After a very controversial election, president Erdogan has been reelected in Turkey. With 180 dissident journalists in prison, 200 media outlets shut down and the majority of the existing media is under his control, one of his rivals in prison and the others could barely manage to appear on media to spread their opinions, Erdogan could barely secure the 52 percent of the votes. Claims of ballot stuffing, moving the ballot boxes in Kurdish region which the ruling party receives less vote than other areas, over a million votes cancelled mostly in Kurdish cities and unexplainable rise in votes of the Nationalist ally of Erdogan in Kurdish districts overshadowed his victory. Foreign observers noted that it was an unfair period of campaigning.
In 2015, Erdogan said that he wants to run the country like a corporation. Constitutional amendments passed by last year’s referendum allow him to realize his dream now. The parliament has been defunctionalized in the new system which centres the whole state power in the President. The president literally took over each and every one of the powers of the Parliament. Laws cannot be passed without his consent, but he can enact whatever he desires without any limitation. Judiciary is his absolute control and it has no capacity to review his decisions or to issue verdicts that are against his will. In other words, Turkey’s already non-independent judiciary has become the tool of the President. Ergun Ozbudun, a senior expert on the Constitutional Law says “We can no longer talk about an impartial judiciary.”
According to Kerem Altiparmak, no checks and balances exist in the new system. “A constitution cannot exist without checks and balances” says the prominent law professor and rights defender. “This means that the new state is a state without a constitution” he states. Erdogan has long been pursuing this kind of freedom. His aid and the architecture of the new system once said “Poor Obama” to emphasize the mechanism of the checks and balances in the American system ties the hand of the President. According to Erdogan, the President should have the power to rule like a Sultan in order to make quick decisions with no limitations. The control of the parliament or the judicial reviews on his ruling can only be a waste of time in his opinion.
Now, he has the power he has always sought. Looking at the cabinet he formed gives much hints to how he will run the country like precisely a CEO of a corporate company. For example, he assigned his son-in-law as the minister in charge of economy and treasure. One last pillar of the already collapsing economy was the existence of Mehmet Simsek in charge. He was one of the last reasonable persons in Erdogan’s government who is perceived by the Western investors as someone who can be negotiated. The first reaction of the markets to the new boss of the economy shows the impending disaster. Lira fell to 4,75 against the dollar from 4,45 in hours.
Other members of the new cabinet are also somehow in connection with Erdogan’s personal business agenda. This is not good news for the economy nor the democracy of Turkey. Already suffered from the severe clampdown launched in the aftermath of the attempted coup, Turkey is called now an “institutionalized autocracy” by Marc Pierini, the former ambassador of EU to Turkey. All institutions of Turkey now are controlled by the all-powerful President. That indicates that rights violation will increase in the country and membership to EU will not be on the agenda for a long time.
It is now high time to inquire the role of European leadership in Turkey’s sliding into autocracy. Alienating Turkey when it was in a promising way of Europeanization is one of the things that European leadership must criticize itself. Also, avoiding involvement of a direct confrontation with Erdogan when he committed severe assaults to democratic institutions of Turkey including the judiciary, media and the parliament (e.g. imprisoning opposition MP’s) for the sake of refugee deal was a big mistake made by the European leaders. Now they have to deal with a more powerful Erdogan who is a potential Putin.
Dr Ugur Tok is the Director of Platform for Peace and Justice in Brussels, http://www.platformpj.org/