Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been sworn in for another five-year term and in one of his first moves has appointed his son-in-law as the country’s new finance minister. Cries of ‘nepotism’ quickly followed and the markets were agitated at the development, fearing that the democratic rule that has so characterised Turkey in recent decades is being swiftly eroded by an executive presidency. For his part, Erdogan has said that he is going to ‘propel our country forward’ and that Turkey was making a ‘new start.’
Thus begins a truly new phase in the life of Turkey the country and its now deeply-polarised people. The parliamentary system has been in place since the foundation of the Turkish republic 95 years ago. In the eyes of Erdogan Turkey is leaving behind a system that has cost the country dearly in terms of political and economic chaos and a majority of his countrymen and women agree with him, but a very large minority do not and they remain a hub, indeed a bedrock, of disaffection and unhappiness that is going to endure long into the future.
Turkey is now a presidential republic, effectively controlled by a single man and now his extended family and trusted associates and friends. The academic fabric of the country has been decimated by the arrests and sackings following the failed coup. International trust has waned as nations especially in Europe — which Turkey now has no hope of joining via the EU — gather their wits and analyse what all this might mean for the security of their own borders as well as trading relations. Indeed, Erdogan has already distanced himself from the West, and few Western leaders attended his inauguration besides a sprinkling from Africa and the Middle East — hardly the warmest of welcomes.
There are now around 160,000 people in jail but with 53 per cent of the vote, an economy that is doing well and a support base that is satisfied with recent outcomes a new Turkey is finding its place. Loose cannon or stabiliser? Only time is going to tell.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2018.