Erdoğan calls for support ‘one last time’ amid opposition’s risky bid

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been using new campaign rhetoric, telling voters that he will “ask for (their) support for the last time” in 2023 and pledging to make room for the younger generation after taking various steps toward “Türkiye’s Century.” That pledge reflects Erdoğan’s commitment to initiating ambitious projects for the republic’s second century after laying the groundwork for two decades. In other words, the Turkish president signaled his intention to leave office upon finishing a final term under the presidential system of government.

In a world of great power competition and uncertainty, Erdoğan asking for support “one last time” is a message that would catch the electorate’s attention. Even voters who are used to (or bored of) him being in charge would think long and hard about Türkiye needing a leader with vast experience in international politics. Indeed, this new rhetoric could give Erdoğan an opportunity to present his achievements and Türkiye’s transformation from a comparative perspective.

Still fighting over potential presidential candidates, the opposition might target Erdoğan for seeking a “third” term. Yet that move is unlikely to win over any voters.

No opposition candidate

It is no secret that the “table for six” has been avoiding making a decision on the joint presidential candidate by focusing on the transition period and common policies. As a matter of fact, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu recently opposed endorsing a candidate without shaking hands on a common agenda: “After the election, the elected president must take the table for six with him/her. It would be disastrous for the presidential candidate not to be on the same page as the [opposition] leaders after their endorsement. What happens after the election is more important.”

That statement highlighted the various dilemmas that the opposition bloc faces today. Politics and election campaigns are extremely dynamic. Here’s a case in point: Kılıçdaroğlu, who brought up the religious headscarf issue, has been trying to decide whether his party should support the proposed constitutional amendment (to avoid a referendum) or oppose it to become entangled in a war of words on the campaign trail.

Moreover, it is impossible for the opposition’s presidential candidate to agree on everything with the six opposition leaders, who will endorse him/her, even before the election. If they end up winning, making every single decision based on the instructions of those six politicians would go against the nature of politics. It is only possible in theory to limit the authority and responsibility, which the majority will assign to a single person, to a consensus among six politicians on dynamic policy issues.

Coordination council

The idea of forming a “coordination council,” too, is a guardianship plan that will vanish before long. It would make more sense (albeit highly problematic) for all opposition leaders to serve as vice presidents, as the elected president’s powers would be exercised by six quasi presidents/prime ministers in that situation. Obviously, each party would fill its ministry with its own members and someone would have to coordinate the actions of six – or possibly seven, including the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). In the end, the president, the opposition leaders and the minister would have to hold endless meetings to keep that fragmented coalition on track. Otherwise, the elected president will start going it alone, unable to deal with that level of fragmentation. The pro-opposition commentators, who oppose the candidacy of CHP-affiliated mayors, are aware of that particular danger.

There is no reason to expect the “augmented parliamentary system” proposal to yield results either. That plan, too, could fuel a dual crisis by putting a popularly elected president in office, creating a tug-of-war between the president and the prime minister, and unstable coalition governments that dissolve frequently.

Nor does the idea of a “founding vote of no confidence” (something the “table for six” included in their parliamentary system proposal) make any sense. Since 1980, Türkiye has seen countless coalition governments. Yet only one of them was dissolved due to a vote of no confidence.

I do not expect the “table for six” to dissolve. They could even endorse a joint presidential candidate once the campaign kicks off. However, the “real danger” would be for the presidential candidate to fight the opposition leaders for power – as Kılıçdaroğlu pointed out. In the face of that danger, Erdoğan asking for support “one last time” would have a significant potential impact.

Source: Daily Sabah

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About the author

Burhanettin Duran

Burhanettin Duran

Mr. Burhanettin Duran is a professor of international relations and the chairman of the Turkish think tank SETA

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