Yuri Mavashev: "Erdogan seeks to secure his and AKP's victory"
Turkey will hold presidential elections ahead of schedule - on June 24, 2018m instead of November 3, 2019. Parliamentary elections will also be held on this day. This decision was made by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for speedy transition of the country to the presidential republic. Head of the political research of the Center for Modern Turkish Studies, Yuri Mavashev, discussed reasons behind this decision and its consequences in an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza.
- What made Erdogan held elections a year and a half early?
- Before assessing this seemingly unexpected step it's necessary to analyze events that happened a year ago. On April 16 of last year, a constitutional referendum on changing form of government from parliamentary to presidential republic was held in Turkey. After it ended, amendments to the constitution were approved, according to which president becomes a full-fledged head of state, while the post of prime minister is abolished, and the role of parliament becomes more nominal. It's also worth noting that a single voting day is introduced, in other words, presidential and parliamentary elections will be held simultaneously.
There are several reasons for both presidential and parliamentary elections to be held early. For Erdogan, it's extremely necessary to ensure right configuration of parliament, and the ratio of parliamentary forces, in my opinion, is one of the key factors that prompted president to intensify process of transition to presidential republic. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) doesn't have unconditional support of the electorate right now. 50% support this party, but they are very, very hesitant. In addition, some of those who initially supported this party in the past don't agree with its current policy. There's a city elite that think that political Islam, the basis of the AKP's and Erdogan's ideology, should be implemented differently. In these circumstances, president has to hold elections at the right time in order to get loyal parliament, otherwise he will face a serious obstacle in the future. Electoral preferences are formed, among other things, by those deputies that will be elected to parliament as well as to local authorities during municipal elections.
In the end president holds elections when he can afford to win and guarantee his power, that's how domestic policy works. On the one hand, he says that it's necessary to continue fight against terrorism in Syria and Iraq, but it's not the reason for holding elections early, rather a consequence of Turkey's internal problems. Erdogan can't openly say that he feels insecure in Turkey, insecure because of protest sentiments in Istanbul and Ankara. By the way, population of Istanbul and Ankara opposed amendments to the donstitution duinrg referendum, which means that large Turkish cities are against expansion of Erdogan's powers, that they see future of the republic differently than Erdogan. Another challenge for Erdogan is that a number of supporters of political Islam would like to see other leaders instead of him.
Current situation is complicated by personnel problems, associated with a lot of changes in the AKP because of the FETO, which significantly influenced balance of political forces in the country. It should be noted that one of the reforms has already come into force - president can head the list of any party, although previously Turkish presidents had to be nonpartisan. It's no coincidence, just like the fact that Erdogan became chairman of the AKP last May - now he, one way or another, merges with the party. By setting up early elections, he tries to strengthen positions of his party. In addition, Erdogan needs all amendments to the constitution to come into force as soon as possible in order to obtain more power.
- How will this situation affect election campaign in Turkey and final results for Erdogan himself?
- Erdogan will be able to capitalize on successes achieved in Syria and Iraq in the fight against the YPG in the remaining two months, so it will protect him from any unpredictable events that may occur in the next 1.5 years (and we should remember that international situation can radically change). The West has very difficult relations Russia, which represents an Eastern alternative to Western states, and Erdogan understands that something like anti-Russian campaign can happen with Turkey. He doesn't want to wait for this to happen, and understands that perhaps there's no time left, and it's necessary to go against expectations of his enemies both inside the country and abroad, until new protests, natural or organized, begin. There's no time, processes in the international life that are undoubtedly influencing Turkey's domestic policy due to its geopolitical location are just too fast. Turkey can't hide from international problems, it's always on the front line as a bridge between Europe and Asia. In addition, everyone follows event that happen in Turkey.
As for the results, Erdogan will likely win. If not in the first round, then he will win in the second one, where he has to get the majority. Will opposition succeed in nominating single in such a short time? It's big question due to the fact that elections will happen early: all calculations of the oppositionists mean nothing. It's possible that Meral Aksener will oppose Erdogan, perhaps many voters will vote for her. President undoubtedly thinks that opposition has huge potential, which is evidenced by rally, attended by 1 million people, which was organized by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, not the most popular person in the country that can't become a rival to Erdogan.
- What exactly will change after Turkey will complete transition to presidential form of government?
- The most important thing is that president will become commander-in-chief and army leadership will fade to the background. In addition, the government and party apparatus will finally merge, precisely and head of the rulling party are the same person. Due to this, no person outside of the AKP (or those loyal to it) will be able to hold high state posts. Just like in our Soviet era, no person outside the rulling party could hold state post, or become academician or professor. Now, in Turkey, you have to join party for career growth. In addition, there will be no prime minister, only vice-presidents. These changes will happen in Turkey thanks to new constitution.