‘There is no al­ter­na­tive can­di­date against Er­doğan yet’

De­spite the push to present Meral Akşener, the chair­woman of the newly es­tab­lished İYİ Party, as an al­ter­na­tive can­di­date against Pres­i­dent Er­doğan in the run up to the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, Pro­fes­sor Du­ran thinks this will not trans­late into re­sul

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page -

Last week, Na­tion­al­ist Move­ment Party (MHP) dis­si­dent Meral Akşener an­nounced the pro­tracted for­ma­tion of the İYİ Party (Good Party). Im­me­di­ately af­ter her an­nounce­ment, the party be­gan to re­ceive sup­port from West­ern me­dia out­lets.

Dr. Burhanet­tin Du­ran, the gen­eral co­or­di­na­tor of Turkey’s lead­ing think tank, the Foun­da­tion for Po­lit­i­cal, Eco­nomic and So­cial Re­search (SETA), ac­knowl­edged that there are some cir­cles in West­ern coun­tries and even some Gulf coun­tries that do not want Pres­i­dent Er­doğan to be elected pres­i­dent in 2019. There­fore they are sup­port­ing the new po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment in Turkey.

Akşener was a prom­i­nent name among MHP dis­si­dents who have heav­ily crit­i­cized the poli­cies of the MHP’s 20-year chair­man, Devlet Bahçeli, af­ter the gen­eral elec­tions on June 7 and Nov. 1, 2015. She sig­naled last week dur­ing the of­fi­cial launch­ing of her party that she will be run­ning for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tions in 2019. Former MHP dis­si­dent can­di­dates, Gaziantep deputy Ümit Öz­dağ and former Pub­lic Works and Hous­ing Min­is­ter and Trab­zon deputy Ko­ray Ay­dın are also among the founders of the party.

How­ever, the prom­i­nent aca­demic said he be­lieved that Meral Akşener is not the can­di­date who can “re­place” Er­doğan, pre­dict­ing that the true can­di­date will be­come ap­par­ent to­ward the elec­tion.

Re­gard­ing the re­cent visa spat be­tween Turkey and the U.S., Du­ran said there are struc­tural prob­lems be­tween the two coun­tries such as the U.S.’s sup­port of the PKK ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion and the Gülenist Ter­ror Group (FETÖ). There­fore, he said, strate­gic part­ner­ship is hol­lowed out be­tween the U.S and Turkey. He also said we should ex­pect new ten­sions in Turkey-U.S. re­la­tions as along as th­ese struc­tural prob­lems con­tinue.

Com­ment­ing on anti-Er­doğan rhetoric in some West­ern cap­i­tals, he dis­missed the al­le­ga­tions that Turkey’s po­lit­i­cal will and the pres­i­dent is stray­ing from EU val­ues. He un­der­lined that it is un­re­al­is­tic to ex­pect Turkey’s re­la­tions with the West­ern world to get back on track if the gov­ern­ment changes with the 2019 elec­tions as long as the next ad­min­is­tra­tion does not give up Turkey’s na­tional in­ter­ests.

Daily Sabah: Why do you think Meral Akşener’s newly formed po­lit­i­cal party is re­ceiv­ing sig­nif­i­cant sup­port from West­ern me­dia? BurhAnet­tin Du­rAn:

They don’t want Er­doğan to be elected pres­i­dent in 2019. This isn’t lim­ited to the West alone; such de­sire is also present in the Gulf. FETÖ and the July 15 coup at­tempt re­vealed that they want a frag­ile Turkey. They want to min­i­mize Turkey’s re­gional ac­tiv­i­ties. In short, they want a frag­ile Turkey, but not a bro­ken one, as it would spread in­sta­bil­ity.

Er­doğan has be­come a tar­get be­cause he wants to strengthen Turkey; this process needs the re­def­i­ni­tion of re­la­tions. Turkey is not in a po­si­tion to im­pose this change; how­ever, oth­ers aren’t will­ing to ne­go­ti­ate. For this rea­son, Er­doğan has be­come dan­ger­ous for them; he shouldn’t be elected pres­i­dent in 2019.

