1 June 2017
Now, more than ever, it is difficult to predict the direction in which Turkey is heading. The recent referendum on presidential powers held on 16 April was a game changer. The referendum sought approval for 18 proposed amendments to the Turkish constitution. Yet many people had no idea what these amendments were. Nevertheless, the ‘yes’ campaign won with 51.4 per cent of the vote; ‘no’ received 48.6 per cent.
Amidst widespread complaints of blatant electoral fraud, President Erdoğan is now set to control the executive, the legislature and the judiciary without checks and balances, such as those seen in the USA or France. No leader has divided Turkish society the way Erdoğan has. The articles in this issue of the magazine analyse some of the various elements that will determine the future course of events in the country.
In late April, I made a short visit to Western Turkey. What was once a very busy airport serving Bodrum and the surrounding area was almost empty. Istanbul airports may be busier, but few Western tourists are seen in the city’s Grand Bazaar where 600 of the 2,000 shops have been forced to close since last year. The Turkish economic miracle is no more, yet the country somehow maintains its momentum. Relations between Turkey and the EU, though icy, are not yet frozen. Foreign relations and policy, economics and a deteriorating image abroad are just some of the topics touched upon here.
In Insight, Gamon McLellan assesses the referendum, describing how the campaigns were affected by the continuing state of emergency – which Erdoğan used to his advantage; currently there is no indication that he will soft en his approach to his critics. Karabekir Akkoyunlu, who describes Erdoğan as a leader who invokes nostalgia for an imagined Ottoman past, traces the transformation of the party in power, focussing specifically on its foreign policy orientation. Turning inward, Simon A. Waldman and Emre Caliskan look at how factionalism and identity politics within Turkey’s institutions have shaken the country to the core. Next, Amberin Zaman writes about Turkey’s treatment of Kurds since Erdoğan came to power; the latest stage of fighting erupted after the two and-a-half-year ceasefi re collapsed in the summer of 2015. With over 160 journalists remaining in custody, some for more than six months, Firdevs Robinson details how the crackdown on the media in Turkey has reached alarming proportions.
Mina Toksöz analyses the Turkish economy’s resilience to volatility and explains why Turkey’s economic policy-mix is untenable in the long term. Turkey’s new dynamics in global energy and geopolitics is the subject of an article by Mehmet Öğütçü. Hülya Uçansu writes about the history of the Istanbul Film Festival, which began 35 years ago thanks to a handful of idealist cineastes. Sami Zubaida reviews a new Turkish restaurant in London and provides a wider overview of Turkish eats in the city. Last, but not least, two recently published books about Turkey are reviewed by Gamon McLellan and Peter Clark.
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