Wednesday

1st Apr 2020

Opinion

EU should brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan

  • Erdogan would be eager to mould the next generation of Turks in a more Islamic and nationalist identity by boosting religious education all over the country (Photo: Turkish presidency)

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan won his fifth consecutive election victory on Sunday and finally will be able to rule Turkey with an omnipotent/almighty one-man system non-existent in any democratic country.

Most pundits agree he is now in the club of 'strong rulers' like Vladimir Putin of Russia and Xi Jinping of China.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or join as a group

He can be potentially in power until 2032 – with the new system, a president can run twice and also for a third time if he calls for early elections - and calling early elections is within the president's authority.

In the wake of last year's controversial referendum for a sultan-like presidential system, Putin advisor Sergei Markov famously declared that Erdogan's authority would now be much more strong and vast, compared with that of the Russian leader.

As the New York Times put it, Erdogan now has "dictatorial powers" at his disposal. That presidential system is now put into effect with full speed after Sunday's elections.

In short, the regime Turkey had since the founding of the republic has changed

The office of the prime minister will be abolished, the parliament will be mostly reduced to a rubber-stamp house, the president will directly appoint many high-ranking officials including Constitutional Court judges and he will make the budget and rule with decrees without any scrutiny.

No checks, no balances

This Turkish presidential system should not be confused neither with the American nor the French system.

As the Council of Europe's Venice Commission warned time and again, this Turkish system does not envisage any checks and balances.

The already strongman of Turkey is now the strongest and no institution (all institutions have been either subdued or tamed since the coup attempt of 2016, which Erdogan famously called a gift from God) can now challenge his authority.

The EU should not fool itself, and brace for a more authoritarian Erdogan who will tolerate no opposition or criticism with his long-sought new powers.

He was anything but reconciliatory during his victory speech, promising a harsher stance against the foreign and domestic enemies.

This time around, however, Erdogan has had to take on board the support of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Seasoned observers of Turkish politics believe he was able to get elected in the first round thanks to the nationalist votes.

The situation in the parliament is a different story.

Erdogan's AKP is for the first time since 2002 now in the minority in the Grand National Assembly, and will need the nationalist MHP to get the laws passed through.

Religion + Nationalism = ?

The marriage of religion (AKP) with nationalism (MHP) will have far-reaching implications not only for Turks but for EU as well.

We will probably witness the slow but gradual change of the official ideology of Turkish state, from secular nationalism to religious nationalism.

The leader of the MHP, Devlet Bahceli is against the peace process with the Kurds and in full agreement with president Erdogan, who reneged on his pledges to Kurds.

Although HDP, the Kurdish Party, has been the third biggest party in the parliament, Erdogan will probably not budge, willing to keep MHP on board for his next election.

A more confrontational framework of relationships should be expected from Erdogan regarding the Kurdish problem.

The new blend of religious nationalism will be more anti-West and anti-EU, as Brussels has anything but leverage on Turkey. The first signs of this strong rhetoric are already visible.

This week, the Turkish foreign ministry has lashed out at EU summit conclusions as "hypocritical and inconsistent".

Like Erdogan, Bahceli is in favour of extending the emergency rule, without giving any end date.

The European Union, European Parliament and the Council of Europe have all called on Erdogan to end the emergency rule without any further delay - as he promised during the election campaign.

The religious president and the nationalist leader also agree on stepping up the struggle against terror groups like PKK and the faith-based civic group Hizmet (the Gulen movement which Erdogan accuses of staging the botched coup of 2016. The movement denies any involvement.)

According to the Council of Europe figures, after the attempted coup 150,000 people were taken into custody, 78,000 were arrested and 110,000 civil servants were dismissed. 17,000 of those jailed are women.

These figures, it seems, are still far from satisfying the two leaders.

When it comes to media freedom, the two leaders cannot agree more.

Turkey is the leading jailer of journalists on earth under Erdogan's leadership. He is suing an average of three persons per day for allegedly insulting him, and has effectively destroyed the free and critical media.

Businessmen who keep getting lucrative public tenders now own 95 percent of the media.

Surprisingly, Bahceli, right after the elections published a blacklist of some 80 people, mostly journalists, whom he accused of defaming his party - and promised never to forget what they had done.

Finally, Erdogan would be eager to mould the next generation of Turks in a more Islamic and nationalist identity by boosting religious education all over the country.

After all, he has not dreamed of the all powers he has now, just to manage the economy and build more housing complexes.

Selcuk Gultasli was Brussels bureau chief of the Turkish newspaper Zaman. Zaman was closed by decree of the Turkish government in July 2016

In the initial version of this opinion piece, the author referred to Hizmet as a "terrorist group". This was corrected on Friday June 29 at 12.30PM

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Appeasement will not work with Erdogan

As EU leaders Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker meet president Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Bulgaria, their reluctance to use their diminishing leverage with Ankara means his dismantling of Turkey's democracy only speeds up.

Erdogan's diplomats have become 'Gulenist-busters'

Under president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's diplomats have been turned into agents hunting supposed followers of his opponent Fethullah Gulen, and are now suspected of harassing journalists even in Belgium.

Erdogan and the Queen

Images of Erdogan being greeted by the Queen will be beamed to Turkish households, a sure boost for Erdogan's bid to make his way back to his own presidential palace in Ankara after next month's elections.

A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough

The 1948-51Marshall Plan provided about €118bn in today's figures in American assistance to European countries. These numbers are dwarfed by prospective needs, and the needs are not just European or American - but global.

Column

Trying to think straight about coronavirus

Clear-headed thinking becomes nearly impossible under this relentless barrage of bad news and apocalyptic analysis, Ferraris writes - a state of mind he describes as "cogito interruptus".

News in Brief

  1. Danish conservatives want Orban party kicked out of EPP
  2. Dutch finance minister repents on virus help
  3. France to house domestic violence victims in hotels
  4. Europe sends medical goods to Iran, despite US embargo
  5. Commission sets consultation on raising 2030 climate target
  6. 12-year old Belgian girl dies of coronavirus
  7. EU commission: no 'indefinite' emergency measures
  8. Denmark plans 'gradual' return to normal after Easter

Column

Only democracy can fight epidemics

As Li Wenliang, the deceased Chinese doctor who was reprimanded for reporting on the virus, said: "There should be more openness and transparency".

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAMaking Europe’s Economy Circular – the time is now
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersScottish parliament seeks closer collaboration with the Nordic Council
  3. UNESDAFrom Linear to Circular – check out UNESDA's new blog
  4. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms

Latest News

  1. Without European patriotism, EU decline is inevitable
  2. EU cancels April Fool's 'fake news'
  3. A coronavirus 'Marshall Plan' alone won't be nearly enough
  4. Trying to think straight about coronavirus
  5. Berlin ready to airlift Greek island refugees
  6. Von der Leyen criticises Hungary, but fails to mention it
  7. Air pollution drops in Europe, but how long will it last?
  8. Human rights abusers don't stop for virus, MEPs tell EU

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us