2015 is the octocentennial anniversary of the Magna Carta. 800 years after the signing of the seminal document which limited the power of the English monarch, thus laying the foundations of the concept of the rule of law, Magna Carta is still the base of democracy and the universal understanding of human rights.
Yet, if the legacy of 2014 is anything to go by, 2015 will be a year of struggle to hold on to long-established freedoms in many countries of the world.
In Turkey, 2014 was the year “the rule of the law” was largely replaced by “the rule of one man”. The core principles of the rule of the law such as having a system where the judiciary is independent and impartial, where there are fairness and due process, justice done, every citizen equal before the law and fundamental rights upheld, were seriously undermined.
In 2014, Turkey’s democratic credentials were damaged. 2015 has every indication to be a year when its constitutional status will be questioned, too.
Since becoming the first directly elected president in August last year, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been exercising wider powers than those in accordance with the existing Constitution. His announcement that he will be chairing a cabinet meeting on January 19 in his new presidential palace sets the scene for things to come. His increasingly arbitrary powers are no longer grounded in the law. Neither the government and the elected parliament nor the politically appointed judiciary, seem capable to act as a check on his self-declared executive power.
It is difficult to accurately predict the outcome of the June 2015 general election. In order to consolidate his position and to achieve the necessary constitutional changes to introduce a presidential system, Mr Erdogan will continue to act like his party’s leader rather than a non-partisan head of the state that he was elected to be.
In 2015, much will depend on how the peace talks between the government and the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) will evolve. The spill over from crisis in Syria and Iraq as well as domestic electioneering considerations may derail the process.
If the peace talks collapse and secessionist movements accelerate, it will increase the pressure on the AKP government, already tainted with corruption allegations. More importantly, it will be dangerous and destabilizing for the country for many years to come.
Uncertainties are not exclusive to Turkey. 2015 will be a year of many unpredictable developments worldwide.
Elections in neighbouring Greece and one of Turkey’s main allies, the United Kingdom, and in other European countries need to be watched closely as they might determine the future of the European Union, even if Turkey has turned away from it.
Early elections in January or February in Greece may bring left-wing Syriza to power which is likely to take Greece out of euro, shaking the foundations of the common currency. A possible re-emergence of the former Prime Minister George Papandreou with populist policies is also likely to bring the same outcome.
Fragility in the Eurozone is not good news for Turkey because the EU is Turkey’s biggest trading partner.
The UK general election in May will have an impact on European politics. Prime Minister David Cameron has promised a referendum in 2017 on the membership of the EU if his party wins.
With presidential elections scheduled for 2016, the United States, too, will have its own domestic upheavals.
Sharp decline in oil prices since mid-2014 will help Turkey with its current account deficit and slowing down inflation. However significant fiscal problems and geopolitical tensions it creates for Turkey’s neighbours, including Russia may have longer term negative consequences which are already becoming apparent.
Turkey has increased its exports to record levels in 2014, most of it to EU countries. With $10.7 billion, Iraq has also become an important trade partner while exports to Russia and Iran fell. With economic sanctions over its conflict with Ukraine and the falling oil prices, Russia is heading towards deeper recession.
Political turbulences and global trends are bound to have a direct impact on Turkey’s economy but 2015 is the year Turkey will have greater say on the decisions that will affect people the world over
The Group of Twenty (G20) summit that will take place in Antalya in November will bring world leaders to Turkey to discuss key issues in the global economy.
Success of the Turkish presidency in 2015 will much depend how well the country can put its own house in order.
This post is also available in: Turkish