Post-election risks in Turkey

The elections are over and nothing prevents Erdogan from wielding enormous power, entirely unchallenged.
Sunday 01/07/2018
A shopowner reads a newspaper, featuring coverage of the election results in the mainly-Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, on June 25. (AP)
A shopowner reads a newspaper, featuring coverage of the election results in the mainly-Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, on June 25. (AP)

Despite the high voter turnout and the clear victory by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his parliamentary allies, profound risks loom for Turkey.

The opposition accepted the results even as it pointed out the election “was not fair.” The electoral campaign was conducted under restrictive conditions, which reflected the curbs faced by the opposition under Turkey’s state of emergency.

Unsurprisingly, international election observers have been critical. The Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe said the incumbent president and ruling party enjoyed “an undue advantage, including an excessive coverage by government-affiliated public and private media outlets.”

The criticism was quickly rejected by Ankara.

The elections are over and nothing prevents Erdogan from wielding enormous power, entirely unchallenged. As Turkey’s executive president, Erdogan has virtually complete control of the executive, legislative and judiciary branches. He can issue decrees and appoint cabinet members without parliamentary approval. This came about because of the constitutional amendments Erdogan pushed through last year that abolished the office of prime minister. Erdogan becomes head of Turkey’s new executive presidential system and could serve for two other terms till 2028.

Jana Jabbour, professor of political science at Sciences Po university in Paris, said the purges in Turkey will continue and acquire “new magnitude.” The reference is to the thousands arrested or sacked after the failed July 2016 coup.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party is dependent for its majority on the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). A conservative party, the MHP is unlikely to encourage more compromise from Erdogan. It is for instance opposed to lifting the state of emergency, seen by opposition activists as a threat to political and media freedoms.

Erdogan’s immense power will have ramifications abroad. His neo-Ottomanism will encourage regional ambitions. These are already reflected in Erdogan’s military intervention in Syria and Iraq and it is not a good omen for peace and stability in the Middle East.

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