Erdogan has cemented his place in the history books as modern Turkey’s second-most notable ruler, but he seems determined to better that. Even after last year’s referendum, he has orchestrated a purge of elected AKP officials in cities where results from the vote were lower than expected. Loyalty to Erdogan seems to be the sole determinant of survival in this latest reshuffle of Turkish politics. If Turkey’s future seems unsure, one thing is certain: Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be at its centre.
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The 21st-century Turkish media environment is steadily worsening. Moreover, during Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s tenure as prime minister (2003-2014) and now president – and particularly since the 2016 failed coup attempt and subsequent state of emergency – journalists have been subjected to increasing harassment, intimidation and arrest in a government bid to ensure a more compliant press.
Pumuk continues to write and publish actively. However, some members of a new generation of Turks believe that the old conflicts between Western modernity and Eastern tradition have been resolved decidedly in favour of Turkey’s Ottoman past. Thus it is difficult to see Pamuk’s writings carrying the same resonance in this new future as it had before. It may be that Orhan Pamuk’s era as the voice of modern Turkey is growing fainter.
The constitutional changes, most of which will come into effect after the next elections in 2019, give him vastly expanded powers to appoint ministers, prepare a budget, choose the majority of senior judges and enact certain laws by decree. He will also become the head of the executive, as well as the head of state, while retaining ties to his political party. The role of the prime minister will be scrapped and the new post of vice-president (possibly two or three) will be created. Parliament will effectively lose its right to scrutinize ministers, and Erdoğan could now stay in office until 2029. Many have been quick to liken this new Turkey to a one-man state.
However, despite this smoothing of tensions, somewhat serendipitously, thawing Turkish-Israeli relations provide both countries with a level of economic insurance in the midst of continued regional turmoil. Part of the initial negotiations between Turkey and Israel included a natural gas pipeline under the Mediterranean, presumably intended as a foil against a total break with Russia. Economics is just as much a driver of this rapprochement as politics, and animosity is a luxury that neither can afford.