July 6, 2014

Erdoğan’s presidency

Fatma Dişli Zıbak

In order to fulfill his dream of becoming Turkey’s 12th president, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan -- who announced his candidacy for the top state post earlier this month -- began his campaign in the Black Sea city of Samsun. Samsun has symbolic importance as it is the place where Mustafa Kemal Atatürk launched Turkey’s War of Independence in 1919. Columnists have discussed symbols in Erdoğan’s campaign and how, being a leader who has become increasingly authoritarian and willing to disregard the rule of law, his presidency will drag the country into chaos.

Zaman’s Mustafa Ünal says that Erdoğan’s beginning his election campaign in Samsun is a deliberate choice and he wants his journey to be like Atatürk’s, who ended his journey at the Çankaya presidential palace. Asking why Erdoğan seems like he is following in Atatürk’s footsteps and has now come closer to the symbols he remained distant from for so long, Ünal says it is not difficult to guess as every politician believes they have an “extraordinary mission,” and there has always been “saviors” in this land, including former President Kenan Evren, leader of the Sept. 12, 1980 military coup. “Erdoğan has never hidden the fact that he sees the election as a ‘war of independence.’ He mentions this openly. If there is talk about independence, a struggle or war, then there needs to be an enemy. A war is unthinkable without an enemy. Erdoğan’s enemy is obvious,” says Ünal, implying that the faith-based Hizmet movement, against which Erdoğan has declared war, is the enemy. Ünal thinks Erdoğan wants to give the message that he is waging a war against a domestic enemy, the Hizmet movement. “Is this reality? No. Reality is different to perception. Everything Erdoğan is doing [to defame the Hizmet movement] is to cover up the graft allegations directed at his government,” the columnist says, but he believes no matter what strategy Erdoğan develops, he will not be able to make people forget the graft allegations and how his government interfered in the judiciary to evade investigations. “This strategy may make Erdoğan win the election but it will lose him much more, namely the right path and the ability to rule. The general situation of the country is not promising,” says Ünal.

T24’s Murat Bayer talks about the most likely scenario in Turkey if Erdoğan, who has been criticized by many for becoming more and more authoritarian, is elected president. He thinks in the event of Erdoğan winning the election, Turkey will enter a period of rule by a “father president,” where the principle of the separation of powers will be ruined and society will be left “breathless” due to the 12-year power domination of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and Erdoğan’s personal and psychological traits. “So, this election is more than merely a presidential election; it is about whether we want a ‘father president.’ You can guess how a ‘father president’ regime would be dangerous for Turkey, being a country which has not yet attained full [democratic] maturity,” says Bayer.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 06 July 2014, Sunday