Erdogan’s Legacy

Anyone who has been to Istanbul in the last few years will likely testify Turkey is a comparatively role model state for muslims for our times. Scenes of firefighting on the streets of Ankara gives a feeling of betrayal mixed with curiosity. It is really a shame that scenes of firefighting at Taksim Square should remind one of Tahrir Square. Irritating it must be for a country aspiring greater leadership in the region.

Admirers of Turkish people, culture and history comment, “this should not have happened here, the government should have softened up, Turkey is not Egypt or Syria, and Erdogan is no Mubarak or Assad”. The last point demands a closer look. No other leader since Kemal Ataturk was both as successful and as admired as Mr Erdogan. Mr Adnan Manderes won 3 consecutive elections in the 1950’s before he was removed in a coup. It was Mr Erdogan who brilliantly united the political, economic, social and international policies under his stewardship and paved the way for the republic’s superior standing in the region and beyond.

During the transition stage in Egypt one newspaper ran a headline “Lend us Erdogan for a month”, hinting at his legendary ability to get things done efficiently. Political analysts in the Middle East believed Erdogan could resolve many problems in the most turbulent region in the world. Back at home Taksim Square has brought an unwanted scenario to the legendary premier.

The protests which started out for environmental protection have turned into an anti-Erdogan, anti-AKP movement due to heavy handed actions of the police. This comes at the worst possible time for the administration. Turkey’s position on Syria has created a complex situation as the ups and downs of the Syrian civil war has complicated Erdogan’s position domestically and internationally.

Turkey threw its weight behind the rebels in a bloody civil war that may have taken up to 80,000 lives already. Did Turkey do the right thing by supporting the rebels in Syria? While an average person would like to see the end of Baathist control in Damascus very few in fact know about Syrians’ choice for leadership.  The other side of the story is the militant group’s loyalty was purchased by secretive monarchies fearful of mass uprisings in other Arab capitals.  The civil war, if this hypothesis is true, would be a proxy war at others’ behest. This puts Syrian lives in the line of fire for the sake of the region’s self seeking administrations. This does not go well with the Turkish civilization. Turkish people, historically famous for their invincibility, strength and bravery, will not compromise on this all important matter of being partly responsible for the loss of Syrian lives. Turkey is providing food, shelter and medicine for refugees at the Syrian border.

Western media is talking about Erdogan’s replacement by 2015. Under AKP’s rules Mr Erdogan cant run for a fourth term. There are three names going around, among them are, foreign minister Mr Ahmet Dovotoglu, whose popularity runs beyond not only AKP but also beyond Turkish borders. Mr Dovutoglu is said to be a favorite in Tunis, the birth place of the Arab Spring. Deputy Prime Minister Mr Arinc is also believed to be eager for the next role.

Ali Babacan was previously Minister of Economy in the 58th cabinet from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). On August 29, 2007, he was named Minister of Foreign Affairs of in the cabinet of re-elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Babacan succeeded Abdullah Gül, who became President.

Babacan, unlike most populist politicians, keeps a low profile, preferring to build his own political elevator through am intelligent mix of efficiency, loyalty, vision and delivery. Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by premier Erdogan provided the bedrock for a steady political course to chart through what used to be a turbulent path. Post Arab Spring North African governments have in one way or another tried to fashion themselves as Muslim democracies based on the AKP model. Ali Babacan was one of the co-founders of AKP.

While Mr Dovutoglu enjoys a popular support base in and outside Turkey the responsibility for taking over from the most successful modern leader of the Republic may fall on the hands of an extra-ordinary, quiet, efficient minister of Economy. An important reason for this may be his international reputation amongst the world’s most influential people.

Since the fiery days of 2011 Arab Spring stability has been remote. The current situation in the Middle East and Africa is gasping for a fresh breath of air. A lot is depending on the outcome in Syria where regional powers have taken positions which look impossible to reverse without a miracle.

Assad’s forces are on the counter offensive after resting Qusayr from the rebels. Assad looks all set to take control over the strategic region of Aleppo. Furthermore, Assad is better positioned after the hugely damaging report about the use of poison gas “sarin” by the rebels. Earlier it was assumed Syrian forces had used chemical weapons. Assad and his international supporters now have a case in hand. Rebels’ usage of deadly chemical weapons has severely damaged any chance of imposing “No Fly Zone” military intervention strategy, although this position could be temporary.

Premier Erdogan had taken a strong stand against Bashar Al-Assad. If Bashar wins, one must assume, his rivals will logically loose. More importantly, those who had supported the rebels will need to answer why they provided support and shelter to militants who used chemical weapons on civilians. States backing rebel groups could be accused of helping fuel the rise of another armed militant insurgency in the region.

For Mr Erdogan this sort of accusation will not fit in at all with his legendary status. Under his leadership Turkey became debt free from IMF. AKP’s political and social framework was admired and promoted as a role model for the greater Muslim world. Erdogan’s statesmanship, leadership and vision has a confirmed place in Turkish history. The premier’s legacy should not come to an unceremonious end. It would be a loss for the republic and its admirers.

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