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Who will be the leader of Turkey after Erdogan?

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Since President Erdogan has been successful in every election he has entered for years, there is a view that “Erdogan will never lose” which is accepted by most of the people in Turkey. This is actually a reasonable view because, despite several adverse events, Erdogan and the AK Party have been superior to the polls for years.

I think that President Erdogan will win the next election, even if he is not as strong as he used to be, as long as his health allows him and he wants to be in the political arena.

But of course, it is a fact that Erdogan is not as powerful as he was a few years ago, and the criticism towards the Erdogan government and the country’s course, including those who voted for him, is too much to be underestimated. We can also understand this from the alliance he had formed with the president of the Nationalist Movement Party, DevletBahçeli, which had criticized him repeatedly in the past.The AK Party, chaired by Erdogan, is no longer a party that will win the elections alone.

But it should also be noted that AK Party is a lucky party. Because, CHP (Republican People’s Party), which has been acting as the main opposition party for years, is not a party that can take over the majority of the people because of its constant chaos, wrong choices and attitudes. You may not be able to see another major opposition party, which draws an amateur image like CHP, in any country of Europe.

As a matter of fact, many secret meetings have been organized with many people who want to be in charge of the country’s government after Erdogan. I want to write the names of the different profiles that could play the first chair in the leadership of Turkey after Erdogan.

The only one who can win elections against Erdogan

Meral Akşener, who was elected to the parliament for the first time in 1995, while President Erdogan was the mayor of Istanbul, and served as the first female Minister of Internal Affairs in Turkish history after a year, is a respected name for her political experience by many people today.

In 2001, Akşener, who took part in the founding stages of the AK Party with two names, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gül, who later served as the Prime Minister and the President, left the party as a result of disagreements in the establishment of the AK Party, then turned into a very popular political icon in the Nationalist Movement Party, which is one of the most well-established parties of Turkey.

After the failed election results of the Nationalist Movement Party, where she served as a member of parliament and parliamentary deputy speaker for many years, Akşener, who rolled up her sleeves to become the party’s leader, has formed The Good Party against the obstructions of Devlet Bahçeli, who is thought to run the party with a dictatorial approach by many, and her party achieved a successful result in its first year, surpassing the 10% threshold.

I think Meral Akşener is the only name to win the election against President Erdogan, who has been superior to his rivals in every election for years. Meral Akşener is a politician who is at the forefront with her nationalism but keeps it in a very good balance and she’s not a person like French Marine Le Pen, who has rhetoric towards racism and fascism.

In Turkey, the majority of the population position themselves as the center-right wing and both the AK Party and most of the political parties that have been successful in the past are center-right parties. Meral Akşener is a figure who is positioned in the center-right wing, but she is also a strong social democrat leader with strong rhetoric and sympathetic attitude.

I can already say that Meral Akşener will continue her successful political graphics and that one day she will be at the highest level of Turkish politics, although she is subjected to a great deal of pressure from her party and her rise.

He loves Erdogan and the people love him

Suleyman Soylu, who was the president of the Democratic Party, which had an important place in Turkish political history in the past as it elected three presidents and seven prime ministers, became one of the most trusted names of President Erdogan after a few years, even though he did politics in opposition to Erdogan and the AK Party at the time.

Suleyman Soylu, who currently serves as the Minister of Internal Affairs, is one of the most respected names of the nationalist-conservative wing, just like Meral Akşener. Especially in recent years, his successful and determined struggle against the PKK, the terrorist organization that committed numerous murders in Turkey and his being in the forefront of positive developments regarding internal security has gained Suleyman Soylu a very positive sympathy by the Turkish people.

However, the possibility of Minister Soylu taking over the leadership of Turkey does not seem to be much at the moment, because Minister Soylu, who has expressed his loyalty to Erdogan at every opportunity, cannot make such a move when Erdogan is still the President. He even made it clear that he was planning to leave politics after Erdogan on a TV show he attended on CNN. But of course, there is a saying in our country that “A period of 24 hours is a very long time for politics” and we can see that Soylu to make a move for leading Turkey after Erdogan.

Besides, I have to say that apart from Suleyman Soylu, politicians who are currently working at the AK Party will crave for their seats in the AK Party in a possible disintegration process because, people, who have the qualities of leadership to meet the demands of the people like Erdogan, do not take part in the AKP positions.

