jump to navigation

Erdogan’s dilemma 31 mars 2007

Posted by Acturca in Turkey / Turquie.

The Economist  (U.S. Edition),

March 31, 2007, Ankara
Elections for a new Turkish president in May are already causing ructions

Presidential elections in Turkey have never been smooth affairs. Meddlesome generals have always wanted a say. In 1961 a respected academic was forced to withdraw by two gun-toting generals. But these days the army doesn’t wave guns around, and in its eagerness to join the European Union, Turkey has become decidedly more democratic (though the election is indirect, via a parliamentary vote).

Yet the army’s shadow is still looming over the presidential election to be held when the incumbent, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a fiercely secular former judge, steps down in early May. This time round, the generals and their secular allies claim that Ataturk’s republic is at stake.

That is because Turkey’s mildly Islamist prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose ruling AK Party has a big majority in parliament, is thinking of taking the top job himself. With the power to appoint the head of the army (NATO’s second-biggest), all of Turkey’s judges and its university rectors, a President Erdogan could advance his covert Islamist agenda unimpeded, his critics say. With his headscarf-wearing wife, Emine, as first lady, the fall of the secular republic would be complete.

Are things really so bad? In four years as prime minister, Mr Erdogan has tried a few Islamist moves: to outlaw adultery, to expand opportunities for graduates of imam hatip schools for training clerics, to install a former Islamic banker as head of the central bank. But on the whole he has not tampered with Turkey’s secular, pro-Western orientation. His party did not field women candidates who wore headscarves in the last election—nor will it in the parliamentary election in November.

Meanwhile, the bold domestic and judicial reforms enacted by the Erdogan government secured Turkey the prized start of EU membership talks in October 2005. The economy is doing nicely, with annual growth running at 5% or more. Recent opinion polls show that the AK Party continues to have a big lead over its rivals.

Some say that the army’s real reason for opposing Mr Erdogan is its fear of a further erosion of military power once the compliant Mr Sezer is gone. What can the army do to stop Mr Erdogan? Short of a military coup, precious little. As Umit Boyner, a prominent woman industrialist, says, « The days of coups are over. » This is not to say the generals won’t do their utmost to make life miserable for Mr Erdogan if he becomes president. Besides keeping up their anti-government rhetoric, they may shun presidential functions or National Security Council meetings. So Turkey could become more tense, which may be why, despite the AK Party’s popularity, most Turks are against Mr Erdogan’s presidency. It also explains why, with two weeks left for candidates to register, Mr Erdogan has not yet declared. « Will he or won’t he? » is the hottest question on the Ankara cocktail circuit.

Even his supporters see plenty of reasons why he should not. Mr Erdogan has unrivalled charisma and could lead the AK Party to another big victory in November. Many businessmen fret that without him the party, a loose coalition of nationalists, Islamists and liberals, could fall apart, plunging Turkey back into instability. As president, Mr Erdogan’s autocratic instinct might spoil relations with Abdullah Gul, the foreign minister, who is his most likely successor and is no poodle.

Indeed, a growing number of voices say that the statesmanlike Mr Gul would make a better president. Determinedly pro-European and unsullied by corruption charges, Mr Gul has moral authority as the man who led the rebellion against a former Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, to found the AK Party. Unlike Mr Erdogan he speaks fluent English and has spent time abroad. The only hitch is that his wife, too, covers her head. But so do over half of Turkish women.


No comments yet — be the first.

Votre commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s

%d blogueurs aiment cette page :