EMRE USLU

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EMRE USLU
January 23, 2013, Wednesday

Forecasting politics in 2013

Except for maintaining economic stability, 2012 was not a good year for Turkey. Turkey's democratization process has literally come to a halt, Turkish society was polarized, many people, even the sole supporters of the government, have lost their faith in the government and honesty is no longer worth discussing in regards to politicians and their relations with society. Hypocrisy is at its peak now that the old hypocrites are shining stars in government, media and businesses. Corruption claims were heard more than ever. Political failures in relation to Syria deeply affected people's morale. Terrorism dominated the year 2012.

We have begun 2013 with great hopes that Turkey will solve the Kurdish question through dialogue with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) leaders. Although I am not optimistic about such a possibility, it is a fact that many pro-government media and officials claim that a deal has already been brokered between the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan which will take time to be revealed.

In terms of the details of the deal, many commentators expect that the PKK will withdraw its units outside of Turkey, so that we will see a period without any clash between the PKK militants and the state forces.

For an analyst it is safer to wait until May 2013, the projected month for PKK disarmament, and see how the leadership of the PKK will act before making a forecast on the future of the negotiation period. However, as the days pass I see that all parties -- the political parties, government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and PKK leadership --  appear less optimistic about the chance for peace. For instance, in response to Erdoğan's call that the PKK “withdraw its units and go wherever they want to go,” senior PKK leader Murat Karayılan said: “This is our land and Turkey is the occupier. We won't go anywhere -- it is Turkish troops that should withdraw and go to their own land.”

One could read these statements as political maneuvers to gain an advantageous position; however, it is a fact that without the withdrawal of PKK units from Turkish territory, peace is not likely to be possible. Worst, there is no strategic reason for the PKK to withdraw its units.

Thus, in 2013, I don't see any hope toward solving the Kurdish problem. What I expect the most is the formation of a very fragile ceasefire. Both the PKK and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government need such a ceasefire, as the PKK is busy maintaining its gains in Syria and the AKP is entering an election period. However, there are many factors that will contribute to the fragility of such a ceasefire.

In terms of foreign policy, it is unlikely that the Bashar al-Assad regime will be removed from power in the near future. Thus, as long as the Assad regime maintains itself, it is unlikely that Turkey will achieve its strategic goal to maintain stability and normalize relations with this country. Worst, Iran has openly declared that the removal of the Assad regime is a redline for Iranian foreign policy and Russia as well exercised a navel military exercise to show her support for Assad regime. All indicators show that Assad will hang in Syria for at least another year, which translates into instability in Turkish politics.

In terms of domestic politics, many people continue to support Erdogan, not because they like what he is doing, but because there is no viable alternative that would further democratize the country and defend peoples' rights. The Republican People's Party (CHP) and the National Movement Party (MHP) have no chances of gathering people together or emerging as alternative political parties. Erdoğan is enjoying his position and will continue to rule the country as he wishes.

Though people continue to support Erdoğan because he has no alternative, it does not mean that they are happy. The country's politics will be unable to absorb the negative energy amongst the people, to give them hope and turn that hope into enthusiasm.

In other words, domestic politics will have no spirit to galvanize the people around one idea or one party. Thus, it is very likely that Turkish people will be turned into “political zombies,” with politics and political parties around them, but no spirit, no hope and no enthusiasm.

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