On June 24, 2018, Turkey will hold elections which will change the political structure of the country. The presidential system will replace the parliamentary one. Executive power will be dominant. The individual behind the change is president Recep Erdogan.
Erdogan has been active in Turkish politics since 1994 when he was elected mayor of Istanbul 1994-98. Since about 2000 to 2014 he was prime minister. In 2014, he was elected president for five years. This June election of 2018 is a year early, because he wants to change the political structure of the country with a strong president as head of state. He is the leader of the Justice and Development Party. He is a conservative Islamic nationalist which the Turkish people love.
Turkey is geo-strategically a very significant country. It controls the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. It is part of Europe and the Middle East. A nation of more than 80,000,000 people, about 20% are Kurds. The country is fairly large, 302,500 square miles; it encompasses all of the Anatolian Peninsula.
Turkey fought in the Korean War,1950-53, on the US side. It has been faithful and subservient to US interests. It has tried to be a member of the EU without success. Now Erdogan no longer cares about the EU. Under Erdogan for over three decades, Turkey has developed into a modern industrial state. Turkey has had an insincere policy towards Syria, with no problems with neighbours, to outright support of ISIS; it had a strategic partnership with Israel. That changed because of the Palestinians which Turkey strongly supports. Turkey still supplies almost 50% or more of Israeli fresh water needs. Until 2016, Turkey had an antagonistic relationship with Russia. It shot a Russian jet over Syria claiming it was over Turkey. The Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated in Istanbul in 2015. Possibility of war existed, but Russia as usual played calmly.
The coup d’etat of 2016 changed everything; it failed badly. Turkey claims that the coup was organized by religious leader Gulen who lives in the US. Turkey accused the US of being involved, which the US denies. The US refuses to release Gulen to Turkish authorities. Russia helped Erdogan during the coup. A policy of friendship developed between Russia and Turkey. Erdogan apologized to Putin for shooting down the Russian jet and the assassination of the Russian ambassador; Russian tourists and trade returned to Turkey.
Iran, Russia, and Turkey are coordinating their policy on Syria. The policy includes no partition of Syria and that Assad’s fate is to be decided by Syrian people. This is anathema to the US and Israel. The US is in direct confrontation with Turkey over Kurdish areas of Syria. Turkey will not allow a Kurdish enclave in N.E. Syria. The US wants an independent Kurdistan in Syria which would be allied with Israel. Turkey is vehemently opposed to any Kurdish state. Syria, Iran, and Iraq are also opposed to a possible Kurdish state. Erdogan is opposed to any idea of a Kurdish state.
June 24, 2018 elections are absolutely crucial for Turkey and the West. It seems Turkey is orienting itself to Russia and Eurasia. Turkey is buying the Russian S-400. The US threatens sanctions on Turkey and may not sell Turkey its F-35; Turkey doesn’t care. If Erdogan gets strong support in this election it will indicate that the Turkish people support his policies. Turkey will embrace Russia, and NATO will become irrelevant as two major members clash.
The future relationship between Turkey and the US will be very interesting; it will affect the entire world. Watch the Turkish elections this coming Sunday, June 24, 2018.