Erdogan re-election worries the West and with good reason

What is frightening the West is this flirtation between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Wednesday 27/06/2018
People walk past a poster for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, on June 25. (Reuters) 
People walk past a poster for Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, on June 25. (Reuters) 

If Turkey still held a tiny sliver of hope of being allowed to join the European Union, that chance is gone with the re-election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to another term as president.

As expected, the Supreme Electoral Council of Turkey declared Erdogan, 64, the winner of the June 24 vote, ushering in a new executive presidential system that was approved in a referendum last year. Under the new system, the office of the prime minister will be eliminated and executive powers are to be transferred to the president, who will rule with only limited checks and balances.

That dream of seeing Turkey integrate Europe is shattered. So, too, are the aspirations of Mustafa Kemal, founder of the modern Turkish republic. Kemal, also known as Ataturk, in modernising the remains of the Ottoman Empire, realised Turkey’s future lay not in the Levant, where the countries of the Middle East were in constant flux and political turmoil. Ataturk wanted Turkey to look towards Europe, where conflicts seemed be have been put in the past and the future looked promising.

Today, however, given the hyper-sensitive immigration debate across Europe, Turkey entering the European Union is a near impossibility. Herein lies the beginning of an era of conflict between Turkey and its neighbours -- at least as long as Erdogan remains in power and he may well be in power for years to come.

Turkey under the authoritarian Erdogan has gone from a developing nation with an insecure political future to an economically, politically and militarily stable country to a future Third World dictatorship.

“He (Erdogan) is now an all-powerful man, not just de facto but also formally," said Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn. "He has everything in his hands," including the power to end a state of emergency, release detainees and "get on another track with Europe."

What is frightening the West, as Turkey takes on shades of Putinism, is this flirtation between Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdogan’s re-election and the consequences of a changing Turkey, the alteration in the geopolitical map of the region will produce seismic shifts in the region.

With Turkey supporting the philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood positioned on Europe’s backdoor, Europe is likely to re-examine its defence policies and its politics. Turkey will try to juggle between playing out its role in NATO and its new friendship with Russia.

Ankara’s role in NATO and how much it could be trusted could be revisited. Are we likely to see a rapprochement between Ankara and Moscow? Is history repeating itself?

Under the new law, the Turkish leader, who was not known for a proclivity to democratic rule, will wield sweeping powers. This victory will buttress the influence of pro-Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers of Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party in Turkey and encourage radical Islamists everywhere.

Encouraged by Russia, Erdogan will toe a confrontationist line with the West, which will include political pressure and blackmail over issues such as migration and NATO's interests.

Somewhat inebriated by the perfume of absolute power, and given the Turkish president’s over-inflated ego, Erdogan is likely to allow himself to be drawn onto a full-fledged war in Syria or Iraq amid his neo-Ottoman yearnings.