Newspaper Article 17/07/2018
As President Erdogan has once again won the elections with an absolute majority, he has now come to be known as the most popular and divisive leader in modern Turkish history. Not only has he entrenched his control over the system, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to make Turkey — given its polarised character as a state — advanced as well. However, the undercurrents behind Erdogan’s election for the second term bring us to question the circumstances and dynamism behind Erdogan’s political success and Turkish foreign policy manoeuvring and assertion despite being at odds with the global system and regional dynamics.
Prior to the polls, it was suspected that Erdogan’s re-election would open his way to unprecedented power. As Erdogan’s party has already secured majority, the Turkish government will begin the process of implementing a raft of constitutional amendments which were approved through a referendum, last year. As stated, through these amendments, the country would witness a transition from premiership to executive presidency. With important powers concentrated in the respective role, president will be the one appointing vice-presidents, ministers, judges and bureaucrats; making and approving national budget; and holding the power to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees and impose emergency. Besides, under this new arrangement, President Erdogan would be able to stand for the third presidential term when his current tenure finishes in 2023.
A NATO member and candidate for EU membership, Turkey has brought massive changes in its foreign policy and strategic outlook over recent years. If analysed closely, this change in policy manoeuvring is considered to be the fallout of domestic politics conversions and ideological transformations. Now despite the fact that this centralisation of power alarms Turkey’s political opposition, Western allies and human rights group, Erdogan’s mantra — a mix of religious assertion and economic growth — has created a substantial Turkish constituency in his favour.
As indicated, Erdogan believes in abandoning previous rehashed dictums of ‘zero problems with neighbours’ and ‘peace at home, peace abroad’ and relies on ‘realism’ as his basic foreign policy framework. Now, this approach identifies his understanding of the global situation being built on the notion that ‘the world is no longer the unipolar world of the 1990s’. As new power hubs emerge, it has already been pointed that the world might see a shift from unipolarity. In this regard, whereby Turkey wants to become militarily strong, it has been trying hard to build stakes at the least in the region, to be consulted by the countries of influence and interests. By far, it has been successful as well and this approach has added to its weight.
Turkey is cognisant of the fact that it lies at the crossroads of two continents and works as a transit passage for goods and energy trade. But it demands an extraordinary manoeuvring when it comes to maintaining its stature as NATO member and good terms with Russia side by side. More so, just recently we saw how Turkey took a stance on the Palestine issue and held Summit of Muslim community when it was expected that countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt or Jordan would do something. It is for first time that Turkey, under Erdogan’s leadership, has managed to have decent relations with all regional powers, including Israel, Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Besides, it has not only taken a fundamental stance on immigrants but has also shunned the US for its actions whenever required.
Much of Turkey’s standing today is attributed to the leadership of Erdogan, whose personality has transformed from an honest broker to an independent and aggressive leader. The failed coup attempt of last year not only showcased his power but the level of acceptance among the public as well.
Even today, Turkey still has an untapped potential to explore but it is to its credit that it manoeuvres despite being at odd circumstances with the global order. Suffice is to say that if it is the strategic location and resource potential that matter, no wonder Pakistan only needs good leadership, one able to think strategically to make ends meet.
Article originally published in Express Tribune on July 15, 2018.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are of the writer and are not necessarily reflective of IPRI policy