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Winter of uncertainties

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Winter of uncertainties It has become a long winter. The view of the snow in my yard is becoming increasingly unbearable, not to mention the snow that remains on the streets and sidewalks. Reminded on a daily basis of our helplessness vis-à-vis Mother Nature, we are also squally helpless when it comes to the puzzling state of affairs of our politics. A series of events since last summer have transformed the political atmosphere radically: the match-rigging scandal, the Hrant Dink case verdict, the yet-to-be clarified Uludere incident and now the crisis between the police and the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). Add to this list the frustration associated with the inability to draft a new constitution and we have a very peculiar situation. The public discourse in this country has been transformed to such an extent an outside observer would be at pains to recognize that we had a general election only eight months ago. An outside observer would hardly be able to see that the current government won the last general election by an unprecedented 50 percent of the vote and has a very comfortable majority in Parliament. Why is that so? The excitement and expectations from the third term of this government have subsided and given way to a very skeptical and impatient public discourse. Under normal conditions it should be rather quiet as the general elections were won with a convincing outcome, the new Cabinet was announced and the senior bureaucracy is pretty much in line with the government. Except for the extraordinary situation in Syria there should be no cause for an extraordinary agenda here. That said, there is a fundamental reason, which is very simple, why it is not normal here. The main reason why Ankara is so stressed is the issue of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan succeeding Abdullah Gül as president in 2014. There is so much uncertainty involved around this issue that it is very difficult to predict what is likely to happen. First, there is very little hope of a new constitution being drafted with a genuine compromise between the governing party, the main opposition and the Kurds. Second, no one knows what the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will propose after it becomes clear that the Constitutional Reconciliation Commission will not be able to succeed. If the AK Party does come up with a proposal — will it include an amendment that would change the regime into a semi-presidential or presidential system? If so, the debate on the Constitution will be dominated by this issue and I am afraid the whole constitutional debate will be hijacked. Turkey will be divided between those who are for a presidential system and those who are against it. Other aspects of the new constitution will almost certainly be overshadowed by this debate. Third, who will succeed Prime Minister Erdoğan and what will happen to the 73 deputies who are serving their third and last terms? A good number of them are ministers and senior AK Party executives. There is so much speculation around these issues it is mind boggling. In every Ankara restaurant new governments are formed with a multitude of prime ministers and respective consequences. And of course the speculations around the prime minister’s health add even more spice to the debate in this city that has no life but politics. The disagreements over how to resolve the Kurdish question and the much propped up government versus the Gülenists divide complement the picture of uncertainty. There is no doubt that the individual developments above all have their own reasons for creating discomfort and stress in Ankara. However, I contend that the primary reason around all of this is really the issue of succession. It is almost impossible to make any informed guess given the multitude of uncertainties surrounding the issue of succession. As long as this issue remains unclear all of the other issues should be seen as positioning of certain actors in view of the succession that is likely to happen in 2014. Brace yourself for excitement! 2012-02-15 17.02.2012

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