& nbsp & nbspXenia Tourki & nbsp; & nbsp;
Presidential elections in Turkey are still several months away. But the country has entered a pre-election period and most of the discussions revolve around what is to be born. Erdogan will seek re-election, with opposition parties working hard to oust him. The key to this confrontation will be the state of the economy, Hay Eitan Janorokak, a researcher at the Moshe Dayan Center at Tel Aviv University in Turkey, told F. The slump in the Turkish pound, rising unemployment and rising inflation, he said, are putting enormous pressure on the Turkish president and the ruling party, who have been accustomed to enjoying very high levels of popularity due to their good economic performance in the past. & nbsp;
The Israeli expert also stands in opposition, which, dazzled by the lure of power, does not seem to be able to coordinate its steps and stand united against Erdogan. The post-election process will intensify, as if the opposition wins it is very likely that it will abolish the presidential system implemented by Erdogan, returning to the traditional parliamentary system that has been in place for decades. The instability caused by the Ukrainian crisis and the fact that Ankara maintains good relations with both warring sides creates new challenges in foreign policy that, as always, tries to win from any development.
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In this context, Turkey seeks to normalize its relations with countries that have been at odds in the past, including Israel. Commenting, Hay Eitan Janorokak pointed out that if such a thing happens, it will be a positive development, which, however, will not affect Israel's relations with Cyprus and Greece. As he said, this is now a tripartite, strategic alliance that offers benefits to all countries and that Israel is not going to sacrifice for a fragile normalization of its relations with Ankara.
-After After almost 20 years in power, what do you think is the legacy of Tayyip Erdogan?
– First of all, let me mention that Tayyip Erdogan has Kemal Ataturk as a point of reference and comparison. He sees himself as superior to all other Turkish leaders and tries to surpass them. That is why he always insists on using the term “New Turkey” instead of Turkish Republic. I guess the new airport in Istanbul was deliberately named Istanbul Airport, so that when it leaves it can be renamed. I also believe that he considers himself the exact opposite of Kemal Ataturk, who gave full emphasis to the secularism of the Turkish state, while under his leadership we have seen Islam return.
Of course, we are not talking about the application of Sharia, Islamic law, but about a system where religion does not replace the state, but helps the leader in government, just like in the Ottoman Empire. But while he uses religion to strengthen his political position, he does not allow the religious element to prevail over him. Also, while other Turkish leaders relied on their military victories to bolster their narrative, Tayyip Erdogan relied on good economic performance in the first years of his rule and religion. His legacy also includes pharaonic constructions such as bridges, airports with which he filled the country. & Nbsp;
– In 2023, Turkey will have presidential elections. How will the pre-election scene be shaped in the next period?
– The polls so far are not favorable for Tayyip Erdogan and that makes me skeptical. I believe that if this trend continues, it may postpone the elections. But even if they do, I doubt whether he will accept their result, as he did with the electoral contest for the mayor of Istanbul. On the other hand, the situation in the opposition, where there is no strong candidate and the rest make one serious mistake after another, may be one reason for the elections. If the Turkish president finally succeeds, it will not be because he will have succeeded, but because the opposition will have lost. However, let me say that Erdogan's previous victories were authentic and not a product of fraud. It remains to be seen what has kept him from the popularity he enjoyed.
-But why is it so difficult for the Turkish opposition to unite and face Tayyip Erdogan?
– The problem is that according to opinion polls, if Erdogan is defeated, it means that the opposition candidate will be the next president of the country. Opposition leaders are greedy, and of course they all want to take his seat in power. Instead of focusing on the most important thing, which is how to remove him, they put all the weight on the person who will succeed him. Opposition parties must also agree that the winner will be a caretaker president, who will lead Turkey back to the parliamentary system instead of the current one. This is very important, but what I see now is that the leaders of the opposition have become so greedy now, they feel that they are close to power, that they may not be willing to make changes. And I do not see any candidate ready to be “sacrificed” in the sense that he will be interim president, since the country will return to a parliamentary system. & Nbsp;
– We take it for granted that if one wins from the opposition parties will we have a change of government?
Definitely. This is the big bet in Turkey and it is something that is accepted by all the parties, which in fact have already started preparing for the next day.
-What are the biggest challenges and problems that is Turkey facing today?
-The biggest problem is the economy and the devaluation of the Turkish pound, rising inflation, price increases in basic goods, energy, building materials. At the same time, the Turkish economic staff refuses to adopt the usual ordinary economic policies and instead of raising interest rates, lowers them, with the result that the devaluation of the Turkish pound continues and with each passing day the Turkish citizens become poorer and poorer. something that has serious implications for their standard of living. Let me give you an example: In towns near the border with Bulgaria, Bulgarians are seen going out and filling their cars with groceries, while Turks are queuing at social grocery stores to get bread.
As you have said, the Turkish economy is facing many problems. What role will this play in the elections? Will we see the voters turn their backs on the Turkish president and the ruling AKP?
-One of the main reasons why Tayyip Erdogan came to power was the fact that he faced the economic crisis that the country was facing before. He built all his electoral victories on the narrative of economic prosperity and growth. In recent years, the situation is not rosy and many foreign investments have left the country. There is a big problem of corruption, too, and the violation of the rule of law plays an important role. Nevertheless, Erdogan still enjoys the credit for what he has achieved in the past. I believe that this will be one of his strong arguments in the election campaign, knowing that they will fall on deaf ears. I will give you an example that I was recently in Turkey. While traveling by taxi, I caught a conversation with taxi drivers. One of them told me about the problems, how difficult it is to overcome them, but in the end, when I asked him who he would vote for, he replied that he would vote for Tayyip Erdogan. What I want to say is that despite the fact that many people feel that they are “drowning” because of the economic crisis, they continue to remain loyal to the Turkish president.
