Next president could build a brand new Turkey - analysis

Economic troubles and electoral defeats indicate that the repressive “New Turkey” regime built by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could soon collapse, just as real candidates to replace him have begun to emerge, said an analysis on Monday for Open Democracy. 

The sudden possibility of change after so many years has spurred discussions of an early election, Ahmet Erdi Öztürk, politics professor at London Metropolitan University, said in Open Democracy. 

Most analyses examine what share of the vote new political actors might gain, while others have begun debating the shape of a post-Erdoğan Turkey, according to Öztürk, who thinks these views miss the point. 

“Is the creation of a Brand New Turkey possible over the ruins of the New Turkey?” he asked. “Are the candidates who claim to compete with Erdoğan right now truly promising a brand new Turkey?”

Turkey has no election scheduled until November 2023, but Öztürk sees three likely candidates competing against Erdoğan: Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), former economic czar and deputy prime minister Ali Babacan, and former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, both of whom left the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) this year to launch their own parties. 

He sees Imamoğlu emerging as the most popular candidate, despite the CHP’s history of internal conflict and his lack of an ideological vision beyond battling corruption.  

“Imamoğlu is young, industrious and open to innovation, and his greatest advantage is that he serves in Turkey’s largest city, where he can assert himself through tangible actions,” said Öztürk, adding that he also has strong relations with key factions like the Kurds and Alevis. 

Next is Babacan, whose great asset is his capacity to fix the troubled Turkish economy, thanks to his successful stint as economic minister, said Öztürk. “Babacan may be the first stop for structures perturbed by Erdoğan and planning to sever ties, and he could break (off) a serious bloc of votes from the AKP,” he said. 

But in his first interview, according to Öztürk, Babacan made no new promises on the Kurdish issue, societal polarisation, education, youth unemployment, femicide or foreign policy, but instead sought a return to the golden days of the AKP. 

Davutoğlu is a feeble candidate in comparison, and his impact on Turkey’s poorly viewed Syria policy is still fresh, but his appeal to Islamist groups is likely to erode Erdoğan’s support, said Öztürk.

“The key that will unlock this future of Turkey is the construction of a fresh ‘state identity’ consistent with a society as dynamic and diverse as Turkey,” said Öztürk. “Whoever can rush to the aid of everyone’s maladies and suggest a Brand New Turkey might have a chance at possessing and shaping not only Erdoğan’s seat but also the future of Turkey.”