Consideration to geostrategic pulse 230 - Turkey - whereto?

Turkey - whereto?
Corneliu PIVARIU

In December 2016, the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP), presented the Turkish parliament the bill proposing the ammendment of the Constitution for replacing the current parliamentarian system by a presidential one whereby the president Tayyip Recep Erdogan will have extra executive powers. At the beginning of the last decade of January 2017, the parliament approved the proposed ammendments with 339 votes (the necessary minimum number was 330) and the president is to endorse the document and after that the High Electoral Committee will set the date of the referendum for adopting the ammendments. It is assumed that the referendum is envisaged to take place sometime between 1st and 20th April and the majority of observers considers  these ammendments will be aproved althoug Kemal Kiliçdaroglu  - the leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party expressed confidence that the changes will be rejected. Mention should be made that except for the AKP, the constitutional changes are backed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) – headed by Devlet Bahçeli (the two parties together have a little more than 60% of the parliament) and by other political organizations of lesser amplitude. Besides, the general opinion is that under Turkey’s current circumstances, the referendum will succeed and Tayyip Recep Erdogan will have after 13 years as prime minister and since 2014 as president the most important executive powers in Turkey.

Thereby, if president Erdogan may rest assured of his success domestically, he has to take into account two other fields, no less important, the economy and foreign relations. If we refer to the Turkish Lira’s exchange rate against the dollar, it has devaluated since the attempted coup of the 2016 summer from around 3 Liras/dollar to around 3.85 Liras/dollar by the end of January 2017 and that follows a devaluation tendency started in 2013. The government has numerous initiatives for improving the general economic situation, investments and PPP included, while resuming the relations with Russia will contribute to a certain extent to the improvement of the economic evolution in 2017 unless other factors that influence negatively the economic evolutions will emerge.

As far as the foreign relations are concerned, we notice president Erdogan’s concern for reassessing the bilateral relations with the US president Donald Trump after his inauguration. “I wish to meet Mr Trump without too much delay. I will highlight the issue of a new Turkish-American relationship in the framework of a strategic concept. Is our relationship unfolding under sound conditions now? No. We have to make it sound”, Erdogan stated on January 26th when returning from a visit he paid to three African states. Mention should be made of the visit to Ankara of the British prime minister Theresa May on January 28th, immediately after her meeting in Washington with president Donald Trump. The British official declared that the visit aims at preparing the ground for post-Brexit period for enhancing the economic relations between the two countries (an uderstanding amounting to 100 million £ has been already signed for the joint development of the program of the Turkish military jet  TF-X, and president Erdogan stressed the wish of increasing the bilateral commercial exchanges from 15.6 billion $ to 20 billion $). Mention should be made also to the fact that prior to her meetings with Turkish officials, the British prime minister laid a wreath at  Atatürk’s mausoleum and wrote in the monument’s book: “Let’s renew together the efforts for meeting Atatürk’s vision on peace at home and peace in the world”.

Even if it was not made public, we believe a message from Donald Trump too concerning Washington’s future relations with Ankara and within NATO was conveyed, meeting president Ergogan’s wish of having a phone call with president Trump: “I intend to have a meeting with (the Russian president Vladimir) Putin. Having a phone call with Mr Trump could be an oportunity before meeting him personally”. Certainly an important place in the dialogue at the highest level between Turkey and the USA will be devoted to the issue of the situation in the Middle East and mainly the situation in Syria. President Trump ordered already the Pentagon to study the options for future actions including establishing safety zones at Syria’s northern border (an idea Ankara mentioned some time ago).  Washington’s vision for these zones is not yet known or whether it wants to cooperate with state actors (Turkey, Russia, Syria) or to involve non-state actors too – the Democratic Union Party of the Kurds in Syria (PYD), something unacceptable for Ankara.

Excepting for its domestic situation, other important global or regional players will matter in Turkey’s future evolution other than the USA, such as Russia, China, Iran, Israel (the bilateral relations are impreoving anew). With a presidential regime, the Turkish leadership will continue to have an important role in regional geopolitics or even in the global one that it could further expand by developing trilateral strategic partnerships (with Romania and Poland) or quadrilateral (with Romania, Poland and Ukraine).

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