They want to form a coali­tion out of the op­po­si­tion; they deem the sim­ple ma­jor­ity as an op­por­tu­nity. They will pol­ish cer­tain names for this pur­pose. We’ll have hec­tic do­mes­tic and for­eign poli­cies un­til the 2019 elec­tions. Yes, Meral Akşener is be­ing sup­ported by the West­ern me­dia; how­ever, I don’t be­lieve Meral Akşener is the can­di­date who could “re­place” Er­doğan. They will look for an­other can­di­date be­sides her. Akşener is ex­pected to steal the votes from the Na­tion­al­ist Move­ment Party (MHP) and the Jus­tice and De­vel­op­ment Party (AK Party), while be­ing on the same page with the anti-Er­doğan coali­tion. I be­lieve the [party’s] true can­di­date will be­come ap­par­ent to­wards the elec­tion.

DS: how do you eval­u­ate turkey’s re­la­tions with the u.S.? Do you be­lieve the two coun­tries will be able to over­come the visa cri­sis and mend ties? B.D.:

I could say that this is the most crit­i­cal pe­riod of the re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries. This cri­sis could’ve been far worse. Firstly, the U.S.’s ap­proach was too harsh, con­sid­er­ing Turkey and the U.S. are NATO al­lies. Mean­while, Turkey sees that the U.S., a “strate­gic part­ner,” is not lend­ing a help­ing hand in the fight against ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions like FETÖ and the PKK; in fact, it is pro­tect­ing them.

There were past in­stances of crises be­tween Turkey and the U.S.; how­ever, this is the first time Turkey’s vi­tal in­ter­ests are be­ing tar­geted and the pub­lic be­lieves the U.S. is the per­pe­tra­tor. The will to co­op­er­ate be­tween Pres­i­dent Trump and Pres­i­dent Er­doğan isn’t yet ex­tin­guished. Ini­tially, there were ex­pec­ta­tions about the for­ma­tion of new fields of co­op­er­a­tion and res­o­lu­tion of ex­ist­ing crises. There­fore, the crises weren’t this deep.

How­ever, the cur­rent sta­tus in­di­cates that this is no longer the fact. It’s ob­vi­ous that Trump doesn’t have sway over the U.S. in­sti­tu­tions; mean­while Turkey is in a po­si­tion to no longer stay idle to poli­cies tar­get­ing the coun­try it­self.

Be­side FETÖ and the PKK, the Reza Zarrab trial and ar­rest war­rants is­sued for Er­doğan’s cer­tain body­guards sig­ni­fies that the cri­sis has evolved; the U.S. is ag­gres­sive and testy while im­ple­ment­ing a for­eign pol­icy that re­de­fines the coun­try’s global role. This has neg­a­tive con­se­quences for Turkey.

In this re­spect, the Zarrab trial lim­its Turkey as well as Iran. The names of Turk­ish banks and politi­cians are be­ing dis­cussed; a Halk­bank chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer (COO) is im­pris­oned. It seems like the U.S. is try­ing to pull of an op­er­a­tion that tar­gets Iran, Turkey and Pres­i­dent Er­doğan through ju­di­cial ex­cuses, right be­fore the 2019 elec­tions. It is ob­vi­ous that such an at­tempt won’t mend Turk­ish-Amer­i­can re­la­tions. More­over, the U.S. doesn’t have com­pre­hen­sive poli­cies on Iraq and Syria; in­deed, Pres­i­dent Trump’s new Iran strat­egy doesn’t seem like a com­pre­hen­sive pol­icy.

In such an en­vi­ron­ment, the U.S. has to re­vise its poli­cies to­wards coun­tries like Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Ara­bia, which are at the core of the Mid­dle East. Con­sid­er­ing that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is all over the place, this will be a chal­lenge. All in all, we should ex­pect new ten­sions in the re­la­tion be­tween Turkey and the U.S.

DS: Could you elab­o­rate on what you meant when you said “un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances, the al­liance be­tween turkey and the u.S. is mean­ing­less?” B.D.:

Al­liances rely on com­mon in­ter­ests; con­flict- ing in­ter­ests are dis­cussed on the side. How­ever, the al­liance be­tween Turkey and the U.S., which was once deemed as a model al­liance, came to such a point that there is more cri­sis than con­sen­sus.

This was caused es­pe­cially by the U.S.’s Syr­ian pol­icy; poli­cies aim­ing to force Bashar As­sad to step down trans­formed into ones that di­rectly sup­port the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units (YPG). More­over, the FETÖ ring­leader’s res­i­dency in the U.S. and the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion’s re­luc­tance in re­veal­ing FETÖ’s or­ga­ni­za­tion in the coun­try is an­other cause of the tense re­la­tions.

