Unbeatable Erdogan – The end of Kemalism in Turkey?

Unbeatable Erdogan – The end of Kemalism in Turkey?

By Manolis Kostidis – Ankara

With 52.2 pct of the vote, Recep Tayyip Erdogan achieved his goal of being elected President of Turkey in the first round; however there is skepticism in his party as polls predicted a victory with 55 pct.

Erdogan’s main rival, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu who was supported by the CHP and MHP, received 38.7 pct of votes while Selahattin Demirtaş took 9.1 pct.

These were the first elections in which Turks elected their President as up until 2007 election took place in Parliament.

When the final results were in, the Turkish Prime Minister went to the party’s headquarters in Istanbul. Late in the evening he was expected to speak to AKP party followers in Ankara.

In Istanbul, Erdogan received 49.7 pct and in Ankara 53 pct. Smyrna remains in the hands of the opposition with İhsanoğlu getting 57 pct.

In the electoral map, all the coastal cities as well as those in Eastern Thrace voted for the opposition while cities of central Anatolia gave the newly elected President a large majority. Particularly interesting are the percentages of Selahattin Demirtaş who was supported by the pro-Kurdish BDP as he increased his rates and looks to have appealed to young voters.

This victory is the tenth in Erdogan’s political career. In every election he has participated in, either for Prime Minister or Mayor he has not lost, each time winning by a larger margin.

In the last year, the violent repression exercised by police during incidents in Gezi park where protesters were killed and the revelation of economic scandals which showed how corrupt his government is, led to the conclusion that his political career was coming to an end. Instead, the Turkish Prime Minister received the support of the Turkish people.

The “heavy artillery” which brought on Erdogan’s triumph was the economy. In 2002 he took over a bankrupt economy and in his 12 years in office he tripled the country’s GDP and subsequently the income of Turkish people. The people did not want to take risks despite acknowledging the democratic deficit in the country’s institutions.

Meanwhile, Erdogan is also seen as a national hero. Turks consider him a leader who battles for the country’s interests as well as Muslims as shown by his clash with Israel and support of Palestine. The apology Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued is also seen as an important victory.

The ruling AKP has played an important role in the success. Mostly, scarf wearing women who volunteer to canvass for the party ans listen to people’s problems in order to pass them on to party organizations.

An example of this strategy is the opening of private hospitals to people where citizens can receive emergency treatment for free! Another example are families that take care of elderly relatives. They receive benefits in order to avoid going to nursing homes. Furthermore, Turkish citizens over 65 years of age use public transport free of charge.

The neighboring country has a working land registry, proper e-governance etc. All these contribute to the positive image of people for Erdogan.

THE VOICE OF ANATOLIA BEAT THE AEGEAN

In Turkey – a country with a population of 76 million – 65 pct of women wear the islamic head scarf and Turkish Generals ignored the requests of this crucial part of the population. Even education was forbidden for women who wore head scarves.

The voice of the people of Anatolia was not heard. The AKP government freed headscarf use in the civil service; a demand of millions of people that Islamists consider a sign of democratization. “ The electoral map shows Aegean and the Mediterranean vote for the opposition while Anatolia opts for Erdogan who is their voice”, political analyst Mehmet Barlas comments.

THE OPPOSITION’S STRATEGIC MISTAKE

In these Presidential elections a key reason behind Erdogan’s comfortable victory was that he was playing – politically speaking – “at home”. The two major opposition parties, CHP and MHP, chose an Islamic scholar to be their candidate, Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu. Erdogan, who is the exponent of this Islamic order, the “voice of Anatolia” had no problem defeating the opposition.

ERDOGAN’S GAME OF THRONES

The newly elected President of Turkey has a real “game of thrones” to play in Turkish politics. When he took over power in 2002, his basic problem were Turkish Generals who considered themselves to be the “guardians of the state”. In order to defeat the Turkish pashas he sided with Fethullah Gülen’s Islamic battalion that had close ties with police and the judiciary.

When he achieved his goal, he turned against Gulen and has removed all judges and police officers that had relations with the guild.

Turkey’s new President is at the highest office today and controls everything himself. Judges and policemen will be appointed by him. He also has the secret service under control with Hakan Fidan as commander and the army no longer has the power to oppose him.

Alone in the Presidential Mansion on the Çankaya hill in Ankara, Erdogan has one vision; that of the “new Turkey”. Erdogan has set 2023 as the deadline to complete his vision, on the 100 year anniversary of the founding of the Turkish Republic by Kemal Ataturk.

This vision raises many questions that must be answered as Erdogan himself speaks of Turkey becoming a country of 90 million citizens with a strong economy and a strong voice in the world. The main change he wishes to make is the change of the political system into a presidential one so that he has more powers.

There is grave concern at the state of democracy in the country as everything now depends on a single leader; just like 100 years ago with Kemal Ataturk.

It is no coincidence that stores in Turkey, where it is obligatory to present the picture of Kemal Ataturk, the Turks now also put up the photograph of Erdogan.

Political analysts are expressing the view that that the end of “Kemalism” has come and “Erdoganism” is now being born; an ideology expressed by the idea of the “Muslim democrat”.

THE FUTURE OF GREEK – TURKISH RELATIONS

No immediate change is expected in relations with Greece as Erdogan will indirectly control the country’s foreign policy. During the last years that Greece has been hit by the financial crisis, Turkey has not caused any great crisis in bilateral relations. From today onwards however, Turkey will be ruled by one man alone who has “great visions” for his country much like Vladimir Putin in Russia and with the secret services closely tied with the ruling power. This combination can prove dangerous regarding the future aspirations of Ankara.

SUCCESSORS

Today Erdogan has called a party central committee meeting. Most probably, a convention will be called in order to chose a successor for the Prime Minister’s post. Candidates being touted are Ahmet Davutoglu and former Transport minister Binali Yıldırım.