Contrary to his pre-election promises, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan cannot be the “prime minister for all Turks.” His “prohibitive” and “intimidating” approach to sensitive issues continues to exacerbate tensions in the country.
Turkey has the potential to be a rising economic power, but when you look at it from the outside, it is a country whose ethnicity, beliefs and lifestyles are all unraveling and endangering its domestic tranquility. Erdogan’s furious reactions towards foreigners who point out Turkey’s inadequacies may please his constituency, but it does not change anything. The episode with Standard and Poor’s is a case in point: when we threatened to cancel our contract with the rating agency, who Erdogan accused of having an “ideological attitude,” nothing changed. Instead, S&P’s director challenged us: “We will continue to rate Turkey no matter what,” he said, implying that they will continue to guide those who consider investing in Turkey.
In recent times, there have been many reports of Turkey’s deviation from democratic values. Here we can cite the US’ annual human rights report, the latest report to be published by Amnesty International and similar organizations, head of the European Parliament Martin Schultz and others.
Erdogan’s high-strung and intimidating demeanor also tells us how the Justice and Development Party (AKP) understands the presidential system and the dangers awaiting Turkey should we adopt that system. His recent outbursts on abortion, the Turkish Airlines labor strike, and the government’s immediate acceptance of anything he says, demonstrates undoubtedly that they want an “uncontrollable leadership system,” and not a presidential system.
Senior AKP members are trying to calm our anxieties by referring to the US model, but they never mention the system of “checks and balances,” which strictly limits presidential powers and even provides a mechanism for impeachment. Abortion is an important example: large segments of the US population are, like Turkey, religious and conservative. Abortion has always been a highly controversial issue for them. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is fervently anti-abortion and bases his political success on that position.
Despite all that, the US could not ban abortion because one of the pillars of the US “checks and balances” system is the Supreme Court, which defends constitutional rights. If the AKP is thinking along the lines of an American system, where the legislative and judiciary branches have strict controls over the executive, they should say so. But the latest moves by Erdogan and the AKP only create bigger worries that this is not what they have in mind.
Even today, Erdogan interferes in issues ranging from theatrical ethics, demography engineering, cesarean sections and women’s rights over their own bodies, to limiting the right to strike and the freedom of press. With his majority in parliament, he can do whatever he wants.
In such a situation, the question is: “What will he do if he takes over a presidential system without any checks or balances?” Turkey is now expecting more internal quarrels and social unrest, and we already said why: Erdogan cannot become the prime minister for all in Turkey. He doesn’t want to be.