The resignation of Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu holds a grim outlook for democracy and peace in the Middle East, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks to upsize his legislative power, and position a stooge as replacement.
Rumour has it that the reason behind Davutoglu’s resignation lays in the differences between he and President Erdogan. While this may seem to simply be a rift between two old friends, it marks the beginning of presidentialism in Turkey. Vox World says Devutoglu was no longer willing to work in an environment where, despite his legal rights to more governmental power, his attempts to rule were vetoed. An example of this is his negotiations with the EU to allow visa-free acceptance into Europe for Turkish Citizens, in exchange for moderating the anti-terror legislation. According to Al Jazeera, Erdogan was quick to reject this, in favor of leaving room to tighten said laws in the future.
The subsequent resignation has placed further power in the hands of the man who has defined terrorism on such a vague premise, that it has allowed for the seizure of media outlets criticizing his push towards authoritarianism. In order to balance this out, there has also been a notable incline in pro-Erdogan newspapers as pointed out by Al-Monitor. Not only limiting free speech, this also makes it more possible for Erdogan to spread messages of propaganda, and potentially lead his people into unnecessary wars.
Elements of this are beginning to show in the Kurdish conflict, both in Turkey itself and in Syria.
Under the current anti-terror legislation, terrorism is defined as “Any criminal action conducted by one or more persons belonging to an organization with the aim of changing the attributes of the Republic as specified in the Constitution…”. BBC News states that since the 1980s the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) have been fighting for autonomy, in the eyes of the Turkish Legal system, they are terrorists. This same reasoning applies to the Kurds in Syria, (the YPG), who have been making gains on the region of Rojava in Western Syria despite Turkish efforts to fight them off (also sourced from BBC News).
By no longer having a Prime Minister who is geared more toward peace talks and less towards military involvement to get his way, Erdogan is now able to replace him with someone who will not disturb his plans. This will give him the opportunity to further toughen his stance against the Kurds, deepen civil and political unrest in Turkey (and Syria, despite opposition from the US and UN), and create masses of displaced peoples to add to the already raging refugee crisis.
Furthermore, there is speculation over the possibility of a domino affect within the already unstable region, and as highlighted by Vox News, the idea that wealthy democracies don’t become dictatorships is being challenged. With Turkey, holding a GDP per capita of $10,515.1 (US) according to the World Bank, it is one of the wealthiest states within the region, particularly in comparison to its bordering countries. Aside from Greece, the bordering country that comes closest is Iraq, with a GDP of $6,420.1 ($US) per capita (World Bank). As a clear leader in the region, the influence could happen quickly. This build-up of political change geared toward a “cult of the leader” as highlighted by Al-Monitor, and backed by religious conviction akin to Islamism (also Al-Monitor) is a negative example for the region, and is reminiscent of the way in which Hitler came to power.
This is not a positive step toward peace and democracy in the Middle East.