Turkey's election results and the Erdoğan reality

Published 04.11.2015 02:11

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) returning to single-party rule by achieving a historic share of the vote is a major opportunity for change in Turkey and the region. This month's G20 Summit to be held under Turkey's presidency in Antalya will be an important platform where this opportunity will be addressed with world leaders. It is not possible to understand Turkey and the Eurasian region correctly and to derive lessons from these political realities without understanding and interpreting the realities of the AK Party and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan correctly. To this end, the realities of Turkey and Erdoğan must be addressed independently from the disinformation campaigns that have been aimed at Erdoğan since 2008.

Firstly, the economic path and ideas that the AK Party, and therefore Erdoğan, has adopted in the whole process must be well known. Claims suggesting that Erdoğan pursues an autarchic and closed economy and a statist path are absolutely wrong. Erdoğan's path is the exact opposite of such claims. Throughout the process, and particularly since 2008, Erdoğan has argued for an outward-oriented, competitive and export-based economic policy. For instance, Istanbul becoming a finance center and the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku railway, which will be one of the most important lines of China's recently-initiated New Silk Road project, and the Marmaray railway tunnel, which will complement this commercial line in Istanbul, are the outcomes of a major trade initiative. Furthermore, Erdoğan has always insisted on the opening of strategic chapters in negotiations over Turkey's full membership in the EU. Throughout the process, Turkey has made its basic energy policy to transmit Caspian energy resources to Europe through the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) and to offer Mosul-Kirkuk energy sources, which are at the helm of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), to the world economy. It has also taken major steps to break Russia's energy monopoly in Europe. In parallel with this, Turkey has argued for political stability and democracy for all countries in a vast region that spans from Eastern Europe to the Caspian. Despite all this, some circles strive to present Erdoğan as an authoritarian leader. This is because Erdoğan supports democracy against authoritarian state structures in Turkey and the whole region, as the Turkish economy in this period reveals.

Turkey did not sign the 20th standby agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2008 - which, I think, was one of the strongest steps that Erdoğan took on his way to introducing a new Turkey. This step gave rise to the economic start of a process that would go into history as a silent revolution. This was reflected in the years of 2011 and 2012 as high and inclusive growth. Turkey and the AK Party saw the political consequences of this in the 2010 constitutional referendum and June 2011 elections. After shrinking in 2009, the Turkish economy grew by nearly 10 percent, two years in a row. This was not only because of a domestic demand boom that resulted from the base effect of the 2009 shrinking. This growth rate revealed itself as the beginning of an export- and industry- weighted inclusive growth. Not long after did we start to see the political consequences of this important historic and economic beginning. The middle class, which was sociologically ready, realized that it would become a political power thanks to this inclusive growth and started to express itself within the AK Party. The 50 percent voting share achieved in the 2011 parliamentary elections was the most concrete indicator of this. This political awakening would also accompany accelerated economic outcomes. The dominant finance and "industrial" capital that conglomerated in the west of Turkey realized that a new industry, which was merely a branch of it in the past, was emerging. In many industrial cities in Anatolia, the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SME) economy rapidly ceased to supply and distribute intermediate goods for big capital holders and started to carry out exports. This economic reality shouldered the economic strength of the AK Party's silent revolution and gave rise to a pro-AK Party and pro-Erdoğan middle stratum in Anatolia.

With a relative improvement in income distribution, this middle class emerged when a vast stratum, which could be considered poor before 2008, started to flourish rapidly. This new social class, which rapidly accessed technology and media, realized Erdoğan's vision. As Erdoğan felt their support, he accelerated the liquidation of the antidemocratic structures of the past. Turkey was no longer a country that would remain within national borders and would remain indifferent to its eastern and western parts unlike in the previous 80 years. Under Erdoğan's rule, Turkey embarked on a quest to become a welfare society that would observe regional stability and reach all strategic economic spheres from which it moved away with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.

The motto that "The world is bigger than five" emerged as a result of this process. Also, questions concerning Bosnia and Herzegovina, Palestine, Mosul-Kirkuk, Aleppo-Latakia and Egypt were internalized as Turkey's issues. As such, Erdoğan has turned into a glimmer of hope and a natural political leader in the entirety of the region. This has also become a new and national foreign policy path for Turkey. Again in the same process, the defense industry, domestic airplane, railway networks, highways and airports that reach the most distant parts of the country, universities and energy lines, became the economic indicators of silent revolution.

Bearing all these realities in mind, the poor and middle classes in Turkey voted for a stronger and more democratic Turkey in the Nov. 1 elections. So, election results must be considered as a harbinger of an inclusive growth and democratic stability not only for Turkey, but also for the EU, Middle East and Caucasus. With these election results, Turkey will take more important steps toward being a full member in the EU and becoming a center of democracy and stability both for Europe and its region.

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