As the era of Tayyip Erdoğan comes to an end

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Translated by Melissa Clissold

President Erdoğan has come to a complete standstill in Syria and Libya as he tries to postpone the crisis that he has pushed his administration towards. His desperation and reactions show that his  era is coming to an end, but the signs of a new era are not so clear.

Hello, good day. Friday last week, we had a conversation with Kemal Can on our ‘Weekly Overview’ broadcast and I said something there whilst we discussing whether or not power struggles existed within the Justice and Development Party (AKP)- in fact some colleagues turned what I had said there into a small video- what I had said was that all this pain being experienced was a clear sign of  the Erdoğan era coming to an end. That video gained a lot of attention, a lot more than I imagined. In this broadcast I would like to explain what I meant there a little further. 

But it won’t actually be too hard for me to explain. For example, today you might have seen a video of President Erdoğan answering questions from members of the press on his way to Azerbaijan. The FOX TV reporter asked him about martyrs in Libya, which had supposedly been kept secret, and Erdoğan had stated that there were “a few” martyrs. We can see from this answer – and the way that Erdoğan scolded FOX TV and its reporter – that clearly  Erdoğan does not have much left to say regarding such vital issues.

When authentic questions are asked to him -and this does not happen that often- and up until now we were not really aware of the actual situation, because he has never really been asked such unexpected questions on the tv programmes he has attended or when he appears in front of the press. However, when a genuine question is asked to him, Erdoğan’s answer or inability to provide an answer actually shows us how deep the crisis in Turkey is.

When Erdoğan was answering that particular question, he first made some accusations against the institution where the reporter worked, and then he immediately mentioned “Mr. Kemal” – Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu – and when it comes to Libya and Syria, these problems do not seem like they will be resolved easily – news of the deaths of Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) officials, soldiers and officers continue to come – instead of answering these questions, he wants to cover it all by accusing Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

This has become a reflex for Erdoğan who has been doing this for a long time, and has especially been doing it even more during this period; it does not create much excitement any more. And we can clearly see his efforts to hide his own crisis as he continues to dodge any questions that come his way by mentioning  Mr. Kemal and the CHP – by stressing once more the opposition that the right has held against the CHP for years. 

The questions here are crystal clear; very serious incidents are taking place in Idlib and in Libya, where Turkey’s primary interlocutor is Russia. And of course Putin is Russia. Erdoğan has tried to break down Turkey’s incident with Russia down to his own personal relationship with Putin and he is constantly trying to postpone certain real issues – such as what is going on in Idlib and Libya. He had given an ultimatum until the end of February in Syria, against Assad, due to the attacks the Syrian army conducted against the Turkish Armed forces and the groups Turkey supports in Idlib. 

He then said that he would not wait for the end of February when the attacks did not stop – but not much has been done – and then he talked about a meeting on March 5th . President of France Macron talked about a meeting with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Putin and himself. But then, when we look at it things today, the statement from Moscow does not mention a summit of four; instead it has been said that a meeting has been planned for Turkey, Russia and Iran. Why did Erdoğan want to include Macron and Merkel here?

Because his hand has weakened against Russia, he wants to create a balance in favour of himself by including Europe in some way. Of course, the most important point in adding Europe is, of course, if the Syrian Army’s attacks continue, which it seems like they will, Erdoğan wants to add Europe into the pot by using hundreds of thousands of refugees as trump cards; but as far as we can see, Russia has not approached this in anyway.

Why am I explaining all of this? Turkey has been struggling with an economic crisis for a long time yet there is an administration that is preventing the media from talking about this as much as possible; there is a media that supports the administration. Turkey’s agenda is focused on foreign affairs a lot more than necessary. I mean Libya on the one hand – which was spoken about a little when it first appeared, then it seemed to be forgotten, now it has returned to the agenda – and Idlib. We see the political debate in Turkey has been discussing and focusing on these issues. This was sort of an escape for the administration; but now it is cornered because relations with Russia are not going as well as before, and the end of the road is becoming clearer.

Cracks have started to appear in the relationship between Turkey and Russia, relations between Erdoğan and Putin. For example, Erdoğan admits that some Syrian groups in Libya are there to support the Tripoli administration, which Erdoğan also supports, and he justifies this presence in relation to Russia’s paid soldiers, Wagner’s presence…What we can see here is a government, which experienced a tremendous defeat in the local elections, being cornered regarding Idlib and Libya, which had perhaps first been a way to take a deep breath away from what was going on locally.

I think that all of this points to the end of the Erdoğan era in Turkey. Erdoğan’s response to criticisms and the questions directed towards him is just to show hostility towards Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP. For example, bringing to the agenda the shares of the CHP at İş Bank, or accusing CHP of being the political-leg of FETÖ, are all forced efforts in order to evade the issues at stake. This is what the power is doing; but the issues at stake are not easy issues to evade. I think that a chapter is now clearly ending in Turkey, there are a lot of signs pointing towards this.

