Kemalism is dead. Long Live Mustafa!

Erdogan’s victory in both presidential and parliamentary polls means that the divisive figure will now have unparalleled executive power, pushing Turkey towards an undeclared dictatorship, says Saurabh Kumar Shahi

The election results in Turkey were surprising, to say the least. Not only did incumbent executive head RecepErdogan scored a knockout first round victory in the presidential poll, his AK Party and its ultra-right ally, MHP, scored more than 50 per cent seats in the parliamentary polls as well. After all the votes were counted, Erdogan polled 53 per cent against his close Kemalist CHP rival MuharrenInce who polled 31 per cent. In the parliamentary polls, while his AKP polled only 42.5 per cent, his ultra-right ally MHP polled around 11 per cent.
The result has now concentrated hitherto unprecedented power in the hands of the executive (read Erdogan), and in all certainty push Turkey towards an undeclared dictatorship. As soon as the new parliament is convened, AKP will push a bill that will abolish the post of Prime Minister and will concentrate all the powers in the hands of the President. None of the European Countries has an executive who is as powerful as Erdogan would be following this amendment.
The amendment will give Erdogan power to issue decrees outside the scope of the parliament. These decrees can constitute a ministry or abolish it; appoint a minister or boot him out. He can also appoint and remove civil servants on a whim. And the parliament can do nothing about it.
While this will tighten Erdogan’s grip over Turkey, this also means that Kemalism is now as good as dead. Erdogan’s AKP had eroded Kemalist principles in all these years in a targeted manner; however, a complex system of check and balances meant that not all the efforts towards erosion were successful. Kemalist minded judges, academicians and civil servants were acting as a bulwark against these changes. In one broad stroke, they have all now been sent to oblivion. While Erdogan had used the aborted putsch to cleanse the country of his critics and rivals, most notably those associated with his friend-turned-enemy FatehullahGulen, there was still a sizable chunk of old guards left. This new sweeping power will assure that Erdogan cleanses the system of every Kemalist he gets his hands on.
The institution that prided itself as the vanguard of Kemalism, Turkish Military, has already been purged. Its morale is low but a new crop of religious personnel—all inclined towards AKP—are filling up the vacant space. While this has destroyed the professionalism inside the military, it has assured that no new putsch attempt shall ever be made.
The defeat brings further bad news for Turkey’s Kurdish population. While their party, HDP, broke the 10 per cent threshold and entered the parliament, the number suggests that AKP will now be increasingly dependent on ultra-right ally MHP for day to day functioning inside the parliament. MHP is the traditional nemesis of Kurds, and will likely further push Turkey’s policy towards Kurds rightward. This would mean a new spate of a bloodbath.
Says Samil Can, noted political scientist of Turkish origin at Stanford University, “Yes! HDP made it to the parliament. But now there are also 2 nationalist-fascist parties in the parliament at the same time, both with over 10 per cent electoral support. One is loyally allied with the ruling party and the newly formed other is in ‘opposition,’ led by a politician nick-named Asena, the ‘she-wolf’, who has a hideous history of bolstering a pro-government paramilitary terror machine in the police force in the late 90s as the interior minister, in order to balance the then-dominant army. As usual, the losses of AKP remain mostly within the larger fascistic bloc that extends wellinto the ‘opposition.’ While the state of emergency will probably be lifted in the name in the coming months, this election is proof that the majority of the Turks are just fine with it and extensive ‘engagement’ with critical social forces and social media posts and a de facto SoE will continue like business as usual. I don’t know whether it is fair to expect so much from the HDP, but they are the only social, political and cultural force that has the potential to raise the voice of sane criticisms against the mass-supported cynical authoritarianism of the last decade. That is, of course, within the tightening bonds of legislative readjustments the new presidential system grants—a system designed by the ruling party.”
The situation in the judiciary is hardly better. Erdogan filled up lower judiciary with its own men who are now openly defying upper judiciary as well as the constitutional court, which are dominated by the old guards. The arbitrary nature of arrests and punishments means that Turkey has departed further adrift from the guidelines laid by the European Union in their accession agreement. The EU dream is over now for all practical purposes.
This victory will also embolden Turkey to recalibrate its external policies. Turkey’s open defying of NATO and its visible tilt towards Russia has rattled Washington. Its decision to buy Russian S-400 missiles even at the threat of the cancelling of a possible F-35 deal is indicative that Erdogan is emboldened enough to rewrite the terms of engagement it had with its traditional allies.
On the positive side, it will offer Erdogan enough breathing space to recalibrate his stance on Syria where President Assad and the Syrian Arab Army are increasingly tightening their grip on the country.