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April 19, 2011, Tuesday

Erdoğan’s 2023 target

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has recently announced his party’s election manifesto as the elections slated for June 12 near.

Election surveys indicate that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party)is very likely to secure 47 percent of the national vote while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) may get 26, 12, and 6 percent, respectively. This picture allows Erdoğan to act with extreme self-confidence in the face of his rivals. This makes his election manifesto not a simple text for the June 12 elections, but gives us the AK Party’s vision for the next 12 years. The following conclusions can be made from this text:

(a) The AK Party and Erdoğan intend to stay in power until 2022 (or 2024). Even if the AK Party fails to be elected to office in the 2015 elections, Erdoğan may assume the top state position as prime minister or president. Will Erdoğan continue to assume the top position until 2023 or 2024? We can answer this question with certainty only after the debates over the tenure of Abdullah Gül are over. If Erdoğan thinks that his becoming president might do harm to his party, he might change the party bylaws in order to continue to head his party.

(b) The election manifesto is actually hinting at the outlines of the AK Party’s 2023 perspective.

(c) Erdoğan refers to the next governmental term -- which may be his last as prime minister -- as the period of “mastery,” that is of huge projects and reforms. Depicting the 2002-2007 period as his “apprenticeship” and the 2007-2011 as his time as “qualified workman,” Erdoğan tells us: “We have not managed to implement our actual plans during the last two terms. This was because there were significant challenges we had to overcome and we did not know the system well and were not proficient about its mechanisms. In the post-2011 period, we will implement everything which we previously wished to be implement, but couldn’t.” He makes an important promise: a new and civilian constitution. A close examination of the deputy candidates nominated by the AK Party reveals that Erdoğan does not want any nuisance or trouble. It is also said that he will place greater emphasis on performing ministries, that have the bulk of the executive workload, as opposed to state ministries the ministries.

Erdoğan’s speech gives us a concrete idea about his 2023 goals. It is frequently suggested that Erdoğan is planning to make Turkey one of the world’s ten largest economies, boost its exports to $500 billion and make İstanbul one of the world’s top ten cities -- currently it is the 27th most influential city according to Frank Knight’s “global cities” index.

Undoubtedly, these goals are very likely to be accomplished. But there are some problems. I have three reservations about these targets:

(1) Although the prime minister referred to such concepts as “advanced democracy, strong community, livable environment, unique cities and leading country,” he basically targets economic growth. This inevitably entails, in addition to improvements in financial markets and macro balances, as well as a mobilization of real productive powers of the society. Also, the existing unequal distribution of income and the ongoing high rates of unemployment and poverty will make it hard to attain these targets. Turkey may attain the target of boosting its exports to $500 billion and becoming one of the world’s ten largest economies, but this will not save it from being a country of silently poor and destitute people. Currently, economic development and growth is promoted at the expense of the middle classes and the poor people.

(2) Turkey is seriously troubled with issues concerning social peace and social capital. The Kurdish issue is one of them. And sectarian polarization, which is increasingly becoming evident, can be added to this list. The problems concerning freedom of religion and the headscarf issue have yet to be settled. In addition to the above-mentioned poverty, our cultural wealth is weakening and the family structure is decaying and social solidarity is losing its impact. In short, the soft spot of Erdoğan’s 2023 target is the lack of social peace and strong social capital. Economic growth alone cannot solve these problems; rather, it will make them worse.

(3) The 2023 target lacks a strong intellectual footing. Turkey cannot continue to act as the carrier of philosophical resources and cultural values of the Enlightenment -- which are even criticized in the West -- to the Muslim world. It must focus on its own values and should be able to make a healing contribution to the modern world.

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