We’ve been rather singularly focused on the United States presidential election over the past few weeks and for good reason. But there was another election taking place during the same time period over in Turkey. They elected new members of their Parliament in what was described as a “surprising” landslide victory for the AK Party (AKP) established by President Tayyip Erdogan. (In what may be the ultimate irony, AKP translate to English as the “Justice and Development Party.”) Fresh on the heels of that dubious victory, Erdogan began laying out his long range plans and they include demanding changes to the country’s constitution designed to give vastly greater power to the office of the president. (Reuters)
Flush with an election victory, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan demanded constitutional change that he wants to gain sweeping powers, and vowed to “liquidate” Kurdish guerrillas in a defiant speech that gave no quarter to those hoping for conciliation.
Three days after the Islamist-rooted AK Party he founded won back the mandate to govern alone in a surprise landslide, Erdogan used Wednesday’s speech to make clear military action in the largely Kurdish southeast would not end any time soon.
The election victory also puts him closer to his dream of changing Turkey’s constitution to consolidate power in the hands of the presidency, a move his opponents fear would enable an already authoritarian leader to govern unchecked.
Turkey’s dominant political figure, Erdogan served as prime minister for more than a decade before being elected president last year.
Let’s get this out of the way right now. The polls in Turkey didn’t show anywhere near this much of a swing. Their own political analysts and the few remaining journalists who aren’t locked up in one of Erdogan’s dungeons didn’t see the numbers coming out that way. We may have just experienced an upset in our own presidential race but it was nothing like what happened in Turkey. At this point, Erdogan has locked up so many public officials who aren’t fiercely and unquestioningly loyal to him that it would be patently ridiculous not to ask if this election wasn’t completely fraudulent.
Still, the AKP didn’t manage to sweep the entire chamber. They came up 13 short of the supermajority they would need in the 550 member Parliament to be able to automatically rewrite the Constitution. Somehow, however, I’m not seeing this as too much of a problem for Erdogan. Given his unhesitating propensity to lock up and/or eliminate anyone who disagrees with him, do you think he’ll have much trouble finding thirteen members who will find it in their own long term health interests to go along with his plans?
At this point the changes would probably be largely cosmetic because Erdogan has already seized most of the power he seeks in practice, if not under the rules of the road. Changing the Constitution would simply lend an air of legitimacy to what he’s already doing anyway. And I wouldn’t expect to see any term limits being included if he gets his way. When someone like Erdogan gets hold of power you’ll probably have to pry it from his cold, dead hands.