In ad­di­tion, Turkey is be­ing tar­geted over sanc­tions on Iran. I’m not even go­ing to talk about all the in­sults to­ward Pres­i­dent Er­doğan that is pub­lished in the U.S. press.

There­fore, strate­gic part­ner­ship is hol­lowed out; the two coun­tries only share in­tel­li­gence and are members of the NATO. If new fields of co­op­er­a­tion aren’t cre­ated, crises are ex­ac­er­bated and if the U.S.’s poli­cies con­tra­dict with Turkey’s vi­tal in­ter­ests and sur­viv­abil­ity, th­ese ten­sions will be­come struc­tural. It may alien­ate the two coun­tries in a man­ner that sur­passes ad­min­is­tra­tions and fig­ures.

Call­ing the sup­port of YPG ter­ror­ists “tac­ti­cal re­la­tions” has un­der­mined the strate­gic part­ner­ship be­tween the U.S. and Turkey. Turk­ish-Amer­i­can re­la­tions should be re­vised. It doesn’t have to be a strate­gic part­ner­ship; how­ever, in­ter­ests of both par­ties shouldn’t con­tra­dict to this ex­tent. Tac­ti­cal tar­gets for the U.S. are vi­tal for Turkey. This in­di­cates an asym­me­try in the re­la­tions. The U.S. be­ing a su­per­power doesn’t en­sure healthy bi­lat­eral re­la­tions, or it doesn’t mean that Turkey will re­lin­quish its vi­tal in­ter­ests just for the sake of the U.S.

Pres­i­dent Er­doğan has started to ques­tion this strate­gic part­ner­ship and stated that it is dis­cuss­able. Now, we see it’s com­pletely hol­low. If th­ese re­la­tions are to be mended, an over­haul is needed. Is­sues should be dis­cussed and new part­ner­ships should be es­tab­lished.

DS: Do you be­lieve that a change in the turk­ish ad­min­is­tra­tion will re­new re­la­tions be­tween the u.S. and turkey?

B.D.:

In­clud­ing Europe in the mat­ter, Turkey’s is­sues with the West­ern al­lies are struc­tural. Firstly, the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem is go­ing through a pe­riod of un­cer­tainty. We’re at a point where the U.S. is pre­par­ing to re­lin­quish its role as the global leader while main­tain­ing its pres­ence in var­i­ous mat­ters. Trump’s wish to with­draw from mul­ti­lat­eral agree­ments in­di­cates that the U.S. no longer wants to pro­vide se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity; in­stead, the U.S. wants coun­tries to achieve th­ese on their own. The U.S. de­sires that Euro­pean pow­ers, es­pe­cially Ger­many, participate in the re­dis­tri­bu­tion of this bur­den.

The emer­gent in­sta­bil­ity in the Mid­dle East fol­low­ing the Arab Spring has spread to Europe. De­spite not hav­ing con­stant ter­ror­ist at­tacks and eco­nomic crises, un­cer­tainty is rul­ing Europe to­day. Sev­eral ter­ror­ist at­tacks and a mil­lion refugees were enough to push the EU to ex­treme right move­ments, racism and Is- lam­o­pho­bia. Ex­trem­ist par­ties have in­creased their votes and some even be­come coali­tion part­ners.

Th­ese de­vel­op­ments in­di­cate a long-term po­lit­i­cal-ide­o­log­i­cal cri­sis for Europe. The EU’s fu­ture af­ter Brexit is be­ing dis­cussed. More­over, we know re­gions like Cat­alo­nia along with cer­tain coun­tries are try­ing to break away. In this sense, we’re cur­rently in an age of un­cer­tain­ties. Yet, we can def­i­nitely say that this dis­solves the tra­di­tional al­liance re­la­tions; coun­tries might co­op­er­ate in cer­tain fields while com­pet­ing against each other in re­main­ing field. This is a new po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion; this isn’t only true for Turkey, but also for the Amer­i­can-Rus­sian re­la­tions. The re­la­tions be­tween the U.S. and China also have the same po­ten­tial in terms of ten­sion, so does the re­la­tions with Europe. In this re­spect, the pri­mary rea­son of tense re­la­tions be­tween the West and Turkey is due to th­ese un­cer­tain­ties.

