TSK. One reason why Erdoğan is able to pursue his authoritarianism so brazenly is the “alliance” he has entered into with TSK. They have reached an agreement with TSK on the war against PKK, on the unitary integrity etc. Erdoğan cannot step outside these limits, until a new situation. That means it’s probably not on the agenda to seek endorsement from HDP in order to get an amended constitution accepted in parliament.
Hasan Cemal on the t24 news site writes that the military and Erdoğan have converged on three points, and that there does not seem to be any disagreement at all between them. The three points are the Kurdish problem, the fight against PKK and northern Syria… I wonder if not a fourth point could be added to these three, and that is about democracy. Democracy and the rule of law no longer figure on Tayyip Erdoğan’s agenda. There is an Erdoğan on the stage that has turned his back on the West and who dislikes the EU… Erdoğan is facing east. He has his gaze on Russia, Central Asia, China, and of course on the Islamic world. This eastern orientation was quite strong among the military during especially the 1990’s and during the first years of the 2000’s. The big pashas used to say “The European Union means first class democracy. Turkey is not ready for such a democracy; it would lead to our breakup. Let’s make an opening to the East, to Russia, China; that would be much better for Turkey…” Could it be that Erdoğan and the military have met at the same point – that is in a common “antipathy toward democracy” – or perhaps more accurately in a shared “fear of democracy,” as Turkey is swinging from “military tutelage” to “civilian despotism?” Yes, I’d say that’s possible. Would not Erdoğan’s civilian despotism be strengthened when he sort of designates the military to deputize him? If this is indeed the case, it most certainly would strengthen his despotism.
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.