Turkey: After Erdogan?

CEFTUS recently hosted an upcoming parliamentary event: Turkey: After Erdogan?. The discussion was chaired by Bill Park, with keynote speaker Sinan Ciddi.

Speaker: Sinan Ciddi

Chair: Bill Park

The discussion centered on the potential future of Turkey after the departure of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been in power for nearly twenty years.

Sinan Ciddi highlighted the significant economic challenges facing Turkey. The country’s official inflation rate is reportedly very high, with some estimates suggesting real inflation might be much higher. The Turkish lira has significantly devalued in recent years, which has had a profound impact on the middle class and made foreign vacations a thing of the past for many Turkish families. The economic situation is dire, with Turkey’s currency losing substantial value and inflation rates soaring.

Ciddi noted that Erdogan faces his toughest electoral challenge yet. Previous elections were relatively uncontested, but this time, the opposition is stronger. Domestically, Turkey is grappling with economic turmoil. Erdogan’s administration has been criticized for its handling of the economy, with many blaming him for the current crisis. Furthermore, Turkey is highly polarized, with citizens either strongly supporting or vehemently opposing Erdogan.

Internationally, Turkey’s relationships are strained. The country is isolated and marginalized, with diminished trust from its allies, including members of the European Union and the United States. Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defence system has created tensions within NATO, resulting in unprecedented sanctions from the United States. Additionally, Turkey’s antagonistic stance in the Eastern Mediterranean and its relationships with Greece and Cyprus have further complicated its foreign relations.

The opposition in Turkey is currently coalescing under the Nation Alliance, consisting of several political parties, though not including the Kurds. This alliance has yet to declare a formal candidate, with potential contenders being Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Mansur Yavas, and Ekrem Imamoglu. While Kilicdaroglu has been the public face of the opposition, there is growing support for Imamoglu, the current mayor of Istanbul, who is seen as a charismatic and capable leader.

However, the opposition faces significant challenges. They lack a clear and cohesive platform beyond opposing Erdogan. The Nation Alliance’s primary goal is to return Turkey to a strengthened parliamentary democracy, but specifics on their policies remain vague. Additionally, the opposition has not effectively engaged with the Kurdish political bloc, which is crucial for gaining a majority.

The opposition’s chances of success are also hindered by the government’s control over the media and the recent implementation of a disinformation law, which stifles free speech and press freedom. The high electoral council, responsible for overseeing elections, is also dominated by Erdogan loyalists, raising concerns about the fairness of the upcoming elections.

Ciddi suggested that if Imamoglu is the opposition candidate, he might have a better chance against Erdogan. Imamoglu’s national presence and political charisma make him a strong contender. He has already shown resilience by winning the Istanbul mayoral election twice, despite government efforts to annul his initial victory.

The discussion also touched on the potential aftermath of Erdogan’s loss. If Erdogan were to lose, the opposition would face the monumental task of rebuilding Turkey’s judiciary and civil service and re-establishing the rule of law. There would also be a need to mend international relationships and restore economic stability.

In conclusion, the event highlighted the uncertainty and complexity of Turkey’s future post-Erdogan. The opposition has a challenging path ahead, requiring strong leadership, clear policies, and broad-based support, including from the Kurdish political bloc, to succeed in the upcoming elections and beyond.

Speakers’ bio:

Sinan Ciddi is a non-resident senior fellow at FDD and an expert on Turkish domestic politics and foreign policy.

He is also an Associate Professor of National Security Studies at Marine Corps University (MCU). Prior to joining MCU, Sinan was the Executive Director of the Institute of Turkish Studies, based at Georgetown University (2011-2020). Between 2008-2011 he established the Turkish Studies program at the University of Florida’s Center for European Studies. He continues to serve as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.

Sinan was born in Turkey and educated in the United Kingdom. He was previously an instructor at Sabanci University between 2004-2008 and completed his Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the same institution between 2007-2008. Distinct from his articles and opinion editorials, his book titled Kemalism in Turkish Politics: The Republican People’s Party: Secularism and Nationalism (Routledge, January 2009) focuses on the electoral weakness of the Republican People’s Party.

He obtained his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in 2007 in the field of Political Science. He continues to author scholarly articles, opinion pieces and book chapters on contemporary Turkish politics and foreign policy, as well as participate in media appearances.

Bill Park is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Defence Studies, King’s College, London University, and is based at the UK Defence Academy, Shrivenham.

He is the author of journal articles, book chapters, and monographs on a range of Turkish foreign policy issues, including its EU accession prospects, Turkey and ESDP, the Cyprus problem, Turkey’s policies towards Northern Iraq, Turkey-US relations, the Fethullah Gulen movement, and the Ergenekon affair. Among his publications is ‘Turkey’s policy towards Northern Iraq: problems and prospects’, Adelphi Paper No. 374, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies. His book, ‘Modern Turkey: People, State and Foreign Policy in a Globalized World’, was published by Routledge in 2011.

He is currently conducting a longer-term study of the three way relationship between Turkey, the US and the Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq in the wake of the US troop withdrawal from Iraq.

He is a frequent visitor to Turkey, and has given papers on Turkish affairs at various academic and official workshops and conferences around the world. He has appeared as a Turkey expert on British, Turkish, Russian, French, Iranian, Iraqi London and Portland, Oregon and Australian TV and radio, has given written and oral testimony on Turkish issues to both UK Houses of Parliament, and is occasionally used as a consultant on Turkish issues by various UK government agencies.

He serves as a trustee and council member for the British Institute at Ankara, and is an Advisor to the Dialogue Society in London.