Predicting the course of Turkish politics over the next 12 months is like entering a minefield. The dominating geopolitical developments in 2015 offer a glimpse of the things to expect in 2016 and against this backdrop, prospects look bleaker than ever.
The long accepted mantra of “peace at home, peace abroad” is no more.
Turkey is entering the new year with a war raging next door, and an increasingly bitter conflict inside its own borders.
With the turmoil in Syria and Iraq showing no signs of easing, little chance exists of any significant improvement in Turkey’s external security situation.
Yet, the country’s biggest potential weakness is its worsening domestic scene. The widening rift between ethnic Turks and Kurds in addition to already existing deep polarization between Islamists and the secularists, is dragging the country to the edge of its own black hole.
In 2016, Turkey will continue to suffer the overspill of the chaos in the Middle East and feel the consequences of its ineffective foreign policy, but its biggest challenge will be to maintain its unity and stability.
The counterinsurgency campaign against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) since the end of a two-year cease-fire in July has already turned the southeast into a bloody battle ground, with a heavy toll on lives of civilians, the security forces and militants, displacement of tens of thousands of people and destruction of the local economy.
In his New Year message, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that 3,100 Kurdish militants have been killed so far and “cleansing terrorists both from mountains and cities will continue with determination”.
What he failed to mention in detail is the heavy loss of life among civilians. More than 150 people, mostly women, children and elderly were killed during these operations.
Fueled by the Syrian war, this deteriorating internal conflict will have long term destructive consequences not only for Turkey but also for the outside world, well beyond its borders.
In the meantime, President Erdogan’s push for changing the constitution to turn himself into a more powerful executive head of state continues unabated.
On Thursday, upon his return from Saudi Arabia where he agreed to create a ‘strategic cooperation council’ to strengthen military, economic and investment cooperation between the two countries – another name for a Sunni alliance- Mr. Erdogan has dropped another bombshell.
When asked whether an executive presidential system was possible while maintaining the system of separation of powers, he said: “There are already examples in the world. You can see it when you look at Hitler’s Germany”.
Indeed, Turkey may eventually head down this path, if the power-grabbing tendencies of its leaders and the one-man worshipping Turkish population’s insensitivity to oppression are anything to go by.
This post is also available in: Turkish