The new hyper-presidential regime, which will be validated by the April referendum, confers all powers on the Head of State.
Recep Erdogan has taken advantage of the failed miliary coup of 15th July 2016 to organize a referendum on 16th April of this year which is intended to redesign the Turkish constitution. The new hyper-presidential regime will confer all powers on the Head of State. He will be able to legislate by decree, control the budget, declare a state of emergency, and appoint people to all public functions, including legal authorities.
The president wlll also be head of the armed forces and secret services as well as leader of the AKP party. Any opposing power is eliminated: ministers are solely responsible to the president; Parliament is reduced to a rubber-stamping chamber; the judiciary, including the constitutional court, is deprived of any independence.
The new constitution will also abolish all the principles upon which, in 1923, Mustapha Kemal rebuilt a modern Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire: secularism – the separation of political and religious power. It creates an Islamic démocrature, symbolized in the extravagant presidential palace, costing more than 600 million dollars, which Erdogan has had built in Ankara as a tribute to his glory.
This legal coup d’état began the day after the attempted putsch. The establishment of a permanent state of emergency transferred all powers to the president and allowed him to raise purges to the status of a means of government. Thucydides said that “It is in the nature of man to extend his power over that which does not resist him.” So it is that Erdogan has undertaken a systematic destruction of all those people, businesses and institutions that are liable to resist him.
Over 45,000 people, including 59 elected members of the pro-Kurdish HDP party and 162 journalists, have been imprisoned in a totally arbitrary fashion. More than 130,000 civil servants have been sacked, including 3,840 judges, some 30,000 teachers and 4,500 academics. At the same time, 2,100 schools and universities as well as 149 media companies have been closed. Censorship has been applied to teaching, the media and the social media. Not even Orhan Pamuk, holder of the Nobel Prize for Literature, has been spared. About 10 billion dollars of assets have been confiscated and given to oligarchs close to the president, and shares in companies quoted on the stock exchange were transferred heavy-handedly to a sovereign wealth fund in order to finance major public works decided on by the Head of State: a third airport for Istanbul, a second Bosphorus canal and high-speed rail links.
Turkey is showing all the characteristics of a démocrature – a model drawn up by Vladimir Putin: centralization of all powers in the hands of one strong man at the center of a cult of personality; fusion of the state, the dominant party, the army and the secret services; control of the economy by oligarchs personally connected to the Head of State; surveillance of society by subduing the media and a gigantic amount of propaganda; the glorification of nationalism and religion in the form of Sunnite Islam; the maintenance of a climate of civil war on the domestic front and of imperial expansion on the international front, by means of the “Euphrates Shield” in Syria that principally targets Kurds and not Jihadists; mobilizing the masses against the West.
Making Turkey into a démocrature is having serious consequences. The economy is suffering badly as it is being cut off from international markets and finance. The country has been in recession since the end of 2016 with falling exports and a fall in tourism to the tune of more than 30%. Stagflation has arrived, with inflation at 8% and unemployment affecting more than 12% of the working population. The lira has lost 20% of its value in a year and massive amounts of capital are leaving the country. Civil peace has disappeared as the nation becomes divided and polarized, Islamic terrorist attacks are on the increase and Ankara has re-launched armed conflict with the Kurds.
On the international front, Turkey is sharing in Russia’s efforts to create a league of démocratures against democracies. In concert with Moscow and Teheran, it is backing the division of Syria into spheres of influence and is attempting to obtain the withdrawal of the USA from Iraq so as to reconquer Kurdistan. It is using refugees to exert pressure on the European Union and, above all, not without some success, on Germany. Europe must take note that any sense of a common destiny or common values with Turkey has disappeared. It should interrupt the process of Turkey’s application for membership of the EU and suspend its involvement in the Council of Europe.
* A combination of dictatorship and democracy
(Column published in Le Figaro, 6th March 2017)