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Turkey - Politics

The conflict between Erdogan and Gulen is a conflict between two flavors of Sufi Islam. Erdogan represents a more traditional "tarikat" - the Naksibendis - which emphasized Sunni orthodoxy and discouraged heterodox “innovative” practices and groups. Fethullah Gulen leads a Cemaat, a more recent phenomenon formation, emerging in the 19th century, with far less emphasis on ceremony than tarikats, and lacking the sheikh-disciple relationship that is central to tarikats.

Turkish public progressively became more right wing (ideologically, with rising religiosity) since the early 1990s. The traditional center collapsed, and the entire electorate moved to the right, supporting ultra nationalist and Islamist political parties.

There is something of a tradition of intolerance for political opposition in Turkey, regardless of who is in power. The challenge here is how, whoever is in power in Turkey, to find ways to be politically more inclusive. There are concerns about a slide toward Islamism and what analysts call a lack of concern the government shows for the roughly half of the country that remains staunchly secular. Secular Turks are angry about policies that restrict the availability of alcohol, ban public displays of affection and intimidate the press, among other things. Many women point to new abortion laws as a sign that Erdogan, who had advised Turkish women to each have three children, wants to roll back women's rights and push them into traditional, pious roles.

On June 15, 2013 Turkish riot police stormed the Istanbul park at the heart of two weeks of protests against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday, firing tear gas and water cannons and sending hundreds scurrying into surrounding streets. Armored vehicles sealed off Taksim Square in the center of the city as officers stormed the adjoining Gezi Park, where protesters had been living in a ramshackle tent camp. A similar police crackdown on peaceful campaigners in Gezi Park two weeks ago provoked an unprecedented wave of protest against Erdogan, drawing in secularists, nationalists, professionals, trade unionists and students who took to the streets in protest at what they see as his autocratic style.

The rule of law was eroded under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who launched a crackdown on dissent and media freedom. The roll back of human rights accelerated after the 2013 nationwide anti-government protests. President Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party were took far reaching steps to weaken the rule of law, control the media and Internet, and clamp down on critics and protesters. Erdogan blamed followers of Fethullah Gulen within the judiciary and police of being behind corruption probes launched in December 2013 implicating Erdogan family members and senior ministers.

Emma Sinclair Webb, Human Rights Watch senior Turkey researcher, said September 29, 2014 the changes were deeply worrying. "Basically over the last year, we’ve seen the Turkish government respond to political opposition with an extremely heavy handed approach, which is basically willing to sacrifice the rule of law, to erode judicial independence and really tear up the rule book and wield the stick against political oppositionists".

With the AKP set to hold a party congress in September 2015, the coming months are likely to see a battle for the heart and soul of the party. Turkey's former ruling party, the AKP, faces a protracted analysis of what went wrong during its parliamentary election campaign. Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the setback on the lackluster campaign of the party's leader, Ahmet Davutoglu, while the pragmatic wing of the party was expected to call for a change in direction. Former President Abdullah Gul, a founding member of the AKP, was frozen out of the party after he voiced concern over President Erdogan's authoritarian tendencies and government policies. Gul could be a key player in a struggle for dominance inside the party.

Discouraging election results suffered by the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the 07 June 2015 elections - costing the AKP its parliamentary majority - suggested that many Turkish voters no longer supported the government's policy towards the war in Syria. It is possible that the war fervor that Erdogan was stirring following the suicide bombing, and Turkey's July 2015 entry into the anit-ISIL fray, was an attempt to realign its policies to meet domestic expectations. Erdogan’s Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, conducted negotiations with the two main opposition parties, but the talks appeared to be stuck.

Erdogan’s party lost support to the Kurdish HDP, which gained much more of the non-Kurdish vote than expected in the west of the country. On the other it lost nationalist voters who saw the peace talks with the PKK as a betrayal. The AKP’s leadership likely saw military operations against the PKK as a good way to win back those nationalist voters in new elections.

Since the the election, AKP held inconclusive talks with potential coalition partners. If no government is formed by late August, Erdogan can call snap elections to be held in November. On 28 July 2015, Erdogan urged Turkey’s lawmakers to lift the legal immunity of members of parliament who had links to “terrorist groups,” a broadside clearly aimed at the HDP. The party’s leader, Selahattin Demirtas, vehemently rejected such threats. “Our only crime was winning 13 per cent of the vote,” he said. Erdogan's supporters called for the main pro-Kurdish opposition party, the small pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), to be banned, accusing it of being a stalking horse for terrorists.

A snap parliamentary election in the country was scheduled for 01 November 2015. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced August 21, 2015 he would call snap elections after the failure of coalition talks and a rise in tensions over military action against Kurdish rebels. The HDP, a pro-Kurdish party, won enough votes in June to join Parliament for the first time.

