This week the Parliament went back to business after its recess for the local elections, and two issues were at the top of the political agenda: Assessment of the damage the local elections defeat inflicted on the opposition parties, and future prospects for the presidential elections in early August.
Yet, an incident on the day the Parliament reconvened left a deep mark on the political scene as an assailant identified as Orhan Övet punched the leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, in the face and was quickly detained as CHP supporters tried to rough him up.
It happened in the spacious corridor hall where the CHP holds its parliamentary group meetings every Tuesday. In Turkey it is customary for the parties to hold their group meetings in the Parliament on the second day of the week, which is also the first working day of the house. Political leaders use the occasion to lambaste each other and discharge all their anger directed against their opponents.
This Tuesday was a special occasion as it was expected that the leaders would assess the performance of their parties and give an account of their failures.
So the first meeting was by the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) where Chairman Devlet Bahçeli claimed he was successful. The second meeting of the day was held by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) where Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdoğan thanked his supporters and party workers for their hard work in achieving a landslide victory. The final group session was staged by the CHP and it was expected that critics of Kılıçdaroğlu would grill him for what they see as the dismal loss of their party in the municipalities. Yet a punch changed everything.
The AK Party jumped the gun and declared that the assailant was a party member and that he was immediately fired, thus denying the CHP the satisfaction of claiming an AK Party plot. The AK Party also said the assailant had a large criminal record and that such a person should have never been accepted as a member There are deep suspicions that this incident was not the work of an individual but rather a plot manipulated by those who want to create unrest in the country.
At the end of the day, the CHP parliamentary group session turned into a show of sympathy for Kılıçdaroğlu who was initially preparing for a rough ride. Critics had been lambasting him for cooperating with the Gülen Movement, fielding right-wing candidates and turning the local elections into a referendum for Erdoğan.
What was interesting in the group meetings, however, was the fact that neither Kılıçdaroğlu nor Bahçeli seemed to understand that in the March 30 polls, 45.5 percent of Turks voted for Erdoğan and only Erdoğan, rather than his AK Party. They gave him a clear mandate to run the country. So if he wants to become president he now has a clear mandate to do so, provided he continues to run the country effectively. Bahçeli claimed that Erdoğan was not qualified to become president, while Kılıçdaroğlu spoke about the need to elect a "civilian" head of state while opposing the prospective candidacy of the prime minister as president.
A challenge: Swallowing up Crimea seems to be only the first step in a Russian campaign to flex its muscles in the areas which Moscow regards as its backyard, including what is left of Ukraine, Moldavia, the Baltics and the Caucasus. The West pretends to be tough but with Russia holding the energy card most western powers seem to have been reduced to paper tigers. The precedent Russia has set in Crimea has serious international repercussions. Turkey has been silent as it sees the real dangers blowing from the north.
Another challenge: Claims that Turkey is supporting religious extremists in Syria to the extent of helping them produce chemical weapons, the leaking of a top secret brainstorming session involving the Foreign Ministry top brass, the military and intelligence leaders on Syria is clearly aimed at clipping the wings of Turkey and preventing it from any meaningful action to stop the carnage led by the Damascus regime.
Turkey has to take effective counter measures.
Yet another challenge: The Kurds of Iraq are prodding the central government of Iraq to allow them to sell their oil abroad through Turkey.
Yet, it seems the talks between Erbil and Baghdad are stuck and may collapse soon. Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has said the time has come for the Kurds to sever ties with Baghdad and declare independence. This could cause numerous complications for Turkey regarding regional stability and due to the delicate ethnic balances at home. Turkey has to use its good offices to prevent all this.
All these challenges need a concerted effort on the part of the government but this cannot be done when Erdoğan and his Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, have to struggle with so many complications at home.