Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced his presidential vision document at Istanbul's Haliç Congress Center last Friday. I participated in the event as it was of historic importance for Turkey. The media also showed great interest in the event and about 4,000 people from all segments of society were at the hall including former and current members of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), NGO members, renowned figures from unions and the business world, non-Muslim religious leaders, artists and academics.
Turkey's greatest accomplishment in the last 12 years is this regime's success in carrying out elections, which were interrupted by coups before. This is actually Erdogan and AK Party's success because the party has managed to overcome obstacles with civil politics and public support even though it has faced many assaults and anti-democratic intervention attempts over the last 12 years. One of Erdogan's most remarkable character traits is his making no concessions to his agenda no matter how critical the interventions are. He does not resort to tricks such as calling immediate elections or dissolving Parliament. He is taking the risk to fight by waiting until elections. Each election is like a vote of confidence for the AK Party and he so far has managed to increase his votes in the eight elections he went through, which enabled the strengthening of politics.
Moreover, he did not make any concessions to those exploiting the Gezi Park crisis that broke out in May 2013 as a coup opportunity. The Dec. 17 and 25 judicial coup attempts followed it. He also struggled against that without hesitation and kept waiting for the elections. In the March 30 local elections, the AK Party was victorious with 46 percent of the vote. This victory undermined the coup alliance, and more importantly, even the pro-coup bureaucratic elites started to believe that there was no way for them to come to power anymore apart from elections.
The opposition parties also put forth a joint presidential candidate who has some characteristics they hate. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu has an Islamic background but he is actually a quite suitable candidate for the White Turks. Although he was born in Egypt, he had close relations with the elites of society - he also did not react against the overthrow of Morsi and supported General el-Sissi. In the process of propaganda, he uttered some remarks such as: "We must remain impartial in the Palestine matter," and "We shouldn't have let Syrian refugees into Turkey." These are the words that would cause a huge stir among religious groups, while they conform to the mindset of White Turks. It is presumed that Ihsanoglu will receive the White Turk vote and he could also gain the sympathy of religious groups in the country due to his Islamic background.
It can be considered a well-designed work of engineering, but religious factions move away from Ihsanoglu when he speaks. So it is certain that each remark of this outside- of-politics political candidate that is assumed to seem sympathetic to all segments of society will gain the support of some groups, while losing others. Also, his election campaign slogan: "Ekmek için Ekmeleddin (Vote Ekmeleddin for Bread)" has been taken as very weak and absurd because it brings to mind the apoliticism of Turkey in 1970s.
On the other hand, Erdogan's vision and personality are quite realistic and future-oriented. His vision promises the transformation of Turkey into a developed country through welfare systems and democratization. This promise is assuring and realistic with the great successes achieved in the last 12 years as evidence. Erdogan is exciting as the leader of all the "others," as he strictly stands against an oligarchic and bureaucratic state approach that marginalizes its citizens. He takes his job seriously and works very hard. The demand of stability and equality is of great importance for 75 percent of the country; and candidates such as Ihsanoglu awaken the fear that the status-quo might regain power and the progresses the AK Party has achieved so far might be lost. Obviously, Erdogan expresses his positivity quite well and could gird his promise of stability. Erdogan will most likely make it to the second phase of the presidential election by qualifying in the first phase that is to be held on Aug. 10. But the real struggle is going to take place before the general elections in 2015.