Erdogan wanted to create an executive presidential system for Turkey. That would give him, the president, more power by taking it from Parliament. Observers say that the HDP would have to receive less than 10 percent of Turkish votes for AK to get a clear majority. A party must win at least 10 percent of the vote to win seats in Parliament, according to Turkish law.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) pulled off a surprisingly big election victory in 01 November 2015 parliamentary polls — the second in less than six months, prompting accusations of voting irregularities from some opposition politicians. In the election on June 7, the AK Party got 258 deputies with a 41 percent share of the vote. It needed an additional 18 deputies to secure single-party rule once again. AKP’s share of the vote would likely fall to 45 to 48 percent. That would hand the AKP enough seats to not need to form a coalition — though it would deprive the party of a majority large enough to change the constitution, a longtime ambition of President Erdogan.

Erdogan's party won 49.4 percent of the vote — enough for a majority of 316 seats. The main opposition CHP won about 25 percent of the vote, or 134 seats, while the nationalist MHP party secured 11.9 percent with 41 seats. The pro-Kurdish HDP party claimed a little over 10.5 percent to get 59 seats.

The pace of reforms slowed down over the past year in Turkey, also due to protracted elections and the continued political divide. The 7 June general election saw a record 84% turnout and all major political parties were represented in the new parliament. However, a government could not be formed by the constitutional deadline and repeat elections took place on 1 November, again with a very high turnout of 85 %. All major political parties re-won seats in the parliament with the ruling party securing enough votes to form a majority government.

The year 2015 saw an overall negative trend in the respect for the rule of law and fundamental rights. Significant shortcomings affected the judiciary as well as freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Turkey saw a severe deterioration of its security situation. The settlement process of the Kurdish issue came to a halt despite earlier positive developments on the issue.

Turkey saw a severe deterioration of its security situation. The authorities launched an extensive anti-terror military and security campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which remains on the EU list of terrorist organisations, both in Turkey and in Iraq. The settlement process of the Kurdish issue came to a halt despite earlier positive developments on the issue. Turkey was struck by the deadliest terrorist attack in its modern history, on 10 October 2015 in Ankara, claiming the lives of scores of demonstrators gathering for a peace rally sponsored by trade unions and opposition parties' youth branches.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said May 05, 2016 he will step down as his ruling AK Party announced an extraordinary congress to elect a new leader. Davutoglu’s decision comes amid reports of his growing differences with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In a carefully worded statement to the country’s media, Davutoglu said he would be stepping down at the AK Party congress to be held on May 22. According to AKP statutes, the post of party head and prime minister should be held by the same person.

He claimed his premiership has been a success, underlining his landslide victory in last November's election. But alluding to growing differences over his leadership, he said he was stepping down for the sake of unity and consensus in the party.

There had been reports of growing differences between the prime minister and Erdogan. Supporters of the president have accused Davutoglu of opposing Erdogan's ambitions of replacing Turkey's current parliamentary system with a presidential one, while Davutoglu has tentatively voiced concerns over an ongoing crackdown on critics of the president.

Davutoglu's early exit as party leader and PM constituted another episode that showed that Erdogan's dominance over the AKP and the executive was absolute and unchallenged. Davutoglu's exit paves the way for Erdogan to appoint a more pliant head of government and gather enough support to pass controversial constitutional changes designed to transform the ceremonial head of state position into a more executive presidency like the one in the United States.

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party on 19 May 2016 nominated Transport, Maritime and Communications Minister Binali Yildirim to serve as the party’s next chairman, following Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s decision not to serve out the remainder of his term. Yildirim, 60, has a political career spanning over a decade on his path to becoming party leader and the nation’s next prime minister. A co-founder of the AK Party in August 2001, Yildirim is Turkey’s longest-serving transport minister – with other portfolios, including maritime – in five Turkish governments, under Abdullah Gul, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and Ahmet Davutoglu as successive premiers.

Turkey's parliament approved a bill on 20 May 2016 to lift the immunity of 138 MPs facing criminal charges, which paves the way for judicial proceedings to begin against them. The bill would be presented to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for final approval before it became law. Turkey's parliament ratified the temporary amendment to the Turkish constitution bill Friday with “qualified majority” in three stages. The first part of the bill was backed by 373 MPs, while 138 lawmakers voted against it. A total of 531 parliamentarians participated in this first part of the secret ballot process, out of which eight MPs abstained, nine cast blank votes and three votes were considered invalid.

The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, which has 316 seats, and the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, also known as MHP, which has 40 seats, both backed the bill. Out of the 138 lawmakers facing criminal charges, 27 belong to the ruling AK Party, 51 from the opposition CHP, 50 from the HDP, nine MHP and an independent deputy from Ankara, Aylin Nazliaka, a former CHP member.

The highly controversial bill that would lift immunity for dozens of pro-Kurdish and other MPs could see them evicted from parliament. HDP lawmakers are vulnerable to prosecution on allegations of links or even verbal support for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Should a number of HDP deputies leave parliament, it would ease the way for Erdogan to realise his goal of changing the constitution to create a presidential system in Turkey and further enlarge his powers.

