In order for reforms and changes to take place, leadership is the most significant component. Currently, there are two prominent political figures who are willing to make the sacrifices needed to lead the country, namely Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Devlet Bahçeli. It is a unique opportunity for Turkey to continue reforms and take essential steps to move forward.
According to the results of the 2014 and 2018 elections, a majority of Turkish citizens are in favor of Erdoğan, who garnered around 52% and 53% of the votes respectively. However, the support for his party is lower than the figures claim.
Therefore, it can be said that Erdoğan's personality goes beyond the Justice and Development Party (the AK Party) as a whole; in other words, his credibility and popularity are far beyond any other political leader and party, including his own.
People support him more than they do his party. Erdoğan has urged his parliamentarians and party members to reach every corner of Turkey by highlighting "bringing service" to every citizen regardless of their political view. However, the AK Party should revitalize itself as they move onwards towards the next general election.
Bahçeli is the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) since 1997, a very influential party that is deeply rooted in Turkish political life. He has been criticized by many due to his alliance with the AK Party; however his patriotism is by no means unmeasurable. His role during some of Turkey's most difficult times, such as the attempted military coup in 2016, is admirable. Hence, he has shown his strong stance with the will of people in line with his ideal of "first my country and my nation then my party and me."
The increasing visionary thinking
While it may be the first time in Turkish political history that a political party sets assertive and visionary goals for the country – visions for 2023 and 2071 come to mind it is the right and responsibility of citizens to think towards the future as well. In this regard, Turkish people will be expecting more from the ruling parties such as new discourses, slogans, successes and relative results.
Therefore, the reforms initiated by the AK Party, thanks to political stability since 2002, should keep expanding into all areas without hesitation. For instance, in education, Bahasa Melayu, Chinese and Korean languages are selective courses in the Turkish education system; in line with an expanding vision of Turkey reaching out to Asia. Hence, it is admirable to see that many among the new generation in Turkey will be able to speak Asian languages including Chinese, Korean and Bahasa Melayu.
There have been many initiatives, incentives, policies and so on in order to put Turkey at best direction. However, I have to be objective on issues related to our economy. I feel it is a duty of any citizen to raise these issues in order to usher a better and more prosperous future for Turkey.
It would be honest to say that I may receive both support as well as criticism. However, I do not believe there would be much of an issue as I am simply giving constructive criticism rather than attacking the party or any personality randomly by putting my personal ideological issues into the matter.
Spending my time and money in order to gain knowledge, in line with Prophet Muhammed's saying, "get the knowledge even though it is in China." Hence, we as individuals should contribute by any means to reach the "2023 goals" as a nation together.
The Asian tour
I have visited several countries in Asia, namely Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Thailand; all of which have enlightened my thinking. Thus, I have compared several subjects between the West and Asia, as well as between Turkey and Asia; all from a Turkish perspective.
What I have discovered is that we Turks are at the same level as the larger powers, including Great Britain and Russia, in terms of historical background. This should bring about a sense of pride for every citizen of Turkey.
On the other hand, I discovered that Turkey is not in the same league with the most industrialized or developed nations in terms of technology, economy, and so on. The social life in Turkey may be better than some Asian countries or some other parts of the world, but it does not mean Turkey is self-sufficient in vital fields.
For example, the Turkish economy has ups and downs thanks to the words coming from mouths of some ruling Turkish officials (how it is perceived by many) and the tweets from the current American president. This shows that the Turkish economy is still fragile. Another example of the fragile economy is how the Turkish lira decreases or increases almost every day following voiced remarks while the Malaysian Ringgit is much more stable.
Every country has its own weakness as well. For example, homeless people are very visible in Seoul. In comparison, Turkey has prided itself in taking care of its citizens when it comes to the welfare of the elderly and disabled.
Turkey could create a system which would be a combination derived from the West and Asia, in accordance with Turkish characteristics, in order to eliminate its deficiencies in every space. However, this endeavor would require time, as well as resoluteness and concurrence from bottom to top.
The structural reforms
These reforms are an important component of any economy which is why many experts are talking about them. I am not trying to explain the structural reforms in detail; instead, I will make my own argument based on my own observations.
The last time I visited Turkey was in 2018 after staying in Malaysia for close to three years. Hence, I was expecting big changes in my beloved county; or at least the completion of a long promised 60-kilometer road project. However, instead of a road that residents of Turkey have been dreaming of for over three decades, there were some new buildings built, as well as some new and rebuilt parks in an economy that is based mostly on agriculture.
I have come across many complaints related to the road project. Some of these complaints come from truck drivers in regard to the increasing cost due to tough road conditions. Another example of a complaint is that the district needs upgraded waterworks following decades of use since its establishment.
The point from these two examples is that we should focus on the primary needs of our cities. Therefore, I cannot stop asking myself if our politics can go beyond simply demolishing the existing tea cafe and rebuilding it as a new project. Can we not work on projects which can introduce or increase our own products, or show off the contributions made by each city to the world? Can we not initiate joint projects with 3-5 counties and open them to the world?
So, the first takeaway here is that money should be invested according to the needs of people, cities and counties, and so on. It is not a wise move to replace anything that is essential with one that is dispensable. The second takeaway here concerns the deep knowledge of parliamentarians in regard to the needs of the cities and people who elected them.
Another vital issue concerns the international exhibitions hosted abroad by local Turkish organizations. I attended one such exhibition in Kuala Lumpur where Turkish companies from one region came to find matching companies in Malaysia. However, the number of Turkish companies outnumbered the Malaysian companies attending the exhibition.
Personally, it seemed to me that organization was poor and that most of the Turkish companies were unsatisfied with the result. Thus, we should better prepare ourselves for Asian markets and examine the outcomes right after each exhibition so as to improve ourselves for the next exhibition.
While the above point has been made in order to focus more on Asia, Turkish companies could learn from the experience and do better in other parts of the world. For example, some vital learning points would be that the companies would know to have enough market knowledge, they could initiate joint exhibitions rather than a single sectoral one, and there could be the establishment of a platform that would encourage the sharing of market-knowledge. Moreover, instead of pointing out mistakes made by either side, there should be more cooperation in every field in order to reach for a better future.
Turkey has the advantage of having two influential leaders who have cooperated on many issues over the last couple of years. Their cooperation should be the perfect example of people who are different, but still share common interests for the sake of country. The determination shown by both Erdoğan and Bahçeli should be an encouraging factor for local and regional leaders across Turkey. The decisions, and how those decisions were carried out, whether wrongly or correctly, may be another issue. What the two leaders have shown the people of Turkey is that they will work hard till the end. Whether we like these leaders or not, we need to work hard to make Turkey stronger.