First steps toward the official 'new Turkey'

With the "yes" vote having prevailed in the April 16 referendum, Turkey is opening a new page. There is an ongoing transition to a new system in which the president forms the Cabinet, stops pretending he is not affiliated with a political party and the executive and the legislative are fully separated from each other, Daily Sabah's Nagehan Alci writes in an article "First steps toward the official 'new Turkey".

Naturally, the transition proceeds step-by-step. The new system will fully come into force after the 2019 elections. But as of last Tuesday, the cliché of the "impartial president," the symbol of a decades-long hypocrisy, came to an end as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan became a member of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) again. No president in Turkish history has ever been impartial. Until Turgut Özal, all presidents had been former soldiers, defending the military tutelage and even serving as its key actors. Özal and Süleyman Demirel had supposedly left their parties, but never shed their political preferences.

Turgut Özal

Ahmet Necdet Sezer's term resembled those of soldier-presidents, with the presidency reduced to mere guardianship of the "ultra-secular regime." (Sadly, the late Demirel had served the same role during the Feb. 28 process.) At the end of Sezer's term, we witnessed how devious ways the bureaucratic-military alliance, in collaboration with the Republican People's Party (CHP), could resort to in order to prevent the election of Abdullah Gül. The foundation that was laid today for a new Turkey originated from the revolt against that obstruction.

Ahmet Necdet Sezer

It is clear that President Erdoğan and the AK Party enter the new period with determination, launching the march for the 2019 targets amid new dynamics. I was among the journalists covering the president's visit to India on Sunday and Monday. I have made some observations during that important visit about the road map of the new period. The AK Party will focus on a multifaceted foreign policy with the synergy of President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. Positive signals from the West are being evaluated. Positive messages from the meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Malta were noted. The president may hold important meetings during the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels.

On the other hand, during the scheduled meeting with the U.S. president on May 16-17, the goal is to persuade Trump to slam the brakes on the pro-Democratic Union Party (PYD) policy in Syria and agree to Turkey's participation in the approaching Raqqa operation and its presence in Syria. Turkey aims to emphasize its alliance relationship with the West in the new period. However, that does not depend only on Turkey as the stance of the EU and the U.S. is also critical. Indeed, the president's messages en route to Turkey from India and at the ceremony held for his return to the AK Party were meant for Europe. "We want the talks with the EU to continue, but if you don't open new chapters and insist on your negative attitude, then we will proceed on our own way, we are not dependent on you," Erdoğan said.

Apart from his policy towards the West, Erdoğan seems to continue to criticize the global system and giving a voice to the oppressed. In fact, he is already recognized all over the world as the "defender of the oppressed, particularly of Muslims." It was impossible not to notice that in India. Despite a population of 1.4 billion, India is not a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and Turkey's call to "reform this council, introduce a rotating membership system and abolish permanent membership, otherwise the existing problems would persist" had enormous reverberations. Of course, the current five permanent members will not give up their seats. But voicing out this demand, at least as an objection, is quite meaningful.

In short, we will see a restructuring effort during the new period, with the return of President Erdoğan bringing about a "reset" of sorts, the implementation of an inclusive foreign policy abroad and the passing of political and technical adjustment laws at home with a new energy, and the laying the building blocks of the new system. It seems likely that some important purges in media and politics will take place during this process.

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