Perhaps the only hope of the left in Turkey

As I mentioned before, if we look at the dynamics of Turkey, it is a very low possibility that a power with the left understanding rule the country, but MuharremInce, who is backed by the social democratic masses against Erdogan in the presidential election on June 24, 2018, and who has the characteristics of a leader that has been longed for years, is the strongest name on the left that can change this dynamic.

It would not be wrong to say that Ince, who served as a member of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) since 2002 when AK Party came to power, is Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s biggest rival, who has been sitting in the chair of the general presidency for years despite the party’s failed results. Although MuharremInce, who has been competing against Kılıçdaroğlu at every CHP congress in recent times, has not yet achieved this goal, but he is the is the most important name forcing Kılıçdaroğlu to resign and it will be a development that we can see very soon.

MuharremInce, who has already declared that he will be a candidate for the presidency in the elections after five years, has carried out a successful work in the elections a few months ago. Despite the intense love of those who voted for him, he got 30% and fell below Erdogan’s 52% electoral success.

To become the leader of Turkey, Ince has to step up on this rate and gain the sympathy of the right wing in Turkey. This is difficult, but with its political attitude and populist style, Ince can achieve it.

Turkish people may need the experience and knowledge of their former prime minister

Ahmet Davutoglu, who was one of the most important figures of the AK Party until a few years ago and who was both the president of AK Party, and the Prime Minister of Turkey between 2014 and 2016, is a name with a reputation in AK Party although he had to resign as a result of a ridiculous statement published by several media oligarchs in Turkey.

It would not be wrong to say that Davutoglu, who has not met with Erdogan in any way lately, has withdrawn into his shell because he is not as active in political developments as he used to be. I think that Davutoglu, who is said to be founding a strong political party against Erdogan from time to time, should carry out an active and correct opposition policy against Erdogan in order to become Turkey’s leader after Erdogan because, so to speak, it is not possible for the people to sympathize with the return of a name that is scratched and forced to withdraw to his shell by Erdogan to active politics after Erdogan.

However, Davutoglu, who is touted as Ahmet Hodja in the conservative sector, is one of the most experienced politicians in the country and is always a name that is likely to be re-elected to the top seat. One of Davutoglu’s greatest advantages will be the support given to him by some of the prominent figures who have successfully taken part in Turkish politics.

There are other alternatives as well

As we often see in Turkish political history, a name that is not known very much, may show up suddenly and become the leader of the country. So even though I can guess a few names, we should not forget that it may not be possible.

For example, Cihangir Islam, who is preparing to succeed the wise leader of Felicity Party that once came to power, Temel Karamollaoğlu, is a new hope of the highly conservative group in Turkey, even if he is far from his former power. Islam, who maintained his medical success in parliament and made a good opposition, will be one of the most remarkable figures of the parliament until the next general elections scheduled to take place in 2023.At the same time, he is a politician with a vision that can move Felicity Party and its masses, which is declared as reaction istby some people, to a lot of innovations and to get votes from the voters who are opposed to him.

If the wave of young leadership spreads to Turkey as it did with Macron in France, with Kurzin Austria, with Trudeau in Canada and with Tsipras in Greece, Faik Tunay, who became a CHP deputy at a young age, is also a name that can play first chair even though he is of central right origin. Tunay’s strong international connections and his ability to speak many important languages will be a great advantage for him and for his leadership of Turkey. Although Tunay has not been seen much in the political arena lately, it is quite likely that he will progress in the right direction at the right time, using his young age’s advantage.

Of course, even if they haven’t been involved in politics until now, the successful names of the business world can step in this direction in a possible conjuncture. Ali Koç, who is the member of the country’s richest and most respected family, is the first to come to mind in this direction although he is dealing with the very unsuccessful outcomes of the football club he is currently president of. Although he has repeatedly stated that he does not intend to enter politics, he is a businessman who can be accepted by the public with his charisma and success. In the past, we have witnessed ultra-rich names such as Cem Uzan and Cem Boyner enter into politics and fail. Ali Koç, on the contrary, can be an example of success.

In conclusion, I should say that the emergence of a successful name from the business world to the leadership of Turkey will not produce as negative results as in the case of Trump, the first example in the world that comes to mind. At least in the international perspective…

Emir Eksioglu, is a journalist and an entrepreneur. Previously, he published articles in important institutions such as Times of Israel, Huff Post, U.S. News, GQ, Tehran Times, Cumhuriyet and was introduced as the youngest media boss thanks to some of his investments in Turkey. His articles have been translated into numerous languages despite his young age. He has many initiatives in technology and media fields.

