Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Hanging On For Dear Life

HuffPost

The June 7 elections in Turkey spelled the end of 13 years of single-party rule by the [AKP]. The electorate's messages were clear. First and foremost, in the most decisive way, the electorate denied Erdoğan his wish to become the all-powerful executive president of a transformed Turkish political system. The electorate mandated parliament to assume its powers and asked that the political parties form a coalition government that would break the immense centralization and concentration of power in Erdoğan's hand.

Following the elections, the country's three opposition parties -- which collectively make up a majority in parliament -- might have reopened a parliamentary investigation into corruption allegations against Erdoğan, members of his family, his ministers and his cronies in the media, construction and energy sectors. However, like the Ottoman sultans of centuries past, Erdoğan resorted to all manner of intrigue to undermine his political opponents and protect himself. Flouting long-standing precedent, Erdoğan has not allowed any party leader other than Prime Minister Davutoğlu to try to form a government, thwarting efforts to build a coalition within a 45-day window and forcing the country to hold new elections on Nov. 1. Thus, Turkey will hold general elections for the second time this year -- a first in its more than six decades of multi-party democracy [..] Erdoğan is saying to voters: give me the majority I need to change the constitution, or suffer the consequences. This has not proved to be an empty threat.

Since June 7, Turkey has gradually begun to spiral out of control, with a plummeting currency [..]

In December of 2013, police and prosecutors launched an investigation into major allegations of AKP corruption. The numerous charges included the awarding of plots of land in prime Istanbul locations to construction firms close to Erdoğan; the smuggling of gold to Iran; and bribes totaling millions of dollars. Erdoğan [..] dismissed from duty all prosecutors and police officers involved in the case. Erdoğan's echo chamber in the media quickly followed suit, claiming that western countries were conspiring against Turkey. Though the legal investigation itself was called off, dozens of recordings were uploaded to YouTube (where they generated millions of hits) containing incriminating conversations by Erdoğan and his family members, his ministers and his business cronies. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition party, the CHP, has called for a renewal of the corruption investigations; Kılıçdaroğlu has stirred up controversy in the past by referring to Erdoğan as the "prime thief" and the AKP government as a "kleptocratic regime."

The AKP's supporters have mostly shrugged off such accusations, pointing to the rise in living standards under Erdoğan -- a viewpoint summed up by the slogan "they steal, but they get things done." But the surfacing of such massive evidence of corruption has cost the AKP in the ballot box: for the first time since 2002, the party has lost its majority in Parliament. The corruption files will almost certainly be reopened -- heralding the beginning of the end for Erdoğan and his circle. Erdoğan evidently hopes that if the peace process with the PKK unravels and the fighting resumes, the resulting chaos will turn the tide in his favor in the Nov. 1 elections. But this desperate strategy is fraught with peril.