Opportunities and challenges for re-elected Turkish President

Wednesday, 2018-06-27 05:32:49
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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters as he leaves his residence in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo: Reuters)
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NDO – President Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been confirmed as the winners of the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections. Erdogan’s re-election can be seen as the support of a majority of the voters for his newly issued policies, both for the political system and for the constitution, aiming to deal with the numerous challenges being posed to Turkey, a NATO member country located between Asia and Europe.

The recent presidential and parliamentary elections are considered one of the most important political events in Turkey for the past few years. The winners will have new powers pursuant to the amended constitution supported and approved by President Erdogan in 2017, following a referendum. However, this is also the biggest political challenge for Erdogan and the AKP during their 15 years in charge of the country. With the victory, President Erdogan will have a chance to concretise the changes made to the constitution, which includes the transition from a parliamentary political regime to a presidential regime, giving more powers to the President in order to deal with an array of security and economic challenges. Meanwhile, the alliance between the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) won 42.4% and 11.2% of the votes (equivalent to 293 and 50 seats), respectively, thereby rescuing the AKP from losing its majority in the Parliament and avoiding the escalation of tensions between the head of state and the legislative body.

President Erdogan is about to embark on a new five-year term and will have a lot of work to deal with. Despite conceding defeat, the opposition representatives branded the elections unjust. The conflicts of interest continue to proceed between the parties. The Ankara administration taking drastic actions toward the opposition side after the unsuccessful coup in July 2016 has deepened the political conflicts. Meanwhile, the gloomy economic picture, the devaluation of the domestic currency, the inflation rate of up to 12%, and even the financial deficit at a high level, have triggered concerns in society, putting President Erdogan under pressure from multiple angles.

The issue of security is one of the major challenges for the Turkish leader. Turkey had to repeatedly extend the state of emergency against the threat of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) and the rioters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). President Erdogan conducted raids against the IS and PKK gunmen nationwide through military campaigns in northern Iraq. Turkey is also being affected by the wave of migrants spilling over from neighboring Syria as the West Asian country is considered a gateway for migrants to enter the “Old Continent”.

Despite being a NATO member, the relationship between Turkey and its bloc allies recently saw many complications surrounding Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system. Turkey’s move closer to Russia dissatisfied its NATO allies and led to the US adopting a US$716 billion defence policy bill, which includes an additional provision on banning the sale of F-35 aircrafts to Ankara, a move going against the spirit of a strategic partnership between the two allies. Earlier, the US-Turkey ties worsened after Washington refused to extradite the Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who was accused of orchestrating a failed military coup in Turkey. Meanwhile, relations between Turkey and the European Union (EU) have also become strained as many European countries are opposed to Turkey’s campaigns of repression after the coup. Shortly after President Erdogan won the elections, Russia, the US and the European Commission (EC) congratulated him on his re-election and expressed their hopes that he would continue to be an important partner in the context of Ankara’s increasing position and role in international and regional affairs.

President Erdogan has stated that he would give priority to ensuring security, and stabilising and rehabilitating the country’s economic development. However, he will have to face with numerous challenges from both at home and abroad. The opposition continues to oppose his oppressive security policies, while the regional situation is still proceeding complicatedly amid the vicious circle of violence and conflicts in neighboring countries.