News / Europe

Political Stakes Are High for Turkey's Erdogan

Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (L) receives Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace of Cankaya in Ankara, June 14, 2011
Turkey's President Abdullah Gul (L) receives Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace of Cankaya in Ankara, June 14, 2011

Sunday's general election in Turkey resulted in a resounding victory for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK. But the victory was bittersweet for the prime minister and his party as they fell well short of a two-thirds majority that would enable them to rewrite the nation's constitution.

Justice and Development Party supporters are celebrating their party's win. And the prime minister dropped his usual combative rhetoric to reach out to voters.

Erdogan said the people gave a message to build the new constitution through consensus and negotiation. That task, however, may not be so easy for Erdogan. He was hoping to win a two-thirds majority of seats in parliament, but now needs a referendum to do so.

According to Sinan Ulgen of the political research firm Edam, the result has dealt a major blow to Erdogan's ambitions, namely his desire to take on the role of president.

"The prime minister had made clear his desire to introduce a U.S.- or French-style presidential system," said Ulgen. "He views the introduction of a presidential system as way to concentrate even more executive power. With this distribution of seats, it's clearly very, very difficult to move forward on that."

The current office of the president in Turkey is largely ceremonial. Erdogan’s desire is to push ahead with plans to rewrite the constitution with an enhanced role for the presidency and a diminished role for the military.

But the main opposition People's Republican Party, or CHP, and some senior members within the prime minister's own party claim a more powerful presidency would subjugate parliament.

Political scientist Nuray Mert said Erdogan's personal ambition may cost the country, especially on the issue of Kurdish rights.

"It will not promise anything to Kurds," said Mert. "No more liberties; no more rights; no recognition of Kurdish demands. That's why there is this big disappointment."

Supporters of the country's pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party, the BDP, had reason to celebrate this week. The party increased its representation in parliament from 20 to 36, taking seats away from Erdogan's party.

The BDP is seeking greater Kurdish rights, including more autonomy and education in the Kurdish language. If Erdogan chooses to meet those demands as part of a more liberal constitution, he may find a willing partner with the People's Republican Party.

Ulgen of the political research firm Edam explains. "The new leader has adopted a much more liberal approach and therefore going forward, AKP may find a much more constructive counterpart in the Turkish parliament, in order to enact needed constitutional amendments."

Observers say Erdogan's abrasive style, while popular with much of the Turkish electorate, does not lend itself to consensus-building. In fact, his previous effort to introduce a new constitution broke down because of his caustic approach.

But being short of seats needed to submit a new constitution to a referendum, political scientist Cengiz Aktar said Erdogan may opt to pursue his presidential goals, and limited reforms aimed at pacifying nationalist voters.  

"He may say, 'I have the majority, I continue to rule according to my views and vision for this country.' In that case, a modern liberal constitution in Turkey won't solve the Kurdish conflict," said Aktar. "As long as the country can't solve its Kurdish conflict, anything can happen. All stakes are open, and [there are] big, big question marks for Turkey. This is the price to pay."

On election day, the Kurdish rebel group, the PKK, which has been fighting the Turkish state since 1984, warned it will intensify its operations if the new government does not immediately take steps to address its demands. The pro-Kurdish BDP also has warned of major civil unrest. Turkey is at a crossroads, and the prime minister appears to have little time to decide which route to take.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regreti
X
Zana Omer
March 28, 2015 1:19 AM
The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

The Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Virginia Tavern Takes Patrons Back to Medieval Times

European martial arts are not widely practiced and are unknown by most people. A tavern in Old Town Alexandria, outside Washington, wants to change this by promoting these fighting techniques from medieval times. Through combining visual arts, martial arts and culinary arts, this tavern brings medieval history back to life. VOA's Yang Lin and Helen Wu report.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More