New Turkey of "New Ataturk:" Dreams and opportunities of Recep Erdogan

Author : Nadia Koval

Like Putin, who mourns the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century, Erdogan is concerned with Ottoman heritage

12:55, 11 January 2017

Read the original text at eurointegration.com.ua.

newyorker.com

2016 was a very difficult year for every country, and it seems that for Turkey it was even more difficult and rapid than ever.

The country almost every month has been subjected to the ISIS or terrorist Kurdish organizations attacks. Noisy quarrel with Russia over the downed fighter in late 2015 transformed into equally rapid June’s convergence. An agreement with the EU on hosting the refugees in exchange for promoting a European agenda has changed with accusations and ultimatums. The situation with the Kurds reached the worst level; "preventive strikes" by Syrian Kurds and arrests of pro-Kurdish party leadership closed opportunities for compromise. Against this background, the lira has sharply devalued and other economic problems emerged.

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However, the most significant turning was the unfortunate military coup on July 15, and in particular the extent of the reaction to it. Putting all the responsibility on Fethullah Gulen for organizing the coup movement, the authorities began large-scale purge of undesirable elements.

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During the last six months about 40 thousand people were arrested, including More than 100 journalists; and more than 120 thousand people have been dismissed or suspended their powers of office. However, even the massacre of the allies is not a strategic goal. Erdogan perceived the coup a "gift of heaven" that would allow him to destroy the remnants of the opposition and concentrate his own power.

Erdogan's attempts to turn Turkey into a presidential republic last for several years. By July he did not have enough his own party votes in Parliament or consent of other political players to implement this scenario. Only the repeated parliamentary elections in November 2015 allowed him to increase the number of deputies of the Party of Justice and Development to 316.

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Stiff reaction to the coup and anti-Kurdish policy enabled the support of Party of nationalist movement leader (39 votes in parliament) Devlet Bahcheli in October 2016. Together they are able to overcome the threshold of 330 votes to make the following changes to the Constitution of the results of the referendum.

So long-awaited establishment of a presidential republic began to take its real shape, and the endeavor has sharply intensified. A few weeks ago, the parliament has submitted 18 proposals and amendments to the Constitution, and in the last days of December, they were approved by a constitutional committee of parliament. Under the most favorable scenario, in January the whole package to be approved at the plenary session, paving the way for a referendum in the spring - early summer 2017.

What kind of changes are we talking about?

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The president to elected by popular vote, he will be let to govern for two five-year terms and will be able to maintain official relations with his own party. The latter was a key requirement Erdogan, because it is forbidden by the current Turkish law.

President would form the Government independently of parliament; and the post of the prime minister will be abolished at all. Similarly, the president will be free in appointing his assistants and deputies, concentrating in his hands literally all the executive power.

Parliamentary and presidential elections will be held simultaneously. For this, cadence of the Parliament is extended from 4 to 5 years.

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It dramatically increases the president's control over parliament. It is also proposed to increase the number of MPs (from 550 to 600) and reduce the age for candidates for deputies from 25 to 18 years.

The parliament and the president will have the authority to choose the members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors. President will be entitled to additional civilian control of the army through a special State supervisory board.

Also, the president will have the right to appoint the head of the General Staff of Turkey, the number of National Security Council and will be reduced, and high military courts to be created. All these steps are designed to neutralize the army, which for decades has played a controlling role of defender of secular Westernized state, as a political player.

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If the referendum is successful (and recent polls show nearly 55% support), after a two-year transitional period when early elections are prohibited, it will create a centralized around a presidential regime with the elimination of balances (like prime minister, the army or the courts).

President partisanship and synchronization of elections will provide a single executive and legislative hierarchy, the only source of legitimacy which will be nation-wide vote. As for the person of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his reign could theoretically last until 2029 (two five-year terms from 2019).

The key here is that Erdogan's purpose is not power for power or power for the sake of economic exploitation.

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He has his own vision and desire to make history. Like Putin, who mourns the collapse of the Soviet Union as the greatest tragedy of the twentieth century, Erdogan concerned Ottoman heritage.

Recall that modern Turkey was founded in 1923 after the Ottoman Empire lost the World War I and was "pulled" into pieces. Only after the war of independence led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and signing of the Lausanne Treaty Turkey was formed as a modern secular republic with strict borders.

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Ataturk despised fallen Ottoman Empire and its legacy, introduced secularism and abolished the caliphate, replaced the Arabic script in Latin and took a general course on modern, secular, westernized regime. The army was the main institution that protected his legacy in recent decades. Often it directly interfered with coups, when it seemed that the government was too far away from the established limits.

Erdogan said that over the centuries that have passed since the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and after decades of Kemalism, it is time to renew the Turkish state. In 2017, gaining control of power, he tries to dismantle the secular Kemalist state and order. In domestic policy, it will be paralleled with further rejection of the principle of secularism in favor of Islamism, which is farther away from the moderate version (with which Erdogan was first elected to Parliament in 2002).

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An illustration of this is that New Year's shooting in the Istanbul club was preceded by aggressive campaign on the undesirability of New Year celebrations as extrinsic orthodox holiday; the "comic" scenes of violence against Santa Claus (which in Turkey is perceived rather as a Christmas character) were broadcasted on national TV channels.

Turkey's new foreign policy has already moved away from Ataturk’s idea "peace at home, peace in the world," which actually meant abstaining from adventures in the region.

The new active policy of Turkey's direct military involvement in Syria heralds a new era focusing on the former territories of the Ottoman Empire; it means an attempt of establishing its own sphere of influence in the region. It is about positioning Turkey as a protector of Sunnis, opposing Iran that supports the Shiites, from which followed the attempts to strengthen the position of the Sunnis in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen.

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The new approach starts comes from the numerous political statements, which are reassessing the historical interpretation. In particular, since the autumn of 2016, Erdogan and his supporters began to publicly criticize the Lausanne Treaty of 1923.

The new interpretation of the Lausanne Treaty, under which Turkey lost part of the territories specified in the National Pact of 1920, including the Syrian, Iraqi Mosul, and the Aegean Islands (which ceded to Greece), calls the decision almost as a betrayal of national interests.

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Also interest to the Turkish minorities that remained outside these boundaries is emphasized. Currently, this discourse is mostly used for internal mobilization and to justify the involvement of Turkey in regional conflicts, but some observers are beginning to see in it a note of future political irredentism.

Will Erdogan be "New Ataturk" or "Anti- Ataturk?" Will Turkish society be able to resist? The time will tell.

New course of Turkey is a tragedy for so-called "white Turks:" globalized and Westernized middle-class urban residents. And in the middle of this new Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is more and more often called the Sultan, Tayyip invariably sees himself.

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