Ugur’s frustration with president Recep T. Erdoğan (RTE) is understandable, not his interpretation of the Turkish referendum or especially his call for a formal suspension of the EU accession talks. Ugur is kicking a dead-horse. These talks are effectively suspended anyway, and RTE is a grievously wounded politician. He may not last long.
In the meantime, the better advice for the EU response would be cool patience, and democratic choice. Stay the course and diligently support democratic moves in the country. CHP is challenging his legitimacy, now taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights. Let’s see what the Court will decide.
Even more ominously, a revolt is gathering strength within the AKP. The party lost as much as 10 percentage points in the referendum with traditional AKP voters. Erdogan’s latest gambit is to take direct control of the party. He ordered an extraordinary general assembly for 21 May 2017.
RTE is now an angry politician. He is furious for having lost big cities like Istanbul and Ankara. He is aiming to “punish” those inside the party for these losses, but the political dyke is bursting. This time he may not prevent a collapse. His imminent cabinet shuffle is likely to lead to further fragmentation within ranks, and there is talk of Abdullah Gul, the former (and highly respected) president and others forming a new party.
In the next presidential elections, set for 2019, or possibly earlier, RTE could well be defeated, if confronted by a credible runner. In any event, there is widespread disapproval of the one-man rule in Turkey. The war against PKK is raging with no end in sight. In the referendum, it cost RTE the Kurdish vote. His Syrian adventure remains unclear and his relations with the USA and Russia are increasingly vague.
Turkish economy has slowed down and inflation is now nearing double-digits. Tourism is almost 20% down. Unemployment is rising. Erdoğan’s key economic advisors are marginalized, and may be axed. The pro-EU Ali Babacan sits on the side-lines. For the EU to now take Ugur’s advice and declare unilateral suspension, or worse, termination of accession talks, would be overkill. No need for such irrational behavior. Better to wait and watch Turkish events for the next few weeks and months.
The referendum exposed RTE’s vulnerability and may yet be his undoing. Sincere democratic voices in Europe must diligently work reinforcing pro-democracy movements inside Turkey. It is not too late to save Turkish democracy. In the past, the EU helped countries escape fascism or communism. It makes good sense to do it now in the Turkish case. For its own energy security and refugee crisis management this is, surely, the wiser course.