An­other rea­son is pe­cu­liar to Turkey. The po­lit­i­cal will rep­re­sented by Er­doğan try­ing to take Turkey to the next level is dis­com­fort­ing the West. Re­def­i­ni­tion of re­la­tions and dis­so­lu­tion of the asym­me­try in re­la­tions ag­i­tates them. This is the main rea­son why Europe and the U.S. are against Er­doğan; Turkey wants to redefine its re­la­tions ac­cord­ing to its new role. This is not a lux­ury for Turkey, but an obli­ga­tion.

Why does Turkey have to be more ac­tive and dar­ing? Turkey could’ve been less dar­ing and main­tained its re­la­tions with the West­ern al­lies as it is. How­ever, the un­cer­tain­ties of the in­ter­na­tional sys­tem along with the civil wars oc­cur­ring in the re­gion forces Turkey to take ac­tion. It re­quires Turkey to be more ac­tive and re­solve its is­sues with pre­cau­tions.

Oth­er­wise, coun­tries like Turkey and Iran might have to face larger is­sues in a decade or two. I be­lieve Saudi Ara­bia is more frag­ile in this re­spect. This cri­sis might lead to the dis­so­lu­tion of na­tion-states, mass in­flux of refugees and ter­ror­ist in­cur­sions. There­fore, ac­cord­ing to the re­al­i­ties of the re­gion, Turkey has to im­ple­ment proac­tive poli­cies in its bi­lat­eral re­la­tions. This proac­tiv­ity is some­times deemed as in­con­sis­tency; how­ever, as For­eign Min­is­ter Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated, “One can­not walk straight in a mine­field.”

The is­sue is that West­ern al­lies re­mem­ber the old Turkey and they want Turkey to cause fewer prob­lems to them. Pres­i­dent Er­doğan is cur­rently the only leader who crit­i­cizes the in­jus­tice of the cur­rent global sys­tem. It is Er­doğan who con­stantly speaks about the tragedy of Syr­ian refugees and threats posed by ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions.

DS: What is your opin­ion on al­le­ga­tions that turkey is mov­ing away from europe? B.D.:

If this is about Turkey not be­ing al­lowed to be­come an EU mem­ber, Er­doğan’s call for the EU to de­cide is jus­ti­fied. Turkey has been wait­ing on EU’s door for years; this is un­prece­dented. Nev­er­the­less, Turkey leaves this de­ci­sion up to the EU. This de­ci­sion has con­se­quences re­gard­ing the econ­omy, trade and sta­bil­ity. Turkey’s re­la­tions with the EU fa­cil­i­tate sta­bil­ity in the Balkans and East­ern Europe.

Sim­i­larly, Turkey’s pros­per­ity is cru­cial for the EU; they haven’t re­sorted to direr ini­tia­tives against Turkey as they know the coun­try’s im­por­tance for Europe. Turkey buffered the Syr­ian cri­sis. When a mil­lion refugees started to walk into Europe, they were in a panic. First Brexit took place, and then many coun­tries in Europe sub­mit­ted to pop­ulism and the ex­treme right. It is clear that a cri­sis be­tween Turkey and the EU will lead to in­sta­bil­ity in the Balkans and East­ern Europe.

More­over, Rus­sia will put more pres­sure on the EU, forc­ing Europe into a state of un­cer­tainty and cri­sis. There­fore, Turkey only wants a sym­met­ri­cal re­la­tion with EU. Turkey has been go­ing through tur­bu­lence since 2013. It’s fac­ing ter­ror, refugees and in­sta­bil­ity that could col­lapse any Euro­pean coun­try. Turkey didn’t re­ceive any sup­port from the U.S. or Europe; on the con­trary, they have at­tempted to un­der­mine Turkey.

Do­mes­tic is­sues, harsh op­po­si­tion and the July 15 coup at­tempt didn’t cause any change in Turkey’s al­liances. The ar­rests of cer­tain jour­nal­ists and Euro­pean cit­i­zens are be­ing crit­i­cized; how­ever, if sim­i­lar events had taken place in Europe, they would’ve been a lot harsher than Turkey. Even the rise of ex­treme right par­ties in Europe gives us that hint.

Pro­fes­sor Du­ran says that Ak ener, as a pos­si­ble can­di­date in the 2019 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, will not be a strong ri­val for Pres­i­dent Er­doğan.

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