I have mentioned these on different occasions – but to remind you – of course, the March 31 elections and the June 23, Ahmet Davutoğlu setting up a separate party, Babacan setting up a new party supposedly in March, the economic situation, unemployment is very serious problem in Turkey, so is the cost of living… all of this happening one after the other. All this in the face of an administration increasingly unable to manage the deepening crisis. However, there is still an Erdoğan on our agenda, Erdoğan sets the agenda. And outsiders to Turkey, foreign journalists we have met on different occasions, researchers, diplomats, etc. always ask questions via Erdoğan.

However, it is now obvious that the era of Erdoğan is coming to a close and in my opinion we should be focusing on what comes next. Here is where we come to the crux of the problem. Because there is not much movement, or actors, a way out, or perspectives that we can discuss when it comes to the future; we on the inside cannot see anything, neither can those on the outside. At first, due to March 31 and June 23, there was an interest in the mayors of Istanbul and Ankara – Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş. We are at a time where that interest has slightly increased towards Mansur Yavaş and decreased towards Ekrem İmamoğlu.

If we come to the new parties; Davutoğlu has not managed to create much excitement, and the more Ali Babacan postpones forming his party, the more the excitement here continues to decrease. When we look at the other opposition parties, the Felicity Party (SP) is still not a party that can sustain itself, and the Good Party (İYİ Parti) is not able to come to us with a very focused perspective as it continues to deal with resignations within its party.

In addition to being the main opposition party, the CHP does not really emerge as a power in itself; apart from trying to bring together all these opposition parties – including the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) – and putting in an effort to create a wide alliance for a possible election, it does not appear to be that strong. In fact, the first thing that an opposition should do to take over power is to form an alliance, and the CHP has undertaken some kind of patronage of it – this can be seen. The very difficult thing is of course – to combine two new parties, the İYİ Parti, the SP and the HDP and align them to be on the same perspective. Will it succeed? We do not know, because, on the other hand, the government will try to prevent this with the last trump cards left in its hand.

So on which ground will all of this be combined? A partnership has emerged until now, there is a general discussion of democracy, of course, there is a discussion regarding the state of law, apart from that, there is a perspective of returning to the parliamentary system, that is, from the presidential system to the parliamentary system. This may be good for a start; but is it enough to sustain an alliance? Frankly, I’m not so sure.  The primary problem here is when the opposition parties come together, let’s say the Nation Alliance as a whole, when they come together, their only stance is to criticize the power, to criticize different aspects – foreign policy, economic policies – of the policies of the power. They do not do anything more than that; they are not a clear and strong alternative to the power. 

I’ll say it once more: There is currently no opposition that aspires to gain power. The opposition is of course against the administration and wants to come into power, theoretically this is true; but there is no opposition or a perspective, an individual, a leader or party in Turkey who constantly stresses that this is what they want whilst explaining what will be done after it comes to power. 

It is as if the opposition believe that the power of the administration will diminish, and then it will take its place – it’s as if things have been left to its own course. However, opposition parties and prominent figures of the opposition should have been stating how this “Brand New Turkey” – a term that I have not been using much recently, but it is worth repeating – is to be formed. 

About a year has passed, we are still not at this point, we are still facing an opposition movement focused on criticizing Erdoğan and, at the most, an opposition underlining the return to a parliamentary system. 

I know that it is easy to oppose the opposition, this is not my intention. During these broadcasts, I have always said, and I would like to emphasise this point again, that Erdoğan has already lost, but we live in a country where it is not clear who will end up winning. Turkey is waiting for the winner; but that winner – person, group, party or alliance – needs to come forward. If not, the current system will automatically be replaced by a similar one. If not, Erdoğan will be replaced by another version of himself.

What Turkey needs a movement made up of individuals who can reconstruct the institutions AKP has rendered inefficient and empty, reinvigorate institutionalization, reconstruct the state of law, a perspective that can put these things into action and convince the general public. 

Otherwise, either the opposition will take over this administration as another form of the existing power – it will not matter who takes this power – or this administration will try to somehow prolong its life by taking courage from the opposition’s lack of dynamism despite this crisis. I do not think that the second option will happen, because when we look at the Erdoğan government and the individual actors within this administration moment, we see that this structure cannot be sustained much longer in Turkey.

I do not think that it is possible for something new to come out of all this, I do not think it is possible for this country to move forward in a way that will renew the administration. However, when I look at the opposition, and everything that they are expressing, I see a combination of an opposition awaiting for an administration to diminish on its own but not really taking an action for things to change.  I do not think that this is enough.

One era is closing, the era of Erdoğan is coming to an end, but someone needs to start a new era. Currently we can see the era that is closing but we do not see the era that is coming up; maybe we’ll see a light in the upcoming days. Yet when we look at things now, something is ending and another is not beginning and Turkey continues to keep losing along with its citizens. Yes, that is all I have to say. Good day.

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