When a failed coup attempt took place on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government claimed supporters within the military of exiled Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen were behind it. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled the Gulen movement a terrorist organization and declared a three-month state of emergency in order to actively prosecute its members. The state of emergency allowed the government to rule by decree. It, in turn, used the decrees as a means to establish new rules in all of the country's state institutions. The resulting wave of firings and arrests prompted opposition members to deem the state of emergency a "civil coup and a witch hunt against critics," calling for its immediate lifting — to no avail. The state of emergency was extended seven times in all.

Turkey's Ministry of the Interior reports that 121,311 people were fired from civil service posts as a result of the two-year state of emergency. Some 7,000 were fired from universities, of these, roughly 5,700 were removed from academic positions. Schools and private educational centers said to be linked to the Gulen movement were shut down. The government's far-reaching powers were also directed against members of Turkey's various opposition groups.

Seventy newspapers, 20 magazines, 34 radio stations, 30 publishing houses and 33 television stations were shuttered as a direct result of the decrees issued during the state of emergency. Investigations against media representatives and the arrests of journalists for "spreading propaganda in support of terrorist organizations" or "insulting the president" were registered by organizations in Turkey and abroad.

Erdogan narrowly won a referendum in 2017 pushing for greater presidential powers. That referendum success was followed with a hard-fought election win in Jne 2018, in which Erdogan narrowly won around 52.5 percent of the vote and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured a parliamentary majority through its alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially assumed sweeping new powers on 07 September 2018, as he was sworn in for his second term as president — complete with most of the powers he had held for a decade as prime minister, plus a few more besides. Turkey's transition from a parliamentary democracy to a system featuring an all-powerful executive presidency marks the country's largest shift in governance since the Turkish republic was founded out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire almost a century ago.

The state of emergency imposed in Turkey following the failed 2016 coup to unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expired 19 July 2018. The end of the decree marked a pledge made by President Erdogan during his successful re-election in June 2018. More than 75,000 people have been detained under the emergency decree and more than 100,000 others had been dismissed from their government jobs for alleged links to followers of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara blames for the failed coup, as well as Kurdish militant groups.

Over 3,800 people in Turkey received prison sentences for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2019. The Turkish judicial system handed out over 3,831 prison sentences for the charge, up 87 percent from 2018 when 2,046 people were sentenced, according to Turkish media outlets Cumhuriyet and BirGun. Turkey’s penal code criminalizes insulting the president, with an offender typically facing a prison term of up to four years. The sentence can be increased if the insult is expressed in the public sphere. As arrests have continued to increase over the past four years, human rights organizations have called on Turkey to end prosecutions for acts of “insulting the president,” and accused the government of using the law to silence dissenting voices.

Erdogan himself has said that elections will be held as planned, in 2023. In October 2020 Turkey's largest opposition party called for snap elections, receiving support from most parties except the ruling AKP and its coalition partner. The AKP's government coalition with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is losing popularity. The ongoing economic and currency crisis and the government's handling of it has contributed significantly to the population's waning support. The Turkish lira continues to fall, now trading at just below 8 to the US dollar — as compared to below 6 at the beginning of the year. The government had also miscalculated the annual inflation rate, with Ankara claiming it was 11.75%, when in reality it is far more likely around 37%.

The opposition forged ahead and a bloc of very ideologically different parties — from the social-democratic Republican People's Party (CHP) to the ultranationalist IYI and the pro-Kurdish left-wing Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) — showed unprecedented unity and resolve. The CHP, which is Turkey's largest opposition party, is doing everything it can to seize power with the help of its partners, even coining an official slogan: "Governing with friends."

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan romised Turkey will strengthen freedom of expression and organisation in the country and the right to a fair trial as part of what his government has called a “human rights action plan”. The proposal, promised in recent months as part of a series of legal and economic reforms, would also improve the judiciary system, Erdogan said at the presidential palace in Ankara on 02 March 2021. As part of a nine-point plan, Erdogan outlined measures to improve the judicial system in areas including nationalisation of land and the trial of minors, to steps to ensure a speedy trial and ease business conditions. He said the government was reviewing prosecution of crimes related to the press and the internet. “Improving freedom of expression, organisation and religion … is the goal we have so far worked the hardest on,” he told ministers and other government officials.

According to one MAY 2021 survey conducted by polling company Metropoll, AKP approval ratings have dipped to a mere 27% — a 33% drop compared with June 2018. According to another poll, President Erdogan has lost considerable public support. The survey finds Erdogan now only has a 40% approval rating, putting him behind the opposition mayors of Ankara and Istanbul, Mansur Yavas and Ekrem Imamoglu, respectively. Erdogan also trails nationalist opposition lawmaker Meral Aksener of the Good Party. Erdogan's poor ratings mainly result from the country's economic crisis and pandemic fallout.

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Page last modified: 06-06-2021 18:20:11 ZULU