Can Erdogan bring stability? Unlikely
THE TURKISH electorate went back a second time to the polls on Sunday and voted for stability. After five months of a hung parliament, terror attacks, media repression and renewed warfare with the Kurds, enough voters returned to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) to enable Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to form a majority government.
Whether or not this will bring the stability that Turks hope for depends largely on whether the government now acts to calm down tensions that it played a large part in stoking. And particularly, it depends on whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was not on the ballot but remains the figurehead of AK Party, shows he is capable of playing a conciliatory role.
The precedents are not encouraging.
While President Erdogan is interested in securing broader powers for himself, his party’s slim majority may not be sufficient to deliver this.
However, even if the three main opposition parties remain united against constitutional change, he will still be the most powerful figure in the state.
The more crucial question is whether the government that he led for 13 years and the security establishment that is controlled by loyalists can swiftly act to end the new round of violence with the Kurds. Ironically, the peace process with the PKK, which agreed to lay down its arms, was one of Mr Erdogan’s big achievements as prime minister.
However, in recent months, the government has milked — some would say provoked — the latest escalation. In the wake of horrendous suicide bombings in Turkey’s towns, including a double bombing in Ankara which killed 102 participants of a rally organised by the main Kurdish party, HDP, a wave of hysteria has spread throughout the country.
The security emergency also helped the government crack down on opposition organisations and media outlets critical of the government, sometimes using police, in other cases unidentified thugs.
HDP, the previous election’s surprise star, succeeded in crossing the 10 per cent threshold again and will continue playing a prominent role. However, a large number of voters, including at least some Kurds, shifted back to the AK Party in the hope that Mr Erdogan can contain the furies he and his lieutenants are accused of having unleashed. The opposition, split between nationalists, liberals and Kurds, has failed to present a united front.
In recent years, Mr Erdogan has angered most of Turkey’s Western and regional allies, including Israel. It downgraded its diplomatic relations with the Jewish state and avoided American attempts to coax it into rebuilding the once-strategic relationship. His victory will not have given much hope to Israel’s leaders that a rapprochement is in the offing. His first statement following the results was not encouraging. “One party has come to power in Turkey with around 50 per cent of the vote,” he said. “The entire world needs to respect this. I haven’t seen very much of such respect in the world.”
Government must calm tensions it played a large part in stoking