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What Turkey needs from the Davutoglu Government

It is a great opportunity for Turkey that former Minister of European Union Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu became Davutoglu government’s Foreign Minister in order to restore relations with the EU and continue the accession process.

Salih Dogan Taptuk Emre Erkoc Ahmet Erdi Ozturk
19 September 2014

There is no doubt that Turkey’s political and social agenda has been extremely complicated by the Gezi Park protests, polarisation in its internal political arena, corruption investigations and regional problems. Amid this intricate and unpleasant atmosphere, Turkey has now a new President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was elected by popular vote for the first time in the history of Turkish republic, as well as a new Head of the AK Party and Prime Minister of Turkey, Ahmet Davutoglu.  

Turkey’s 62nd government was formed and announced by the 26th Prime Minister of Turkish Republic, Ahmet Davutoglu, on August 29, 2014.  On the days following the cabinet formation, PM Davutoglu unveiled a road map of his government that places a strong emphasis on the economy, a dialogue-oriented foreign policy and a more democratic environment in domestic politics. In tune with the Davutoglu’s public speeches as well as the statements in the government’s road map, Turkey now needs a number of concrete actions and policies to reach those targets concerning advanced democracy, sustainable economic development and rational/balanced foreign policy, which are detailed below.

Domestic politics

For the domestic political arena, a new government should play a leading role in establishing a well-functioning democracy on the basis of deliberative political participation. In this respect, it should also declare serious and sustainable political commitments particularly by initiating a new constitution-making process. This constitution has to enforce individual rights and freedom, establish open and fair election system, and finally assure the freedom of media and the impartiality of judiciary system. In this regard, it should be noted here that the new constitution should be concise and reflect the insights of opposition parties and civil society actors. Concurrently, the Davutoglu government is expected to double its efforts to provide viable solutions to the enduring problems of Turkey including the Kurdish question, recognition of Alevi identity and the rights of non-Muslim minorities through incorporating relevant political and social actors into the debate by the means of various channels of democratic engagement.

Furthermore, it is becoming a well-known fact that Turkey is on the edge of a profound political and social polarisation galvanised in the wake of the Gezi Park protests. Among many reasons, it is conceivable to argue that one of the main reasons for this polarisation is not only political actions but also the harsh and threatening language used by the members of former government. That is to say, the exclusionist nature of political narrative that defines “us” as a positive and “them” as a pejorative, has been dividing the society from bottom to top. At this point, we would like to emphasise that the new government should institute a progressive ‘speech act’ that embraces and takes notice of all political actors, and civil society organisations with their normative stances.

Foreign policy

When Ahmet Davutoglu became the foreign minister of Turkey in 2009, Turkish foreign policy was already under the influence of his principles, such as multidimensional foreign policy and 'zero problems with neighbours’. Having been a successful theorist, he had his chance to put these principles into practice. Albeit Turkey has been very eager to actualise Davutoglu’s vision, it got caught unprepared by the Arab Spring (Awakening) that changed the parameters in the Middle East. The Arab Spring put the 'zero problems policy’ aside since the situation of the region has been deteriorating day after day. Turkey’s aggressive way of approaching its neighbouring countries during this era was not compatible with the zero problem policy. The decision-makers in the field of Turkish foreign policy were not able to figure out that their ambitions were far ahead of their abilities.

Ankara got in over its head and apparently needs more balanced policies, which are more in accord with the international community, especially with NATO, the United States and the European Union. Thus, the new government has to be more pragmatic and realistic in its policies in the Middle East since Turkey’s idealistic approach seems no longer valid in the region.

It is a great opportunity for Turkey that former Minister of European Union Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu became Davutoglu government’s Foreign Minister in order to restore relations with the EU and continue the accession process. It needs to be kept in mind that all the issues that we raised above regarding the domestic politics are directly related to this process. As it was underlined in the 2013 Turkey Progress Report, the EU process has been and still is an important actor for Turkey’s political and economic reforms. Being a strategic partner for the EU, Turkey should not bring the Shanghai Cooperation Organization or any other similar forward every time, as if they could really be an alternative to the EU. This also conflicts with the multidimensional foreign policy rhetoric of Ahmet Davutoglu.     

Moreover, Turkey should also keep strong security ties with NATO and its western allies, since newly emerged radical terrorist groups like IS (Islamic State) endanger the security situation in the region, more specifically in the neighbouring countries. Turkey’s peace building and mediation efforts should continue in the wider Middle East region, including South Asia as well, so that Turkey could become a “real” soft power in its region. Besides that a considerable hard power is required as well if Turkey really aims to have an influence in international politics. Most importantly, cooperation with the international powers regarding regional politics is quite vital, since any action taken that is too self-centred could harm Turkey in such an unstable region.

Economy

Turkey’s economy ended 2013 both promising macroeconomic indicators and heightening structural weaknesses. Enviable growth rates saw Turkey preserve its reputation as one of the fastest expanding economies in the world. On the other hand, a lack of consolidated political and economic institutions,  alongside a fragile currency-interest rate regime, has led domestic and foreign investors to question the economy’s future trajectory. Besides, recent developments both globally and locally left Turkey’s economy looking rather more fragile, reminiscent of the established “middle-income trap” faced by developing countries.

It is apt to state here that BRIC countries have already begun facing certain difficulties concerning sustainable growth rates, adding some bleak conjectures to the outlook for the Turkish economy.

To overcome the economic traps Turkey faces today, the rationale of the economic policies behind the previous prosperous periods need to be revisited, and serious investment allocated to technological enhancement and R&D. In addition, policy makers in Turkey must recall that political stability and ensuring rule of law are imperative for sustainable economic growth and development. When all's said and done, economic performance is highly associated with the psychology of individuals, including consumers, entrepreneurs and international investors, all of whom are susceptible to the adverse consequences of discretionary attitudes from political figures. Turkey’s aim of becoming a stabilised economy is highly contingent upon the microeconomic foundations of macroeconomic stability, including individuals, entrepreneurs and non-state actors. Thus, Davutoglu government should not follow its predecessor’s route that assertively preferred threatening language towards those in the business world who are in the opposition camp.

Another significant task for the 62nd government in hitting its economic targets is that it must ensure the independence of the Central Bank, protecting it from any political manipulation. Previous governments’ overt pressure on the bank’s monetary policy decisions on the basis of the interest rate regime should not be emulated by the Davutoglu government. In that sense, Ali Babacan’s reappointment in the government sends optimistic signs. Nonetheless, this decision taken by Davutoglu himself must convert into a stable and enduring policy-making to secure the future of Turkish economy from highly politicised influence. In addition to that, it is indispensable for Turkey’s sustainable economic growth and development to have sound and functioning supervisory and regulatory economic institutions, including BDDK (Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency), SPK (Capital Markets Board of Turkey) and Sayistay (Turkish Court of Accounts).

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