2018-06-26

Sovereign globalism: why Turks vote for Erdogan


After the victory in the presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, of the ruling Justice and Development Party and its leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, virtually all mainstream media started writing about further strengthening of the authoritarian regime in Turkey, in which the president will have more powers, more tools for a direct and indirect control over both the legislative and judicial power. However, all these forecasts, although correctly pointing to the most important political processes, are based on a misunderstanding of the fundamental reasons for the appearance and so long existence of Erdogan's political power.

Undoubtedly, it was the economic successes of the Justice and Development Party that facilitated the adoption of a moderately conservative political force among the Turkish population in early 2002. Improvement of key economic indicators, for example GDP per capita, which grew from $ 3,660 (in 2002) to more than $ 11,000 (in 2018), it became a pledge that the growing middle class of the country increasingly associated its future with the political future of Erdogan's party.

In the framework of the economic approaches to long-term macroeconomic development that continued from the 2000s, the Turkish authorities gradually introduced measures aimed at reducing the role of the state in economic processes. The principles of the neoliberal economy assumed active measures for the opening of Turkey to the world through stimulating the external trade and an active attraction of foreign capital.

The main attention of state bodies in the matter of social security for all 16 years was limited only to the poorest layers. State investments actively went into the development of infrastructure and the construction of mega-projects. At the same time, considering the need to restructure the labor market and adapt it to the conditions of a globalizing economy, the government actively suppressed an oppositional trade union movement.

Of course, the processes of globalization and the implementation of neo-liberal economic development repetitions have never been painless. With the growth in the number of opportunities and the diminishing role of the state in the issue of a more equitable distribution of incomes, inequality has grown in Turkey, with more and more often the supporters of the ruling party from the direct environment of Erdogan appear among the new-nouveaux riches of Turkey. The national economy has become increasingly dependent on the global market environment, while the bulk of the Turkish population now had to rely only on their own forces in the matter of social guarantees.

The Turkish model of neoliberal development deserves attention due to the fact that the ruling forces and their supporters among citizens, direct beneficiaries of economic reforms, actively promoted a fairly authoritarian model of political management. The logic of political formations of recent years consisted in building in Turkey, on the one hand, an effectively functioning state apparatus with a clear vertical system for implementing the reform program determined by the president. On the other hand, political reforms were aimed at suppressing any political opposition that could slow the continuation of the neoliberal reforms in the country.

Accordingly, the Turkish authorities have always been ready to act against politically dissenting people where protests could have a negative impact on business. In order to prevent the emergence of foci of opposition within the bureaucracy, there is a process of politicization of state bodies, where government supporters are appointed to the governing bodies. There are also attempts to limit the opposition of the courts and parliament: the authorities carefully control the process of appointing and training judicial personnel, while the parliament is forced to act in extremely disadvantageous framework.

The most interesting element of Turkish political development is that political authorities, controlling the public information space, prefer to limit public discussions exclusively to political topics. It is obvious that the main motivation of Erdogan and his supporters in the parliament is to stimulate the development of the national economy, using all the benefits of globalization to strengthen its own power. Therefore it is logical to assume that the opposition should criticize the economic approaches of Erdogan. Despite this, the ruling forces translate all the obsessions into the sphere of confrontation between the secular and conservative Turkey, the populist rhetoric of Erdogan, the mention of foreign conspiracies against Turkey, the plans of the internal enemies to organize another coup.

At the same time, it should be recognized that Erdogan's populism is combined with active measures of support for the state of civil society, namely, that part of it that promotes conservative traditional values. It may seem surprising that this support is combined with attempts to open Turkey to the old world, but it should be taken into account that this combination is the philosophy of the Islamic reformist ideological movement, from which Erdogan and his supporters come: Turkey must take an important place in the world through the saddle of globalization processes this is to preserve its Islamic identity.

The victory of Erdogan and his party means the continuation of the policy of neoliberal reforms. In 2023 a grand celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic is expected. Erdogan clearly indicated in the program of actions "Vision 2023" that he intends to achieve the inclusion of the country in the European Union. Moreover, among the plans there is also Turkey's entry into the 10th most developed economies of the world with an economy of 2 trillion US dollars and with GDP per capita over 25 thousand dollars. Turkey should increasingly trade with the world: the volume of exports should reach $ 500 billion. Such ambitious goals mean that Erdogan, having obtained the people's mandate for the presidency for the next five years, does not intend to waste energy and time on conducting a dialogue with the political opposition. Nor did Erdogan have any special incentives for dialogue: the parliament, with the adoption of the new constitution, has not ceased to be a political institution, to which one must listen.

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