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What are the reasons of Erdogan’s electoral success?

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The supporters of the AKP who often use the term “New Turkey” believe that the 12-year rule of Prime Minister Erdogan has opened a new phase in Turkish history.

This is because the country has come a long way in the last decade in areas such as health-care, infrastructure, fiscal discipline, inflation, municipal services and civil-military relations. Despite the opposition and Western criticism (mainly the United States and the European Union) of the last months over the corruption scandals and the bans imposed by the Government on social media like Twitter and YouTube, the AKP won the elections as what really matters for most of its voters are economic services and living standards.

The AKP voters come from the largest segments of Turkish society and they have mainly conservative backgrounds: the urban-rural poor as well as the lower-middle classes aspiring to upper-middle class status. In their eyes, bread and butter problems take precedence over the other issues (e.g. twitter ban, political freedoms and the independence of the media). As a result, it should not be surprising that Erdogan will keep winning elections as long as the economy performs reasonably well and adequate socio-economic services are provided to these large segments of society.

Weak opposition.The results of the local elections have proved the absence of the opposition parties (Republican CHP and Nationalist Movement Party MHP) in the central Anatolia. Indeed, the main opposition CHP will unlikely to present a credible challenge to the AKP Government at the June 2015 parliamentary elections. Forthcoming elections. Turkish electoral race will continue in the forthcoming period with presidential elections scheduled for August 2014, and general elections for 2015

Further polarization is likely ahead of the presidential elections. Erdogan will unlikely become more conciliatory ahead of the presidential elections. Indeed, his recent speeches demonstrate this tendency. The local election’s results made Erdogan more confident, and this may encourage him to undertake a harsher retaliation against his adversaries, including social media, secular businesses, critical media outlets, and the Gülen movement. On the other hand, the Turkish society remains polarized, and despite the ruling party’s victory, governability might increasingly become an issue for Erdogan, particularly given the fact that he is likely to continue to use elevated rhetoric. This may continue attracting negative reactions against Erdogan both from the West and from inside Turkey in the form of public protests.

Kurdish problem. Finally, there is the all-important Kurdish question, which will probably determine the future of Turkish democracy in the long run and Erdogan’s political fortunes in the shorter term. Given ongoing talks with the Government, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP, mainly Kurdish) have understandably bet their future on the AKP. This will enhance Erdogan’s chances in the presidential race. However, the Kurdish question is a double-edged sword for the AKP: winning Kurdish votes amounts to losing Turkish nationalist (CHP) and ultranationalist (MHP) ones. However, Erdogan might attempt to turn his electoral victory into a real intention toward addressing Kurdish discontent in Turkey with a new sense of urgency. In this regard, the so-called “democratization package” (as part of the peace process with the Kurds) is an important step.

Next steps.

The AKP’s recent electoral victory is important in view of the forthcoming presidential elections.  The AKP will likely succeed in having its candidate elected President in the first direct presidential election (most likely the current PM Erdogan) and it will increase also its chances of winning a 4th term in Government at the legislative election.

Political risk – Economic impact:

The recent local elections confirmed the AKP as the dominant political force of the country. As for the economy, despite the current shaky political landscape, Turkey’s economic fundamentals remain generally quite solid, as the Government has kept the public finances in good health and the banking sector is well capitalised and well regulated. Moreover, the industry continues to perform well. However, the absence of sufficient C/A deficit financing still represents a critical issue. Furthermore, the Turkish economy is vulnerable to financial-market nervousness given the country’s large external financing requirement and its heavy reliance on volatile portfolio capital inflows to meet its funding needs. Hence, tapering of the US Federal Reserve’s ultra-loose monetary policy, combined with growing domestic political tensions, might curb capital inflows into the country, putting the Turkish lira under further pressure. Therefore, upholding strong investor confidence remains crucial to keep the virtuous growth and the continuation of the AKP’s economic and political successes. In this regard, the strong showing by the AKP in the local elections will likely reassure investors that there will be status quo on the economic front. In fact, markets reacted positively to the outcome of the local elections. After months in the doldrums, the Turkish lira rallied against the dollar.

In 2005, the European Parliament unanimously voted to open negotiations with Turkey. Since the start of negotiations, however, European scepticism towards Turkey has grown, mainly among Germans, and the percentage of Turks which support their Country’s accession to the EU seems to have decreased (44% compared with 73% in 2003). With regards to the opening of the new negotiation chapters, only 14 of the 35 chapters have been opened so far (the last chapter is on regional policies and it was opened in June 2013 after a 3 year-stop), and only one chapter was closed (Science/Research).   

The recent corruption scandal which involved the Government resulted in the replacement of Turkey’s Minister for EU Affairs, who was Turkey’s chief accession negotiator.

The EU and Turkey need each other for a multitude of reasons:

– Economic ties: The EU accession process has also helped forge closer relations between Europe and Turkey. Economic ties between the EU and Turkey, despite the problems within the Eurozone, have expanded over the past several years with nearly half of Turkey’s exports flowing to Europe. Turkey’s strong and growing economy offers a large and important market for European goods and services, and is expected to do so for a long time. Turkish businesses are flourishing in parts of Europe, and Turkey has become a magnet for foreign direct investment, with much of that flowing from Europe.

– Energy: Turkey’s role as an important energy hub and transit region for European energy supply diversification continues to grow, as was seen recently with the decision to construct the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), which will bring natural gas from Azerbaijan across Turkey, via the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), into Italy and parts of Europe.

– Foreign policy: Geopolitically, continuing instability in Europe’s southern neighborhood of North Africa and the Middle East, including the ongoing civil war in Syria, suggests that a closer “strategic dialogue” with Turkey on foreign policy issues could become a more regular and important feature of the Turkey-EU relationship.

 

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