2018-06-21

Will Turkish state survive Erdogan's presidency?


In Turkey, an electoral race for the presidency and seats in the parliament is in full swing. Results of June 24 election will predetermine how Turkey is going to develop in the next 5 years already under new constitution. For the ruling party, current elections are especially important: Turkey must pass to the presidential system of governance. According to all calculations, if not in the first round, current president of the country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is bound to become the next head of state.

In the new system, the executive branch headed by Erdogan will have more opportunities for further reforms. These opportunities are due to the limited influence of the parliament on presidency, the remaining instruments of influence would require extraordinary measures from the legislature, for example, cooperation of parties to initiate a vote of no confidence, which in practice is impossible because of deep disagreements between political forces and social polarization.

Another source of new opportunities for Erdogan lies in the process of further politicization of state bodies and institutions, where politically loyal bureaucrats are appointed and well-designed cadre policy is pursued. These measures are aimed at building a managed state headed by the president. The politicization of institutions has the opposite side as well.

The negative effects of the current processes in the Turkish bureaucracy are already giving enough causes for concern. The Turkish lira lost 60% of its value over the past five years, and the aggregate foreign debt has reached $453 billion. Former head of the Central Bank of Turkey Durmush Yilmaz notes that officials since 2013 have been conducting an incorrect economic policy for political reasons. Relevant officials are pressured by the government, who appoints people who are not worthy but who are loyal to the president, to think politically rather than economically. 

Problems in the state bureaucracy are not limited to the economic sphere alone. Traditionally, an important political player - Turkish security forces, too, demonstrate the symptoms of professional degradation. The primary reason is all the same - wide spread politicization. For instance, in one of his pre-election speeches, Erdogan admitted that the country's intelligence agencies monitor rallies of opposition parties and compile reports on the political preferences of citizens participating in the events. Another example of the above process was the participation of Commander of the Second Field Army of Turkey Metin Temel in one of the political events, where the general openly expressed his sympathy for Erdogan's critical remarks directed against other presidential candidates.

The roll of the system of relations between state bodies towards the post of head of state has negative consequences for Turkey's foreign policy too. Thus, the diplomatic resources of the Turkish state are used, for example, to propagate during the elections in favor of Erdogan's party: Turkish consulates, having a database of Turkish citizens abroad, cooperate with local offices of the ruling party of Turkey and help them in the targeted distribution of materials, leaflets and letters .

Religious and cultural structures of Turkey are also under attack. In May of this year, it became known about the decision of local authorities in Germany to limit cooperation with the largest religious organization of the Turkish diaspora because of suspicions of the body's close cooperation with Ankara, which goes beyond the law and bilateral agreements. The imams appointed under the deal between Turkey and Germany are suspected of working for Turkish intelligence. It is alleged that religious leaders have been collection information about political opponents and vocal critics of the Turkish government.

It can be assumed that the system of checks and balances between the main branches of power in Turkey is a guarantee against such abuses. However, as the events of recent years have shown, judicial supervision and parliamentary control ceased to be effective instruments for limiting executive power. In the first days after the failed coup of undemocratic forces, Erdogan's government, instead of strengthening the independence of the judiciary and increasing the transparency of personnel appointments in the country's highest courts, began to actively replace the loyalists suspected of supporting coup plotters.

The result of the politicization of the third power was not only a drop in people's trust in the country's judicial system. The most dangerous for the democratic process is that the executive power has been able to suppress judicial initiatives in cases when there are serious violations of constitutional legislation. On the other hand, the political opposition is losing hope for the success of the struggle for power within the framework of democratic process.

The politicization of the Turkish bureaucracy is a direct consequence of the centralization of political control in the hands of a president. Considering that the new constitution promoted by Erdogan's supporters provides for an even greater strengthening of the role of the head of state, it can be argued that this process is part of the deliberate and conscious policy of the ruling party. Consolidation of power should lead to greater controllability of the state bureaucracy. In turn, manageability would be the basis of political stability necessary for carrying out ambitious economic reforms, argue supporters of such policies.

However, as shown by the above examples, the actions of the bureaucracy, which thinks in the political interests of certain power circles, may not always lead to an optimal outcome that is beneficial from the point of view of Turkey's national interests. Finally, politicization is fraught with increasing risks in case the authorities make wrong decisions and if they are persistent in their implementation despite resistance from legal political opposition.

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