|New era in Turkey after new president||
On August 10, for the first time in the country’s history, Turkey elected a new president through a direct vote. Thus far, the president was elected by parliament.
The switch to election by popular vote will change the very nature of the president’s role that, despite holding new constitutional powers, was designed to ensure top level political neutrality and counterbalance the wide scope of the government’s executive authority.
The new election has some impacts on internal politics and the country’s external role.
Impacts on internal affairs:
1- Since transition to multiparty democracy in 1950, Turkey has gradually worked to improve its democratic credentials, and now by directly electing a president, the demand for democratization goes beyond the status quo.
2- The Kurdish problem has always been a dilemma for Turkey, and now demanding a lasting settlement of the problem is a sheer necessity.
3- By electing president through direct vote, Turkey should manage to establish a democratic tradition with a range of now mature institutions of representation including robust political parties, a functional executive, a lively parliament and well-performing local administrations.
4- By electing president directly, it is necessary to establish institutions of restraint to keep the power of the executive in check, because a genuinely liberal democracy, something which Turkey claims to be, needs such institutions. A free and independent judiciary, a pluralistic and free media and a vibrant and unthreatened civil society are essential features of such a system of governance. Yet the performance of Turkey’s democracy in these three key areas is starting to erode.
5- Challenge of tolerating dissent is one of the most important demands of the public. The 2013 Gezi protests were a real test for democracy in the county. However, the Turkish government failed. Instead of being celebrated as a colorful demonstration of peaceful dissent, the Gezi protests turned into symbols of polarization and a scene of heavy-handed police crackdown. To overcome these democratic shortcomings, the main task of the new president will be to reestablish a balance between the institutions of representation and the institutions of constraint, while allowing for a more liberal understanding to emerge on the role of dissent.
Impacts on external affairs:
Turkey’s new president inherits a difficult foreign-policy portfolio. Erdogan’s initial vision to normalize Ankara’s relationship with its southern neighbors and to position the country as a regional power interested in advancing peace and prosperity by emphasizing economic cooperation and mediation allowed Ankara to gain substantial ground. But Turkish policy makers misinterpreted the extent of the country’s growing soft power influence by becoming overconfident about their ability to shape regional dynamics.
Following are some challenges in the field of external affairs:
1- Turkey’s stance regarding events in Egypt and Syria in the light of Ankara’s support to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and the military wings of the Syrian opposition.
2- Not only it has no ties with the Syrian government its relationship with Iraq, Libya, and Egypt, and more importantly with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have also been frayed.
3- The shift in the institutional balance in foreign policy making between the Turkish foreign ministry and the prime minister’s office. Over the last few years, Erdogan has become a more visible foreign-policy player, with his office becoming much more involved in making foreign-policy decisions and even implementing them through different agencies it has link with, including the overseas aid and religious affairs and even the intelligence services.
4- In the last few years, Turkey has faced difficulties in its relationship with its transatlantic partners. Accession negotiations with the EU have stalled. In the past four years, only one negotiating chapter was opened. It is, therefore, difficult to be optimistic about the short-term prospects for Turkey-EU relations.
This can be the moment for Turkey to reposition itself as a valued member of the Western community of nations, albeit with a proactive Middle East policy, rather than to pursue its more recent aspirations of becoming a more independent regional power with a conflictual agenda. Power in the new world order is the power to establish effective partnership and alliances. It is time for Turkey’s leadership to rediscover this truth.
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