After collapsing Turkey’s economy and impoverishing the middle class he himself had enriched, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now pushing his country toward unnecessary war and manipulating the courts against his rivals.
This is Erdogan’s ruthless quest to hold on to power in 2023 – the centenary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey – and let’s hope he fails, writes “Politico”, quoted by dnes.bg.
Turkey’s presidential election on June 23 is perhaps the most important – though by no means the fairest – vote in the world this year. It will determine whether this country of 85 million, located on the border between Europe, Asia and the Middle East, will continue down the path of an authoritarian, expansionist power, or choose a more liberal and pluralistic path.
For the first time since Erdogan’s conservative, Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, there
a serious prospect for political change.
Inflation is over 80% a year, the Turkish lira has collapsed against the dollar, and the government’s popularity has fallen as economic hardships mount.
According to opinion polls, Erdogan, who has ruled with an increasingly authoritarian hand since changing the constitution to establish a presidential system, is in serious political trouble, with the AKP receiving just 30 percent support.
Of course, his response was typically brutal on both the domestic and international fronts.
Despite opposition from Washington and Moscow, Erdogan has trumpeted preparations to send tanks to Syria as he seeks to push out Kurdish militias who are allied with the West in the fight against Islamic State militants but whom Ankara sees as linked to the guerrillas. the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He seems determined to complete the construction of a buffer zone across Turkey’s southern border.
Meanwhile, the Turkish president is also threatening
to strike at NATO ally Greece
amid manufactured disputes over gas drilling, Cyprus and the alleged “militarization” of Greek islands in the Aegean – although the international economic and political cost of any such action makes it highly unlikely.
Since the start of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Erdogan has positioned Turkey as an indispensable mediator between Moscow and Kyiv, helping broker deals and hosting talks between US and Russian security chiefs. He has also managed to support Ukraine – including with the sale of military drones – while maintaining trade and energy ties with Russia and without jeopardizing his personal relationship with President Vladimir Putin or incurring the wrath of the West.
Meanwhile, at home, the Turkish president is using the judiciary, which is not characterized by much independence, to try to disqualify his strongest potential challengers.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu – a popular figure in the secular center-left Republican People’s Party (RPP) who could be a unifying opposition presidential candidate – has just been sentenced to more than two years in prison and banned from holding public office for ” insulting public officials”. For now, the decision is on hold pending an appeal, but Erdogan may try to speed up the court process so that his rival is barred from running.
In addition, more than 100 politicians from the main pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) remain on trial for alleged terrorist offences, which could lead to the movement being outlawed. The HDP is not part of the six-party opposition alliance that forms a common election platform, ranging from the social democratic left to the liberal center-right party. However, she could become the leader if – as polls indicate – neither the AKP nor the opposition get a majority in parliament.
Erdogan, a former mayor of Istanbul, was himself subject to similar judicial harassment before the AKP triumphed in 2002. Sentenced to a year in prison for reading an allegedly Islamist poem, he could not run for office and had to wait before became prime minister.
However, it remains to be seen how far this great agitator is willing to go this time in terms of
actual military action,
to play the nationalist card in his re-election fight.
In 20 years, Erdogan went from a policy of “zero problems with neighbors” to open or covert conflicts with Syria, Greece, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Armenia. In recent months, however, he has begun rapprochement with several of those adversaries — in part because the failure of the Turkish-backed Arab Spring uprisings has forced him to adjust his foreign policy, but also because he desperately needs Arab and Western capital to prop up the economy. , exhausted by his reckless policy of keeping interest rates low.
Although public opinion in Turkey is strongly nationalist, a ground force entry into Syria that would provoke a US or Russian backlash and force Ankara to back down could turn against him – as could the heavy-handed use of the judiciary to remove the opposition. On the other hand, a limited cross-border operation with few Turkish casualties could actually be acceptable to voters, in the same way that regular Israeli strikes in Gaza in response to rocket attacks by the Palestinian movement Hamas are perceived as police operations, not like wars.
So the coming months will be filled with military gestures, not least to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of a modern secular republic by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
Erdogan will want to show Turkey’s restored influence in a multipolar world where middle powers can exert greater influence as
The US and Russia are less and less willing
or they can act as global policemen. But after the interventions in Libya and in support of Azerbaijan against Armenia, he may stop at a ground attack in Syria if the major powers continue to warn him.
Unfortunately, the European Union is likely to be a bystander rather than a force for moderation or change. The bloc is Turkey’s biggest trading partner but has lost influence in Ankara as the country’s long-running EU accession process stalls and Brussels regularly has to buy off Turkey with aid to keep nearly 4 million Syrian refugees on its territory instead of letting them flow into Greece.
The West will undoubtedly be relieved to see Erdogan’s back. But governments are playing it safe, keeping open lines of communication with the Bosphorus strongman and offering depressingly little public aid to the opposition, even as they quietly pray for a more moderate, pro-Western Turkey in June.