Erdogan presidential win unlikely to unite turbulent Turkey
Outgoing prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the simple majority he was hoping for in Turkey’s first-ever direct election for president. In his victory speech he promised to unite the country. Some hope!
“I will not be the president of only those who voted for me, I will be the president of 77 million,” Erdogan announced to flag-waving supporters from the balcony of the headquarters of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara.
But his idea of uniting the country seems to involve the opposition falling in line behind his agenda.
He called on them to "review their policies" to make them compatible with his "new Turkey" ideal.
"Those who accuse us of one-man rule ... should please question themselves sincerely," he said.
Meanwhile, many secularists are muttering darkly about the new president’s alleged authoritarianism and pondered leaving the country.
Erdogan can have two terms as president, meaning that he could remain at the head of the country until 2024, allowing him to preside over the centenary of the foundation of the Turkish republic in 1913.
After learning that he had won about 52 per vent of the votes, compared to secularist candidate Ekmeleddine Isahnoglu’s 38.3 per cent and Kurdish left-winger Selhettin Dermitas’s 9.7 per cent, Erdogan went to pray in the Eyup Sultan mosque, built after the 1453 conquest of Constantinople - now Istanbul - by the Ottomans.
That was where the Ottoman sultans were crowned and Erdogan, who flew on to Ankara to meet his ecstatic fans, hopes to strengthen the presidency, which at present is largely a formal role.
He is likely to succeed in that task, having purged much of the state apparatus of opponents afer falling out with US-based cleric Fehtullah Gulen, whose supporters appear to have been behind leaks of evidence of corruption in his family and entourage.
And soon, as president, he will appoint new members of the constitutional council, removing any blocks to changing the constitution if the AKP fails to win a two-thirds majority in the next election.
That election is likely to be brought forward, meaning another no-holds-barred election campign.
The largest opposition parties, the secularist People’s Republican Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), have suffered a severe blow with Ihsanoglu failing to force Erdogan to go to a second round.
Even before the election result their morale was low but it may have received a small boost from the fact that opinion poll predictions of an Erdogan win of 58 per cent or more proved excessive.
Demirtas’s vote was higher than his party, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), ever won under any of its previous identities.
He won support from the hard left, on a relative roll after last year’s massive anti-Erdogan protests, as well as the Kurdish ethnic minority, the party’s traditional base.
The HDP and its allies will keep up the pressure to conclude the peace process with the separatist guerrilla movement, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), whose modalites they were shrwd enough to inscribe in law before the election.
Meanwhile, the party must find a new prime minister and the AKP a new leader, since the constitution stipulates that the president must not be a member of a political party.
Foreign Affairs Minister Ahmet Davurtoglu is tipped as the most likely new premier, although Transport Minister Binali Yildriim’s hat is also in the ring.
Outgoing president Abdullah Gul, the joint founder of the AKP with Erdogan, can now return to party politics but there is speculation that economist Numan Kirtulmus, not currently an MP, may be brought in to head the party.
The AKP being a coalition of religious conservatives, business interests and political right-wingers and not immune to personal rivalries, divisions may appear in its ranks.
Its Islamist predecessors have always relied on a strong leader, which is also much of Erdogan’s appeal, and broken up when the leader exits the scene.
So, despite a conclusive presidential election result, a return to the turbulent normal for Turkish politics is on the cards.
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