The forced resignation of Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu underlines the folly of Merkel’s and the EU’s appeasement of Turkish President Erdogan.
Davutoglu did not leave voluntarily. He was forced out by Erdogan who has been steadily concentrating power as he changes Turkey from a parliamentary to a Presidential republic. Obviously in such a system Erdogan has no use for a strong and independent minded Prime Minister which is why Davutoglu had to go.
Even saying all that understates the nature of what Erdogan is doing. There are many examples around the world of successful Presidential republics. In such cases the President works within a strong constitutional and institutional structure which defines what he can do.
What is happening in Turkey is that its already severely weakened constitutional and institutional structure is now being systematically dismantled by a politician – Erdogan – who accepts no limits on what he can do and who sees the law in purely functional terms as there to do what he wants.
The fact that Turkey’s next Prime Minister is most likely to be a member of Erdogan’s own family simply emphasises the point.
Turkey is evolving from a flawed but nonetheless functioning democracy into a form of one man rule where all the levers of power are held by one man who increasingly runs things through his own family.
Erdogan is regularly mocked as a phony Sultan. His own actions are now making that mockery true.
Turkey has never experienced anything quite like this since the creation of the Turkish republic in the 1920s. Whilst the Turkish republic has known periods of dictatorship they have never been narrowly centred on one individual and his family in quite this way – not even during the time of Kemal Attaturk. The key institution in all the previous cases of dictatorship – including during Kemal’s rule – was the army. In Erdogan’s Turkey the army has been neutered as a political force and is not the backbone of his rule.
Erdogan’s bid for power is disastrous for Turkey. His concentration of power in himself is bound to increase instability since his personal charisma and his family are far too narrow a power base to build a stable structure upon.
That will however only become evident over time. More immediately Turkey’s transformation into a dynastic system of one man rule is a disaster for Merkel and for the EU politicians who have worked with her.
Their entire approach as they have struggled to gain Turkey’s cooperation to deal with the refugee flood has been to cut deals with Davutoglu. Basically those deals involved a trade-off – advancing the prospect of Turkey’s EU membership for limits on refugee flows.
That was already a shabby deal when it was agreed with Davutoglu and as the rise of the AfD in Germany shows it was in much of Europe already a very unpopular one.
Now with Davutoglu gone Merkel and the EU leaders find themselves with their key partner gone and having to deal with Erdogan directly, whose manner of achieving power in Turkey diametrically opposes everything the EU is supposed to stand for.
Not only is this likely to make dealing with Turkey even less popular with European voters but it confirms what should have already been obvious, which is that any deals cut with Turkey are entirely subject to Erdogan’s whims, which given his unwillingness to be bound to anything that limits him all but guarantees their failure.
As to that Russia’s experience in dealing with Erdogan should have already warned the Europeans that placing weight on anything Erdogan appears to agree to is foolish. It seems the Russians – or rather Putin himself – foolishly trusted in Erdogan’s assurances that he would not interfere in their military operation in Syria. He not only went back on that assurance and did so by shooting one of their aircraft down but he also lied about it.
At least the Russians have had the sense to draw the obvious conclusions from this behaviour and have essentially stopped all further dealings with Erdogan. On past experience Merkel and the Europeans are made of weaker stuff and learning the lesson will for them take longer.