Can Er­do­gan bring sta­bil­ity? Un­likely

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

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

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