In the wake of the fragile victory (51.3%) of the supporters of changing the political system of Turkey in the April 16 referendum, a new Turkey with a different outlook toward government and politics is being born. The main characteristic of the new constitution is changing the political system to presidential and thus increasing the authority and jurisdiction of the president; a change that can be as important a turning point as the establishment of the Republic of Turkey (1923) in the history of the country.
Apparently, internal policy will be more tangibly affected than foreign policy by the new ruling system in Turkey at least in the short run. The new political system needs to be reconstructed after the referendum. With regard to the identity of most of the leaders of the ruling party, and the fateful coalition of the Nationalists in the referendum, it seems the foundations of the new political system will be composed of the conservative Islamists as well as the Nationalists. Unlike many viewpoints, the new Turkey will not move toward the Islamization of the government or the country’s policies. Due to the multipolar nature of the country’s society, immobilizing internal forces under the shadow of Islam not viable. Even many of the Islamists were against changing the political system. The rapport that Erdogan has with his supporters, is not an intellectual one but rather dependent on the nature of his character. Erdogan rules the emotions. On the other hand, the secular tradition in Turkey’s civil society enjoys a prominent immobilization power in opposition to any possible deviation from the ruling ideology of the Turkish Republic. Although Kemalist tradition in Turkey is fading, the forthcoming processes may actually strengthen secularism. Secularism which has infiltrated the Turkish middle-class as well as the elites, has always been a balancing force against Islamism. According to the results of the referendum, many of the secular cities especially in the north and west of Anatolia have said ‘no’ to the change. On the other hand, the Kurds, Nationalists, and religious minorities like Alavis are against traditional Sunni Islamism.
Despite the above, the new ruling system will move towards authoritarianism in the absence of supervisory institutions. Owing to this, indicators of democracy, human rights, along with the rule of law will diminish. Internal authoritarianism, more than anything else, will weaken the country’s economy. Turkey does not have oil and is heavily dependent on direct foreign investment and free trade. In the case of the presence of an authoritarian regime and further political destabilization, we will witness a capital flee from Turkey as well as Turkish Lira’s devaluation which will result in the decrease of exports and the Gross National Product. Indexes in Turkey have not improved since 2014 and GDP has dropped from $ 860 b in 2013 to $ 725 b in 2016. The capital market is hugely perplexed and the local currency’s parity rate to USD has nosedived (USD 1 = TR 3.7). On the other hand, Turkey’s foreign debts have reached $ 400 b. One of the apparent consequences of the referendum will be the continuation of the present decreasing trend in Turkey’s economic indicators. The civil society is heavily bipolar now which will inevitably result in a thirst for more authority in the internal arena. Kurds will be targeted more than any other community by the ruling political regime. This trend will be further fortified with the presence of Nationalists in the new system of power distribution.
Foreign policy will not be affected as much by the recent change in the country’s political system. The ruling party has done whatever they could in the line of their strategic planning and the multiple internal obstacles have not been of much importance on its way either quantitatively or qualitatively. In the meantime, words about the re-appearance of the Ottoman Empire, while Turkey is grappling with various internal issues, is out of the question. With regard to the fact that Turkey is but an average power, it faces structural limitations on its choice of foreign policy. Turkey has done whatever it could in the global equations; nonetheless, its favorable results were not achieved. Even in 2011 when Turkey was at the pinnacle of its economic, military, and penetration power in the Middle East, it failed to undertake its strategic plans in order to take the leadership of the Muslim world.
It seems that Turkey’s dominant discourse in foreign politics is a mixture of pan-Islamism and pan-Turanism; i.e. the Middle East, Central Asia and the Turk geography will be the priorities of the country’s foreign policy. It is worth noting that the theoretician of Turkey’s foreign policy is Ibrahim Kalin who, unlike Davudoglu, stresses geopolitical depth; Kalin emphasizes Turkish ideological depth in the adjacent geography.
One of the important geopolitical questions posed after the referendum is what policy Erdogan will have toward the European Union.
One of the axes of the electoral campaign of Erdogan was the Nazism and Fascism discourse which, according to him, prevail Europe. This impression is the result of the conception of menace which is perceived from the EU. Internal authoritarianism and words about reviving capital punishment will obstruct Turkey’s EU membership process. Moreover, one of the consequences of separation from legal, political and economic institutions is the indecision that asylum-seekers suffer from in Turkey which Erdogan will continue to use as a pressure lever against the EU. In any event, seemingly, Erdogan has the American Trump and the Russain Putin in mind, rather than the EU, in the implementation of his gargantuan plans.