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Economic reform in the Gulf: Who benefits, really?

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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For Gulf leaders, long-overdue economic reforms were never going to be easy.

Leaders like the crown princes of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Salman and Mohammed bin Zayed, quickly discovered that copying China’s model of economic growth while tightening political control was easier said than done. They realised that rewriting social contracts funded by oil wealth was more difficult because Gulf Arabs had far more to lose than the average Chinese. The Gulf states’ social contracts had worked in ways China’s welfare programmes had not. The Gulf’s rentier state’s bargain—surrender of political and social rights for cradle-to-grave welfare—had produced a win-win situation for the longest time.

Moreover, Gulf leaders, struggling with mounting criticism of the Saudi-UAE-led war in Yemen and the fall-out of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, also lacked the political and economic clout that allowed China to largely silence or marginalise critics of its crackdown on Turkic Muslims in the troubled northwestern province of Xinjiang.

The absence of a welfare-based social contract in China allowed the government to power economic growth, lift millions out of poverty, and provide public goods without forcing ordinary citizens to suffer pain. As a result, China was able to push through with economic reforms without having to worry that reduced welfare benefits would spark a public backlash and potentially threaten the regime.

Three years into Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 blueprint for diversification of the economy, Saudi businesses and consumers complain that they are feeling the pinch of utility price hikes and a recently introduced five per cent value-added tax with little confidence that the government will stay the course to ensure promised long-term benefit.

The government’s commitment to cutting costs has been further called into question by annual handouts worth billions of dollars since the announcement of the reforms and rewriting of the social contract to cushion the impact of rising costs and quash criticism.

In contrast to China, investment in the Gulf, whether it is domestic or foreign, comes from financial, technology and other services sector, the arms industry or governments. It is focused on services, infrastructure or enhancing the state’s capacities rather than on manufacturing, industrial development and the nurturing of private sector.

With the exception of national oil companies, some state-run airlines and petrochemical companies, the bulk of Gulf investment is portfolios managed by sovereign wealth funds, trophies or investment designed to enhance a country’s prestige and soft power.

By contrast, Asian economies such as China and India have used investment fight poverty, foster a substantial middle class, and create an industrial base. To be sure, with small populations, Gulf states are more likely to ensure sustainability in services and oil and gas derivatives rather than in manufacturing and industry.

China’s $1 trillion Belt and Road initiative may be the Asian exception that would come closest to some of the Gulf’s soft-power investments. Yet, the BRI, designed to alleviate domestic overcapacity by state-owned firms that are not beholden to shareholders’ short-term demands and/or geo-political gain, contributes to China’s domestic growth.

Asian nations have been able to manage investors’ expectations in an environment of relative political stability. By contrast, Saudi Arabia damaged confidence in its ability to diversify its oil-based economy when after repeated delays it suspended plans to list five per cent of its national oil company, Saudi Arabian Oil Company, or Aramco, in what would have been the world’s largest initial public offering.

To be sure, China is no less autocratic than the Gulf states, while Hindu nationalism in India fits a global trend towards civilisationalism, populism and illiberal democracy. What differentiates much of Asia from the Gulf and accounts for its economic success are policies that ensure a relatively stable environment. These policies are focused on social and economic enhancement rather than primarily on regime survival. That may be Asia’s lesson for Gulf rulers.

Author’s note: first published in Firstpost

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Ratcheting up tension: US designation of Revolutionary Guards risks escalation

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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The stakes in the Middle East couldn’t be higher.

Suspicion that the United States’ intent is to change the regime in Tehran rather than its officially stated goal of forcing Iran to curb its ballistic missile program and support for militias in Lebanon, Gaza and Yemen was heightened with this week’s decision to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization.

It was the first time that the United States labelled a branch of a foreign government as a terrorist entity, particularly one that effects millions of Iranian citizens who get conscripted into the military and for whom the IRGC is an option.

“Today’s unprecedented move to designate the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization demonstrates our commitment to maximize pressure on the Iranian regime until it ceases using terrorism as tool of statecraft,” tweeted Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton..

The designation effectively blocks Mr. Trump’s potential successor from possibly returning to the 2015 international accord that curbed Iran’s nuclear program, complicates any diplomatic effort to resolve differences, and changes the rules of engagement in theatres like Syria where US and Iranian forces operate in close proximity to one another.

