Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan presidential election win on Sunday, a foregone conclusion, a phrase that could be used to describe most votes in the region. Now the Islamist leader sets his eyes on the next stage of transforming Turkey to fit his ideological vision.
And what is Erdogan’s vision? It is one that fits alongside that of the Arab Muslim Brotherhood movement throughout the region.
He is supporting the supporters of ousted Brotherhood president Mohamed Morsi, the Islamist dominated Syrian opposition against Syrian President Bashar Assad, Hamas, and so on.
In fact, Muslim Brotherhood supporter Yousuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most important Sunni clerics in the world, voiced his support for Erdogan’s presidential bid.
"I support the honest, sincere and powerful leadership of Erdogan and invite the Turkish people to support him as well," Qaradawi posted online on Saturday, according to a report by the Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak.
The election has been anything but fair, as Erdogan has used his powers and resources as prime minister, including his domination of the media.
For example, State-owned Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) have given Erdogan much more airtime, reported Turkey’s Today’s Zaman, adding that over 90 percent of TRT’s election coverage, focused on Erdogan.
Burak Bekdil, a columnist for the Turkish daily Hurriyet, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday that Erdogan's post-election strategy seems like it will be based on “building a de-facto executive presidential system by winning a constitutional majority in parliamentary elections in 2015 that would enable his AK Party to amend the constitution to formally implement an executive presidential system.”
“Erdogan’s desire is to introduce a one-man rule,” and the amount of influence he has will be affected by the percentage of the vote he carries, says Bekdil.
“There may be cracks within the AKP in the future, depending on how he chooses to reshape the party after he has been elected president.”
Bekdil assumes that Erdogan “prefers to powerfully rule an increasingly polarized and divided country than a less powerfully ruled peaceful country.”
Furthermore, he says, the legal immunity granted by the constitution to the president would allow him to violate the constitution by exercising presidential powers in a way that goes far beyond the traditionally symbolic presidential role.
Regarding relations with Israel, Bekdil expects Erdogan’s inflammatory rhetoric to calm after the election, but to rise again before the 2015 parliamentary elections.
This is because Erdogan “knows that he wins a lot of votes and solidifies his Islamist/conservative constituencies by means of Israel bashing.”
If there is not another war between Israel and its neighboring Arabs, then the Jewish state will not be his top political priority, said Bekdil.
Fadi Hakura, a specialist on Turkish affairs and an associate fellow at Chatham House in London, told the Post that he does not see a fundamental difference in what has been Erdogan’s style of governing and dominating Turkish politics over the past 10 years, and how he would lead as president.
Asked if becoming president would significantly increase Erdogan’s political power, Hakura responded that “Erdogan is seeking the presidency more for symbolism and prestige,” seeming to raise to the level of the country’s first president and founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
“Erdogan is a very charismatic leader with no competition within his party, which will continue to control the Parliament as well,” Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told the Post.
Asked if we can expect Erdogan to wield even more power if he becomes president, Inbar responded that even if technically he will be limited from achieving total political power because of a division of powers in the government, he nonetheless would be able “to run Turkey unopposed.”
Moreover, the AKP prime minister and parliament are likely to cooperate with Erdogan’s wishes, he said.