As Turkey’s advance toward authoritarian rule becomes clearer, we have all, as pundits, been engaged in finding a proper term to cover what “Erdoğan’s Way” really is.
“Despotism” and “autocracy” have been frequently used, but now I see Gökhan Bacık digging deeper into what he calls “tribalism” and Ömer Taşpınar attempting to bring to the coining process some sophistication by making — what, for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is rather a compliment — a suggestion on Turkish Gaullism, stretching the point somewhat.
Meanwhile, I am inclined to continue to suggest “Erdoğanismo,” which I believe on many points overlaps with the “Fujimorismo,” resolutely imposed by the former president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, (which cost him his freedom).
My point is, what Şahin Alpay calls “presidentialism” does not need an excess of analysis here: It is pure and simple one-man rule — as opposed to Gaullist structures — without any checks and balances, with a demolished “Fourth Estate,” and a beaten and buckled civil society. This was Fujimori’s dream state, as he tried to gallop over rules and regulations, doing his best, though at the end not so successfully, to abolish the separation of powers and subordinate the media to his will.
A simple model, indeed.
But now, as we are tearing our hair out, President Erdoğan himself came closer to defining what the model in his dreams is, when he — breaching the Constitution for the umpteenth time in an address in Balıkesir — openly asked for 400 seats for the Justice and Development Party (AKP) to establish an executive presidency.
“Do you know what my issue is?” he asked the cheering crowd. “Turkey should be run like a corporation. Otherwise you are shackled, just like now, and it is impossible to walk.”
Welcome to “New Turkey Inc.”
This reminded me of what a powerful bank director in Turkey told me, once upon a time. The AKP had been in power for some years and we had started to note some disturbing signals from the then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, who had complained of some overruling decision made by the Council of State about some construction projects.
“In his heart and mind he wants to rule this country like a mayor manages a city,” the banker told me.
“He wants to redesign politics as a lucrative business, from A to Z.”
Politics has always been business, but once power is personalized, simplified to a system under a “big boss,” the story becomes dramatic. The now-tarnished graft probes, dating back to December 17 and 25, 2013, will remain historic cases and serve as documentation, a warning of what can be expected once the judiciary is out of the way and no longer a “nuisance.”
The Cumhuriyet daily — as one of the very few independent outlets still engaged in investigative journalism — has been reporting how İstanbul Public Housing Corporation (KİPTAŞ) executives have acquired a hefty list of valuable properties during their tenure, becoming super rich.
Cumhuriyet’s top investigative reporter, Çiğdem Toker, yesterday wrote that Erdoğan’s much-talked-about city hospitals project — with at least 15 hospitals — hit a wall because international investors have openly expressed doubts as to whether or not the rule of law applies in Turkey any longer.
It is clear that the holders of international capital see the “New Turkey Inc.” differently than its enthusiastic architect, who wants to be the supreme leader, unchecked and immune. Foreign direct investments in Turkey are plummeting.
As Adnan Nas, a top manager of Global Investment Holding told Today’s Zaman:
“There are two essentials that global capital looks for: macroeconomic stability and the rule of law. The rule of law doesn’t exist in Turkey. We have never managed it. We have evaded the EU reforms and the [accession] process has slowed down. Our willingness [to pass reforms] through the EU [accession process] has become questionable.”
What former President Abdullah Gül once underlined, and what now Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan and Central Bank of Turkey Governor Erdem Başçı have for some time been fighting for, is exactly this. What is turning Turkey into a slow loser in international competition is the lack of institutionalization, consistency in the rule of law, trust, predictability and rational, not erratic, behavior.
Given the latest, strong patterns of Erdoğan’s interventionism in all economic affairs, his “New Turkey Inc.” model has all the opposites, and is bound for failure, and eventually, disaster.