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Sunday, 19th April 2015

Turkey's new president to face series of challenges ahead


Privacy Policy

Turkey's former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially sworn in on Thursday as first president elected by a popular vote in a highly polarized Turkish society. And a series of challenges are waiting to test his leadership.

Erdogan, who served as the prime minister for 12 years and proved to be a craft politician, was elected as president during this month's elections by a slim margin.

He survived last year's wide-spread anti-government protests during Gezi events and was able to stall corruption investigations that implicated him, his family members and close associates until now.

But the legal troubles are still haunting his family and the bitterness among Turks after violent crackdown on Gezi protestors still lingers on.

Erdogan started his first day as president with calls of boycott and heavy criticism from the opposition parties. His official oath taking ceremony in Turkish Parliament was dealt a blow when the main opposition deputies left the general assembly in protest of the new president.

Both the Republican Peoples' Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the second and third largest group in the Parliament respectively, claimed Erdogan violated the constitutional articles by keeping ruling both the AKP's chairmanship and prime minister position in the government.

Turkish constitution states that the president must be independent and cannot be affiliated with any political party. His status as a member of Parliament ceases immediately after his election.

Former presidents had all resigned their positions from their political parties and left the Prime Ministry as soon as the election results announced by the election commission.

Erdogan defied the opposition and kept serving as the prime minister while attending his political party's extraordinary congress on Wednesday.

Opposition parties filed legal challenges against Erdogan whom they alleged committed crime by holding the titles of president- elect, prime minister and the chairman of the political party all at once.

Turkish expert Tarhan Erdem said at Wednesday's congress, Erdogan's role as prime minister and party leader, though he was the president-elect, was a clear violation of the Turkish Constitution.

Political analyst Hasan Celal Guzel agreed with Erdem saying that "starting from Aug. 13, he should have been impartial and positioned himself above political parties ... Because this is what the Constitution says."

ERDOGAN TO TEST WATERS

President Erdogan made it clear that he wants to exercise full powers of his office to the extent that he may even chair the cabinet meetings, a power that has been rarely used by past presidents.

Many in Turkey believed Erdogan helped Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu secure the ruling party's chairmanship and prime minister position because he thought Davutoglu would be loyal to him and will serve under him as low-key head of government.

"Newly elected President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wanted someone who would follow his lead without hesitation," Omer Taspinar, columnist at Turkish daily Today's Zaman said.

"He is coming to his new position with a lot of baggage and the looming shadow of a powerful president," he added.

There are others who argue however that Davutoglu may not always follow Erdogan's lead.

Turkish political analyst Sahin Albay believed that even Erdogan himself knows for sure the answer to the question as to whether Davutoglu will play the puppet role properly.

"I suspect he will wait and see, and if Davutoglu does not display the loyalty he expects, he may well turn to another name," Alpay predicted.

Time will tell whether Erdogan will clash with his successor or go along with him on most issues.

NEW GOVERNMENT TO FACE CHALLENGES

Erdogan will be leaving significant challenges to tackle by the next government that will be formed on Friday. Davutoglu has been much criticized for a series of foreign policy failures, especially in the immediate neighborhood of Turkey.

He has started out in 2009 with a much-cherished motto of 'zero- problems with neighbors' yet he ended up having Turkey experienced more problems with Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Gulf, the European Union and the United States, among other allies and partners.

"Until three years ago, Turkey would be praised in the West and the East, but now its prestige is declining rapidly," Abdulhamit Bilici, foreign policy expert, said.

"Its Syria policy went awry. We are being surrounded with small terrorist states. Syria and Iraq are quickly becoming like Afghanistan while we are becoming like Pakistan," he warned.

Davutoglu's government will also face significant economic challenges due to over-reliance of foreign capital for growth, the chronically high current account deficit, troubling signs in consumer market especially in the housing industry and the change in global financial and economic circumstances.

That is why Davutoglu is expected to keep Ali Babacan, the deputy prime minister who is responsible for managing the economy. Babacan is a well-known figure by foreign investors and has a big credibility among international financial institutions.

"Turkey needs to ready an additional 220 billion U.S. dollars in one year to finance its short-term debt, more than four times the net reserves of the Central Bank of Turkey," Ibrahim Turkmen said. ANKARA, Aug. 28 (Xinhua)


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