Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan achieved a long-awaited dream when he became president with sweeping new powers in a country he has dominated for 15 years and for which he has introduced a new identity.
In the past few days, the first signs of the election results emerged as Erdogan stepped into his new presidential term. He has issued presidential decrees that sacked more than 18,000 civil servants and soldiers, in addition to shutting down three newspapers and a television channel.
Erdogan’s reign will continue for five years and see him have sweeping powers under a presidential system repeatedly denounced by critics and described as an authoritarian regime. Such accusations have been especially forceful since the unsuccessful coup attempt of 2016, which was followed by massive purges of the military and the police and the arrests of tens of thousands of others for allegedly playing a part in the conspiracy.
These charges were mocked by many people inside and outside Turkey because a coup is known to be planned by a limited number of people, yet tens of thousands of people have been punished for their alleged part in a conspiracy. This latest crackdown conveys the message that Erdogan’s authoritarian and exclusionary approach will continue — and with even more dominance this time.
Erdogan now enjoys institutional and legal support to control almost every area of power, with the post of prime minister being abolished following last month’s elections.
What is happening in Turkey is the most dramatic change to the ruling system since the modern republic was founded on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire almost a century ago. Between 1960 and 2002 — before the Islamic Justice and Development Party came to power — Turkey witnessed the following ruling pattern: A life of parliamentary democracy interrupted approximately every decade by military coups that shook political life and maintained a role for the army. After these coups and after the army announced the elimination of “extremists,” Turks went back to their normal lives. These “extremists” were sometimes leftist and sometimes Islamist, Kurdish or Alawite.
However, the Islamists and Erdogan have exacerbated these contradictions and announced the rule of religion and nationalism in the face of Europe — the continent they wished to join but which they failed to embrace.
Erdogan has held on to the military behavior from which he suffered before he defeated it. He is now adopting the same approach in his foreign policy and with the media and his opponents. He has cleansed the political arena of his opponents, whether Kurds, dissident theologians (Islamists) or liberals.
After the elections, the new presidential system entered into force to completely contradict the parliamentary system, which dates back to the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. The new system can be called “the second republic.”
The victories of the likes of Erdogan, which are many, leave us all concerned as to what the future might hold. This kind of victory is considered a loss for everyone dreaming of a better future, and this has been proved by the outcomes we have already begun to witness.
- Diana Moukalled is a veteran journalist with extensive experience in both traditional and new media. Twitter: @dianamoukalled