Turkey has elected its president by popular vote for the first time. So the era that began with the "republican meetings" under the hegemony of the April 27 military memorandum, continued with the Gezi protests and reached its peak with the Dec. 17 and Dec. 25 judicial coup attempts has come to an end. The main aim of these attempts was to end Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's political career through anti-democratic ways, preventing his presidency. Though the country experienced military coups every decade up until the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) came to power, Turkey has closed this dangerous process with minimal damage.
The presidential election, which forms a direct relationship between the presidency and popular will, inevitably changed the meaning of the presidential seat and increased the expectations regarding it. During his election campaign, the Republic's 12th president, Erdoğan, promised to use his position to make constitutional changes if he was elected by public opinion. So, Erdoğan won this election by promising that he would do more than symbolic moves such as ribbon cutting, paying visits abroad and approving bills.
According to that, we can expect that Erdoğan to chair the Cabinet meeting on Sept. 1, 2014 after he takes over the presidential seat from Abdullah Gül on Aug. 28. So, it would seem clear that the parliamentary system is no longer enough for Turkey, which is still ruled by the Constitution made after the Sept. 12 military coup. However, a method between the parliamentary system and presidential system is to be adopted until a new constitution can be issued. The only way to overcome this transitional period with success is the AK Party carrying the country to the 2015 general elections in unity.
The party's decision to hold an emergency congress on Aug. 27, a day before Erdoğan takes over the presidential seat, also hints at that effort. This decision to have an emergency congress was taken by unanimous vote in the central decision-making board of the party, which could be interpreted as the AK Party's leader will not change, although 15 days remain for the chairman to change. It is very likely that the name indicated by Erdoğan – the leader who has won the last nine elections he in the last 12 years and follows a strategy that gives no clue for his next step – for the prime ministry will be adopted by the party.
Despite common belief, current President Gül's announcement that he is willing to return to the party is not unexpected. However, claiming that a possible division might break out in the party based on that is pointless. In this new equation, there is no room for Gül right now since he is not a Parliament member at the moment and the new chairman of the party will also be the prime minister. Also, the claims suggesting that Gül's return to the party might cause separations are not credible. Erdoğan's post-election strategy also includes efforts to construct social consensus after he takes the presidential seat. As the person who will direct the country's politics at least for the next five years, the presidential seat should not be undermined with the daily political polemics that Erdoğan had to deal with while he was the AK Party's chairman. He hinted at this during his victory speech by saying "let's start off with a clean slate and leave the old disputes and old Turkey behind," offering an olive branch to all segments of society. However, if anti-democratic political intervention methods such as Gezi attempts and Gülenists' unlawful police operations are to be resorted, Erdoğan will definitely continue to defend legal, political and democratic methods by making no concessions.
As can be seen, there is one more thing which is clear: For a long period, a "post-Erdoğan era" will not be possible for Turkish politics.
About the author
Hilal Kaplan is a journalist and columnist. Kaplan is also board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey.