Turkey’s domestic strife—starting with last summer’s Gezi Park protests and continuing with government corruption scandals and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s public falling out with the powerful Gulen Islamic movement—has forcefully reordered previous assumptions about the trajectory of the country’s politics.
While Erdogan had been expected to push for a new constitution that creates a more powerful presidency—a position Erdogan himself was clearly planning on assuming—that path is now blocked. This has raised questions about Erdogan’s next moves, and whether his failure to fulfill his presidential aspirations augurs further setbacks for the previously invincible leader.
Things certainly looked different three years ago. After Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted and socially conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) decisively won its third parliamentary election in 2011 with an impressive 50 percent of the vote, the prime minister’s future seemed his to dictate. Before the voting, Erdogan’s close associates said the post-election period would be his “usta,” or “master” session. The victorious Erdogan, they suggested, would be free of past obstacles and cruise toward the creation of an American- or French-style powerful presidency and his own coronation in 2014 as Turkey’s first popularly elected head of state. (This year Turkish voters, rather than parliament, will for the first time choose the president.)