“Through this, some US allies are seeking to ensure a US-Iran war or to, at a minimum, trap them in a permanent state of enmity,” said Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council, referring to Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The designation was likely to embolden advocates in Washington, Saudi Arabia and Israel of a more aggressive covert war against Iran that would seek to stoke unrest among the Islamic republic’s ethnic minorities, including Baloch, Kurds and Iranians of Arab descent.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel were quick to applaud the US move. Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu, on the eve of a hard-fought election, claimed credit for the suggestion to designate the IRGC. The official Saudi news agency asserted that the decision translates the Kingdom’s repeated demands to the international community of the necessity of confronting terrorism supported by Iran.”

The risk of an accident or unplanned incident spiralling out of control and leading to military confrontation has also been heightened by Iran’s response, declaring the US military in the greater Middle East a terrorist entity.

The US move and the Iranian response potentially put US military personnel in the Gulf as well as elsewhere in the region in harm’s way.

The designation also ruled out potential tacit US-Iranian cooperation on the ground as occurred in Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State and in Afghanistan. That cooperation inevitably involved the IRGC.

Beyond geopolitical and military risks, the designation increases economic pressure on Iran because the IRGC is not only an army but also a commercial conglomerate with vast interests in construction, engineering and manufacturing.

It remained however unclear to what degree the sanctions would affect the IRGC, which, already heavily sanctioned, does much of its business in cash and through front companies.

US policy, even before the IRGC designation, had already raised the spectre of a nuclear race in the Middle East. The designation increases the chances that Iran will walk away from the nuclear agreement.

Saudi Arabia has however already been putting in place the building blocks for its own nuclear program in anticipation of Iran abandoning the agreement and returning to its full-fledged, pre-2015 enrichment project.

The IRGC goes to the heart of the Iranian regime. It was formed to protect the regime immediately after the 1979 revolution at a time that Iran’s new rulers had reason to distrust the military of the toppled shah.

Some of the shah’s top military and security commanders discussed crushing the revolution at a dinner on new year’s eve 1978, some six weeks before the shah’s regime fell. It was the shah’s refusal to endorse their plan that foiled it. The shah feared that large-scale bloodshed would dim the chances of his exiled son ever returning to Iran as shah.

The IRGC has since developed into a key pillar of Iran’s defense strategy which seeks to counter perceived covert operations by the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel by supporting proxies across the Middle East.

It is a strategy that has proven both effective and costly, Iran’s failure to address fears that the strategy is an effort to export its revolutions and topple the region’s conservative regimes, particularly in the Gulf, has raised the cost.

To be sure, the Iranian revolution constituted a serious threat to autocratic rulers. It was a popular revolt like those more than 30 years later in the Arab world. The Iranian revolt, however, toppled not only an icon of US power in the Middle East and a monarch, it also created an alternative form of Islamic governance that included a degree of popular sovereignty.

The revolution unleashed a vicious cycle that saw Gulf states fund the eight-year long Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s in which up to one million people died; Saudi Arabia wage a four-decade long US$100 billion campaign to globally propagate ultra-conservative, anti-Shiite, anti-Iranian strands of Islam; repeated attempts to stoke ethnic tensions among Iran’s disgruntled minorities, and Iranian counter measures including support for proxies across the Middle East and violent attacks against Americans, Israelis, Jews and regime opponents in various parts of the world.

“Given that the IRGC is already sanctioned by the US Treasury, this step is both gratuitous and provocative. It will also put countries such as Iraq and Lebanon in even more difficult situations as they have no alternative but to deal with the IRGC. It will strengthen calls by pro-Iran groups in Iraq to expel US troops,” said Barbara Slavin, an Iran expert at the Washington’s Atlantic Council

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Middle Eastern protests challenge debilitating Gulf counterrevolution

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Much of the Middle East’s recent turmoil stems from internecine Middle Eastern rivalries spilling onto third country battlefields and Saudi and United Arab Emirates-led efforts to roll back the achievements of the 2011 popular Arab revolts and pre-empt further uprisings.

This week’s successful toppling of ailing Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika and months of anti-government demonstrations that have put Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir on the defensive suggest that the Saudi-UAE effort may be faltering.

So does the record of the past eight years. The counterrevolution’s one success, Egypt, has produced some of the harshest repression in the country’s history.

Saudi and UAE intervention in Yemen has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, tarnished the image of the two Gulf states, and provided opportunity to Iran to expand its network of regional proxies.

In a twist of irony, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Egypt, who justify the Yemen war by pointing to an invitation by the internationally recognized exile government of  president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, support the rebel forces of Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar in Libya.

