GTE Question of the Month, November 2015
After the November 01 elections, what’s at stake for the new AKP government?
Dimitar Bechev and Nathalie Tocci
After the 1 November election, Turkey is more or less back to where it was before last June. A powerful, directly-elected president driven by limitless ambition is in control of the legislature. In effect, Turkey has transitioned to presidential rule. The turmoil and polarization of past months have played into Erdogan’s hands. The renewed war with the PKK and the hideous bomb attack in Ankara on 10 October have given credence to the AKP’s campaign promising citizens stability and security through a single-party rule. Having reconquered the political upper hand, the onus is on Erdogan and the AKP to pull the country away from the brink. By far the greatest challenge is that of relaunching the Kurdish peace process. Erdogan has proved to be the unquestioned master of Turkish politics. The spotlight is now on him to start healing the country’s toxic divisions and sow the seeds of reform and reconciliation.
(Dimitar Bechev is Visiting Scholar at the Center for European Studies at Harvard University and Nathalie Tocci is Deputy Director of the Istituto Affari Internazionali, Rome)
Exceeding even its own predictions, the AK Party’s securing of 49.5% of the votes with 317 seats resulted in a landslide victory and pointed to the inherent problems of the opposition parties. Most likely, Turkey will not have elections for another four years. The AK Party thus has an ample window of opportunity to steer the country out of election fatigue and the governance vacuum, which were exacerbated amid recent terrorist attacks and entrenched polarization within Turkish society. To achieve this, the government should reinvigorate internally the frozen “peace process” for the peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue. It should also address certain uncertainties that have stifled the rigorous economic growth in Turkey in the last two years. The constructive steps taken domestically will bolster the government’s capacity to effectively address the threats radiating from the failed states of Iraq and Syria on Turkey’s borders.
(Fuat Keyman is Director of the Istanbul Policy Center and Professor of International Relations at Sabanci University)
The dramatic finale of the election storm in the country came unexpectedly. We have yet to understand the details of the conservative shift that brought the AK Party to power one more time. What is more of a concern at this stage on a speculative level is the potential impact of mass security concerns on Turkish democracy. As Turkey remains in tense international conflict on its southern Syrian border, the saliency of security concerns fueled by the Kurdish conflict also provides ample ground for limitations and constraints to be imposed upon Turkish democracy. These security concerns are likely to be coupled with the waning importance of performance politics. As a rule, without performing acceptably in meeting the demands and expectations of the masses, especially on the economic front, a government could not stay in power. The last experience of the November elections, however, could be taken as evidence of electoral success without noticeable performance advantage. The AK Party’s success appears to be driven not by its performance but rather by its successful management of the changing agenda, by ontological polarization as a basis for credibility while facing an uncertain future, and by a de facto constrained campaign effort on the part of the opposition. Such constraints upon the opposition and the media at large can only mean deteriorating democratic standards in the country.
(Ali Carkoglu is Professor of International Relations at Koc University, Istanbul)