A victory of 58%, you can call that rather solid as a starting point for the campaign for the general elections, in July 2011. That’s eleven months to go. The popularity of Erdogan and the AKP could decline, of course, and how well the party will do, also depends on several other actors in Turkey and abroad. Let me mention a few, in alphabetic order.
Atatürk – passed away in 1938, but still the most important statesman in Turkey. If the AKP wins the elections again next year, Erdogan will be the second longest government leader since Atatürk. And like it or not, Erdogan is a reformer too. He can be bold, but can’t be as bold as Atatürk could be in his days, when new laws could be introduced just because he wanted to, and when opponents could just be hanged. These days, the opponents have to be beaten in elections, new laws need approval from parliament. Erdogan should take some democratic principles more seriously, by the way: more press freedom, to mention one thing, would be great.
CHP – the biggest oppositon party. They could be a pain in the ass for Erdogan: they have a new leader after eighteen years and he is squeaky clean and rather popular. It has to be mentioned though, that this new leader, Kilicdaroglu, was the laugh of the day yesterday: he didn’t have his registration in order so he couldn’t cast his NO vote in the referendum. Anyway, the CHP announced yesterday that they are ready for early elections if Erdogan announces them, but I wonder if that is true. I think they’d better take some time to figure out why the AKP won the referendum with 58% and why they couldn’t convince more people to vote NO. Does the polarization tactic work? Does it help to only shout NO (in the referendum, no nuance was possible, but the CHP has a habit of saying NO to everything) without offering a real, positive and constructive alternative? No, that’s very obvious once again. Is Kilicdarogly going to give the party tactics a real update? He should, if he wants any chance of kicking Erdogan out of office. Becoming the biggest party and ruling alone seems out of reach for the CHP, but forcing the AKP out of one-party rule, as has been the case since 2002, must be possible.
European Union – the group of countries that promised Turkey membership but seems to regret it lately. The EU supported the constitutional changes, and voices are heard in Europe that now that the changes are accepted, the EU should be open to opening more negotiation chapters with Turkey. If they do, that’s good for Erdogan, since his voters want to move towards Europe and they will surely reward him if the EU gets closer to Turkey again. And the liberals will too, since they keep supporting the AKP as long as they progress in the direction of the EU. There are greater prospects of better Turkey-EU relations by the way: it could be that by the end of this year or beginning of next year, the economic blockade of north Cyprus will be ended by the EU, which will make Turkey open its ports to Greek-Cypriot ships. More on that: read this article, especially the last two parts.
Kenan Evren – the leader of the 1980 coup, who is still alive. Thanks to the new constitution, he can be brought to justice now. Some groups have now petitioned the prosecutor to actually take him to court. Evren said that he’d rather kill himself than appear before court. It’s said he has a gun with one bullet, just for that purpose. But it could be nature will prevent a court case against him: he is 93 now, and he’s not immortal. If either he or other military figures involved in the 1980 couparetaken to court, that will do the AKP some good.
MHP – the ultra nationalist opposition party in parliament. How successful they will be in the 2011 elections depends highly on developments in the Kurdish issue. Without PKK violence, the MHP is nowhere: the more soldiers get killed in the fight against PKK, the more supporters the MHP gets. Cruel, but true. The PKK has respected a ceasefire during the campaign for the referendum and will honour it till September 20th, but what will happen after that? See also PKK.
PKK – the violent group that still represents part of the Kurds and is still to lay down its arms. They respect a cease fire now and will keep that till almost the end of the month. It doesn’t mean that no soldiers are dying, by the way: fighting still flames up now and then. The PKK, and the pro-Kurdish party in parliament BDP, boycotted the referendum, because they though the proposals were not far reaching enough. They urge the government to lower the 10 percent threshold that is still in place, to mention one important thing. The BDP proposes more autonomy for Kurds, but not only for Kurds: they want more power to go the regions in Turkey, instead of the state being strictly governed from Ankara. If Erdogan doesn’t meet these demands or doesn’t start debating them, PKK violence will surely get worse, which will lessen the popularity of the AKP. An awkward position for Erdogan: if he does meet these demands or even seriously discusses them, he will be accused by the MHP and probably CHP that he is giving in to terrorists. Which will of course not encourage more people to vote for the AKP. This is definitely the toughest issue for the coming months.