Mr. Haftar’s forces are poised to march on Tripoli, the seat of the United Nations-recognized government of Libya, two weeks after the field marshal met with King Salman in Saudi Arabia. The fighting in Libya has turned into a proxy war between Gulf rivals with Qatar supporting the Islamist-dominated Tripoli government.

In Syria, rivals Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar, who exasperated the country’s eight-year long devastating civil war by backing rival rebel forces, are back to square one: the man they wanted to remove from office, president Bashar al-Assad, has gained the upper hand with the support of Russia and Iran.

The protests in Algeria and Sudan suggest that the social, economic and political grievances that fuelled the 2011 protests continue to hover just below the surface in a swath of land that stretches from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Gulf.

Like in 2011, protests in the Middle East are not isolated incidents but the most dramatic part of a more global wave prompted by a loss of public confidence in leaders and political systems that has sparked anti-government demonstrations in countries as far flung as Zimbabwe and Haiti.

The Algerian and Sudanese protests come on the back of a wave of smaller, political and socio- economic protests since 2011 that suggested that the Middle Eastern counterrevolution amounted to putting a lid on a pot that could boil over at any moment. Protests have erupted in recent years in a host of countries, including Iraq, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia.

The protests also suggest the fragility of hopes of Middle Eastern autocrats that China’s model of successfully growing the economy, creating jobs and opportunity, and delivering public goods coupled with increased political control and suppression of rights would prove to be a sustainable model in their own backyard.

The fragility of the model is enhanced by the tendency of autocrats to overreach in ways that either distract from their core goals or pursue objectives like the creation of a ‘new man’ that ultimately have failed in countries like Turkey.

Turkey’s Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been in power for the better part of two decades. Its success suggests that the effort to create a secular New Turk by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the visionary who carved modern Turkey out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire almost a century ago, has stumbled.

Egyptian general-turned president Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Chinese leader Xi Jinping have taken control and civilisationalism to new extremes by seeking not only absolute political power but also the ability to shape culture and dictate personal behaviour.

Mr. Al-Sisi recently ordered his officials to dictate the themes and scripts of Egyptian soap operas, a popular regional staple, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. A military-linked production company has taken charge of some of Egypt’s biggest and most successful shows.

Film directors have been instructed to focus on shows that praise the military and law enforcement and demonize the Muslim Brotherhood, a group that has been brutally targeted by Mr. Al-Sisi as well as the UAE that together with Saudi Arabia backed his 2013 military coup. The coup toppled Mohammed Morsi, a Brother and Egypt’s first and only democratically elected president.

Mr. Xi’s hopes to promote ‘core socialist values’ such as patriotism, harmony and civility amounts to an effort to counter individualism, materialism and hedonism. The campaign involves blurring piercings and jewellery worn by male pop stars during performances on television and the Internet, obliging soccer players to wear long sleeves to cover their tattoos, and ensuring that women conference hosts raise their necklines and rappers restrict their lyrics to promotion of peace and harmony.

Saudi Arabia has argued that journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul six months ago by rogue government operatives who are currently standing trial in a process that lacks transparency and has called into question the kingdom’s version of events.

The overreach suggests that Middle Eastern autocrats are unlikely to respond to the protests in Algeria and Sudan any differently than they did in 2011.

Analyst Giorgio Cafiero predicts that in the wake of Mr. Bouteflika’s resignation, Saudi Arabia is likely to support efforts to maintain control by what Algerians call Le Pouvoir (The Power) or the deep state, a cabal of military and security officials and business tycoons, The same is likely to be true for the UAE.

Similarly, Saudi Arabia and the UAE alongside Egypt continue to back Mr. Al-Bashir although he is on the defensive after months of protests that have rocked the East African state.

Whether Algeria’s ancien regime backed by Gulf states is able to retain power may well be dependent on what conclusions protesters draw from the experience of the 2011 revolts.

Like the protesters than, Algerian demonstrators need to decide whether Mr. Bouteflika’s resignation is a sufficient enough success to justify surrender of their street power and return to a structured political process.

Indications are that the protesters have learnt their lesson.

“Algerians are very realistic. This is a beautiful victory, a tangible first step but they know that more has to be done. They are not satisfied entirely … they want all of them to be gone,” said Algeria scholar Dalia Ghanem.

“Algerians are calling for radical change, a change in leadership. They didn’t want Bouteflika, they don’t want Bouteflika’s family, or Bouteflika’s clan — and they don’t want the old guard to stay in power,” Ms. Ghanem added.

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