At the national referendum on April 16, the Turkish public will vote in a rather autocratic constitution. If Erdogan and his former political party (that he never fully relinquished control over) manage to convince the public, then the offices of head of government and head of state will be represented by one person with more additional powers.
If the public lights the green light at the referendum, that person most probably will be Erdogan at the 2019 elections. In Erdogan’s Islamic oriented tenure since 2002, the country has been gradually shifting its direction from its secular stance. Erdogan’s wing doesn’t agree with the concerns of the opposition on the new constitution, but once a person is equipped with so much power, it can be stretched, continuously.
Odds are against Erdogan
Since Erdogan got elected with 52% of the national vote on 2014, a lot has changed. Day by day he lost the best argument that he had, the growing and strong economy.
The ongoing Syrian civil war right next door, constant terror attacks from ISIS and attacks from Kurdish groups in 2016, weakened Erdogan’s bargaining chip. An unsuccessful coup attempt to overthrow Erdogan, had the reverse effect, causing a rise in his popularity.
The same people that supported Erdogan when he was the victim during the coup, now have serious doubts when it comes to granting him so much power.
Opposition groups have some simple and efficient arguments that Erdogan can’t overcome, and a month prior to the referendum, Erdogan is not even close to the 50% that he needs. Poll numbers that are being confirmed by the Erdogan’s former political party prove this point.
Erdogan’s Backup Plan
Erdogan plays the victim card on the occasions that he finds it is needed. If there is no victim card to play, he creates one.
In the eyes of Turkey’s depressed class, this makes him look like a hero. Therefore the more he creates a conflict, the more he gets support. This has already been tested, and a cause and effect reaction is what Erdogan is seeking. His recent quarrel with the Germany’s Angele Merkel was the chance to mobilize his constituents, over the imposed mass media control exerted by Germany.
Erdogan stated that Germany tried to ban him from campaigning to the approximately 1.5 million Turkish nationals living in Germany. Right after Germany’s actions, Holland took a similar stance against the Turkish foreign minister.
These are presented to the Turkish public as if the whole of Europe was against Erdogan on this matter. Whether Erdogan is right or wrong, he already won the argument in Turkey, and in the eyes of his potential voters…the rest is not very important at this point.
If politics was an international game, Erdogan would sweep up most of the awards, but unfortunately, in politics fair play is almost never applied. Some of Erdogan’s supporters don’t mind the games, even if they think that Erdogan is corrupt and undemocratic…he is just doing whatever needs to be done to win.
In Turkey it is believed that Erdogan has his own fanatic crowd somewhere between 30 to 35 percent.
The commander in chief, Erdogan is well aware that an external threat will gather enough voters behind him. Tension with Germany excited his supporters but it it still has not given him the poll boost he needs so close to the referendum.
It would be fair to expect Erdogan to take a big and aggressive step prior to the referendum. It might be Greece, EU, Kurdish forces in Syria, or anything else that comes to his way. Erdogan needs something big to electrify his base and gather more support, otherwise Erdogan may be on the way to experience his fist big election loss during a very long political career.
Efe Tanay is the Moscow-based Turkish columnist and writer, attorney at law. This piece was first published in The Duran. It has been reprinted with permission.