Enter Gül, but then what?

In my article for The Guardian titled “Turkey’s people have acted to prevent an autocratic nightmare” (June 10), I shared the following observation:

“[President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan lost his daredevil gamble. He now faces defeat and eventual isolation.”

Far-fetched though it may have sounded, this is the case, I maintain, in the long run.

In the June 7 elections, almost 60 percent of voters across the table told Erdoğan to give up on his project to personalize power and emphasized boldly the democratic role of the legislative body as the epicenter of checks and balances.

They clearly suggested that the “new deal” for straightening out the system had been turned upside down due to Erdoğan’s constant, legally disputable political engineering.

”This is both an abrupt re-balancing of the political landscape and a loud ‘no’ to the prospect of a presidential regime,” wrote Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador and an observer of Turkey-EU relations. ”Turkey has returned to a nationally nurtured political normalcy.”

And, given the arithmetic, Turkey’s solidifying fronts of “social resistance” and lessons of political history, Erdoğan will, in the end, lose.

For one thing, the terms “learning process” and “consensus” have long been chased out of his vocabulary. The main actor in the central stage is acting solely on survival instincts and the more obsessed he acts to find ways to revive his dream project to rule untouchably, the quicker he will end up defeated, for good.

Now, we are at the preceding “isolation” stage. Erdoğan recently reminded the nation that his defiant self was in action and he insisted that he will be the one to orchestrate coalition negotiations instead of simply delegating that role to a party leader, beginning with Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. His plan is to invite all four leaders to his legally disputed palace and he hopes that they will visit him there before he decides to whom to deliver the duty to discuss coalition formations.

Yesterday it became rather clear that all three opposition leaders categorically reject his proposal. Logically, it would have been an act of swallowing all sorts of acrimony that Erdoğan had directed at them during his constitutionally disputed election rallies. This is probably the beginning of his isolation — a nightmare he dreads.

But the rest is rather a riddle at the moment because Erdoğan deliberately had his party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), fail to transform the way its politics are conducted, Ankara — with its “inner state” formations and unreformed, provincial-minded political class — has now reverted to its notorious reflexes, which can deepen a crisis already arrived.

Erdoğan’s strategy is clear:

To play for time as much as possible and to bring Turkey into the doldrums for the electorate so to invent new pretexts for claiming that the current system is dead and announce early elections.

Will it work? To begin with, there is a basic element of realpolitik in his disfavor. All those new deputies, including ones from the AKP, would be very unwilling to accept that Turkey goes to early polls because most of them spent a lot of energy — and some money — to be elected and they are preparing to enjoy lucrative salaries and pensions. And the leaders of all the parties will have to take account of that fact.

Another point is that there seems to be enough wisdom among the opposition parties that if the objective is restoration, Erdoğan is part of the problem, rather than otherwise. It has dawned on some AKP party officials — who now murmur their discontent in private — that his isolation is necessary, should the party go ahead with renewal.

Davutoğlu also sees his survival in widening his base through the old guard. Former President Abdullah Gül’s entry falls into this context. They are said to have met privately some days ago and drawn a roadmap.

Rumors also have it that Davutoğlu will seek to build a coalition with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). This path is bound to be based on the conditions of pushing Erdoğan aside and securing his isolation.
But it may not suffice. Erdoğan is the loser, but he has not run out of ammunition. Only a firm stand against him from the AKP could rebut his cunning strategy. A lot depends on whether or not the Republican People’s Party (CHP) is somehow part of the equation.


About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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