KEY TO THE ECONOMY
-In the ever-changing world we live in, what role does Turkey seek to play and, most importantly, what role can Turkey play?
-Turkey would like to be the leader in the moderate Muslim world. However, if it becomes part of the Abrahamic Covenants it will lose that leadership. What will eventually happen is directly related to the state of its economy. If its economic situation improves then it is possible that we will see a reversal in its foreign policy and that Turkey will try again to play a leading role in the Arab, Muslim world. At the same time, because of the war in Ukraine, it is trying to normalize its relations with the West. In my opinion, Turkey is trying to limit the damage left behind by its injured economy. If you asked me something like that a few years ago I would talk about Turkish ambitions. But they have been cut because of the financial crisis. Turkey wants to get out of isolation, but it has realized what it can and cannot do. Ambitions are always there. Whether they will become a reality depends on its economy.
Oriental market with USA
-Turkey is also involved in the Ukrainian crisis, as it cooperates with both countries involved. What is at stake for Ankara now?
-Turkey maintains good relations with both Kyiv and Ankara and at the same time tries to satisfy both sides. For example, we see him reacting to the imposition of sanctions, something that pleases the Russians, and sending weapons, satisfying the Ukrainians. It is trying to maximize its profits by attracting more Russian investment and we are already seeing Russian oligarchs taking refuge there. Turkey is not going to get a “divorce” from Russia no matter what. At the same time, however, he is concerned about Russian aggression in Ukraine, because he believes that the balance of power in the wider region is changing. & Nbsp;
-What does Turkey want to achieve by putting obstacles in the way of Sweden and Finland joining NATO? What will be the consequences? Could, as has been said, Turkey be led out of the Alliance?
-NATO has no exit mechanisms for a country and therefore the allegations for Turkey's exit do not apply. The obstacles posed by Turkey are not aimed at Finland and Sweden but at the United States. It's a Turkish bargain with Washington. Ankara wants to lift US sanctions on its military industry and buy F-35 jets, while also seeking to end the persecution in the case of Turkish state-owned Halkbank in the US. By the way, if Finland and Sweden are persuaded to change their policy towards the Kurds, this will be an additional gain. At the same time, with this attitude, it sends the message to Russia that it is not a loyal ally of the West, but where necessary it can put up resistance and take a different course. & Nbsp;
Strong and important alliance of Cyprus, Greece and Israel
How do you think Turkey's relations with the Arab world will develop? Do you think it is easy for the Turkish leadership to restore them to the extent they were in the past? And what will be the consequences?
“When we talk about this, we have to turn our attention to last November, when the sheikh of the United Arab Emirates visited Turkey and promised a investment of ten billion dollars. After that, a charm operation was launched with Turkey trying to restore its relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, in short with some of the countries that belong to the axis of the Abrahamic Agreements. We see that he is making moves, for example, he closed the case of the assassination of Jamal Kasogi to appease Riyadh. Ankara seeks to become part of the Abrahamic Agreements, to join the participating countries and to break the isolation in which it finds itself. This is a 180 degree turn. For now, however, neither Israel, nor Saudi Arabia, nor the UAE have upgraded their relations to ambassadorial level. & Nbsp;
-Let's talk a little more about Israel's relations with Turkey. Lately we have been seeing restoration efforts. How does this relate to or affect the tripartite cooperation with Cyprus and Greece?
– First of all, I must emphasize the fact that the main architect of the tripartite cooperation between Cyprus, Israel and Greece was Tayyip Erdogan himself. The Turkish president with his pro-Palestinian policy pushed Israel into the “embrace” of Cyprus and Greece. As a result, today the three countries have built a strong and important alliance. I believe that Israel is not going to sacrifice its relations with Nicosia and Athens for a fragile normalization of its relations with Ankara. The Turks must realize that Cyprus and Greece are two reliable countries, members of the European Union with great cooperation in many fields. Maintaining friendly, good relations with these two countries is important for Israel. I do not think that Turkey can offer such strategic advantages. Of course, it is in Israel's interest to maintain good relations with Turkey, but that does not mean deteriorating relations with Cyprus and Greece. Our Cypriot and Greek friends must realize that we have no intention of turning Turkey into an enemy of Israel. We have enough enemies we do not need to add one more. However, the support offered by Turkey to Hamas remains a thorn in the side and as long as this happens, bilateral relations will be difficult to restore.
– In recent years, it seems that an energy alliance has been formed between Cyprus, Israel, Greece and Egypt. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the issue of energy became more and more important. Can Turkey become a member of this Mediterranean cooperation and under what conditions?
– Here I would like to say something out of the box. Everyone knows that without the cooperation of Turkey, the East Med project will not be implemented. The pipeline was designed to transport natural gas from Cyprus and Israel to Greece. But it seems that Turkey should be included in the game. East Med can unite instead of divide these countries. It's not the ideal solution and what I're going to say is a science fiction scenario, but I always keep in mind what one old Israeli prime minister, David bin Gurion, said, 'If you want to be a realist in the Middle East, you have to believe in miracles.' With this perspective, Cyprus, Israel, Greece, Turkey and Egypt must cooperate and issue joint licenses for the exploitation of the natural wealth of the Eastern Mediterranean to foreign companies. It is a solution in which all these countries will emphasize the result, that is, to send gas to Europe, thus reducing its dependence on Russian energy, and with which all sides win.