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Turmoil in Turkey
Erdogan Ally Warns Of Snap Elections After Parliament Brawl

Fists are flying and emotions are high in Turkey this week, as the parliament debates constitutional changes that would drastically expand the powers of President Tayyip Erdogan. Following a brawl on the parliament floor, a leading AK Party member is threatening drastic measures if Erdogan doesn’t get his way. Reuters:

Turkey will hold elections if parliament fails to approve a constitutional reform package expanding President Tayyip Erdogan’s powers, a ruling AK Party lawmaker was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu agency on Thursday.

His comments came after lawmakers threw punches and shoved one another in parliament overnight in a debate on the reform package, adding to the sense of political and economic unease that has helped pushed the lira to record lows this week.

The AKP, backed by the nationalist MHP, is pushing through the legislation that Erdogan says will bring the strong leadership needed to prevent a return of the fragile coalition governments of the past.

“If the proposal does not pass in the general assembly, even if nobody wants it, Turkey will have to hold elections,” said Mustafa Sentop, an AKP lawmaker and head of parliament’s constitutional commission.

The contentious nature of the debate is no surprise, given the high stakes: if adopted, the package would pave the path for a referendum that could transform the role of Turkey’s executive and allow Erdogan to rule until 2029. What does strike a discordant note, though, is the threat of snap elections. Given AKP’s triumph at the polls in November 2015, that measure would seem to be unnecessary. Erdogan’s party won a Parliamentary majority in the last elections, and his brutal anti-Kurdish campaign has earned him the trust of the nationalist MHP faction. In theory, that should have given him enough votes to clear the 3/5 threshold needed to pass the reform bill.

The threat of early elections might just be a bluff. Or it could signify something deeper: a recognition of growing unease at Erdogan’s ongoing consolidation of power after July’s coup, which could endanger his reform’s prospects in parliament. Erdogan’s far-reaching arrests of generals and opposition politicians may have given pause to some who would otherwise vote for the reforms; some pundits have even speculated that defections from within the AKP could jeopardize the bill’s passage.

So far, five of the 18 measures proposed have passed, but more contentious articles are still on the docket. The full debate is expected to take two weeks, so in the days ahead we will get a clearer picture of whether Erdogan needs to worry.

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  • Andrew Allison

    It’s not Erdogan who needs to worry, it’s the Turkish people. But if they choose to turn their government over to a dictator, so be it. The only issue of concern to the USA should be the nuclear weapons there.

    • rheddles

      And the Article 5 obligation.Perhaps Trump should work out a deal with Putin. We leave Turkey if he leaves Ukraine.

      • CapitalHawk

        Russia won’t agree. Ukraine is critical to the survival of the Russian state. Turkey is not.

      • Andrew Allison

        The Article 5 obligation is not worth the paper it’s written on. Do you seriously think that NATO as presently constituted would go to war with Russia over the Baltic States? Turkey? Poland perhaps.

        • rheddles

          Nato as presently constituted means the US and we would go to war over any of them because to fail to do so would mean Nato would fall apart. That’s why I would get rid of Turkey. We would not want to defend them but would be obligated to do so to demonstrate our resolve to Russia to defend Germany France or Britain. We’ve made promises not worth keeping except to demonstrate we keep our promises.

          • Andrew Allison

            I stand by my reply.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Much more to the point, the time has come to (at a bare minimum) make it clear to the Turks that the US will not consider them members of NATO if they do turn things over to a dictator.

      Of course a much better idea would be to unilaterally leave NATO anyway, but that is another story…

      • Andrew Allison

        Like the EU and the eurozone, there’s no ejection mechanism for NATO members (the bureaucrats who wrote the treaties couldn’t conceive of the need!). It’s clear, however, that the US should withdraw from Turkey post haste. The rest is complicated. If Trump follows through on his promise, we may get to see, fought tooth and nail by a military for which Europe is a cushy billet, a draw down in Western Europe. I fear that a unilateral withdrawal before the Europeans have built up their capabilities would be dangerous for the Baltic States (and Georgia, but so what). Estonia, it should be noted is one of the few members of NATO which pays its dues.

        • rheddles

          We should renegotiate the Nato treaty and include a 20 year sunset on it.

          • Andrew Allison

            Trouble is, modification probably requires a unanimous vote. I think the options are to announce either a withdrawal date (10 years should be enough) or a steady reduction in funding.

          • rheddles

            Modification only requires a unanimous vote amongst those who wish to remain in Nato. Others may leave now. Essentially, I’m saying renounce and renegotiate with a sunset.

          • Andrew Allison

            Not quite. In order for the vote to be unanimous those who disagree would need to withdraw. Which countries other than the USA would want to do so?

        • f1b0nacc1

          Note: I didn’t suggest ejecting Turkey from NATO, I merely said “not consider them members’, which is a very different thing. NATO states have been notorious in the past for their rather loose interpretation of the charter, so a precedent for this already exists. Regarding the US leaving Turkey, I absolutely agree with you.

          Leaving NATO, on the other hand, isn’t really all that complicated. The US could establish bilateral treaty arrangements with those countries willing to assume real responsibilities for their own defense, including the Baltic states (among others). Some states (Germany is high on the list, though hardly alone) should be left to their own devices. Logistically speaking, it is a bit complicated to arrange (and you are absolutely right that the military will fight it tooth and nail), it is by no means impossible, and the US can in fact benefit from the process if it handles it properly.

          NATO serves no useful purpose at this point, and barring a very significant change in European leadership and culture, it cannot. The time is long past where the EUnicks should be offered the choice to become responsible partners or invited to go their own way alone.

          • Andrew Allison

            As is so often the case, damn it, we largely agree [grin] Not considering Turkey a member of NATO implies withdrawal, and NATO as currently constituted serves no useful purpose. As a practical matter, we need to provide cover for Western Europe while it develops the capability to defend itself — there’s no point in establishing bilateral treaties with countries that are unwilling to defend themselves.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Perhaps there is hope, I think that I have found a point for disagreement! (grin)….

            While I absolutely agree that we should create bilateral treaties ONLY with those states willing to defend themselves, the time has come to cut loose those that are unwilling to do so. This needs to be done soon, and done in such a way as to discourage future administrations from altering the decision. One good way to make sure that this happens is to give the current crowd of freeloaders very little time to take actions to prevent it, and make sure that the process is completed while this administration is in power. I would be willing to give NATO say, two years (maximum), but no more than that.

            If we give Western Europe time to develop the capacity to defend itself we can be sure that it will never happen. I call them EUnicks for a reason, they have unmanned themselves and have no desire to alter this (for them) happy state of affairs. Unless they are forced to confront the consequences of their actions without any chance of stalling, delaying, or otherwise dodging them, they simply will not do anything, and hope for the best.

          • Andrew Allison

            I think we agree on everything except the timeline. Much as I would like to see a greatly diminished presence in Europe, doing so too quickly would tempt the bear. I think that a very significant reduction in the Western European presence is called for, with enough presence in the Baltics to deter Russian adventurism for a few years.

          • f1b0nacc1

            And if the bear is tempted? In all honesty what would Putin do, and why should we care? If the EUnicks aren’t going to defend themselves, then let the Russians have them…I rather doubt that they will be worth the bother.

            If the Baltic states (and the various East European states that are willing to take steps to defend themselves) want our help, then bilateral treaties strike me as an excellent way to build partnerships to move forward. The free ride represented by NATO (and make no mistake about it, it has been exactly that for most of Western Europe) should be brought to an end swiftly and with great clarity.

          • Andrew Allison

            We are in violent agreement about NATO as it stands. We’re also in agreement (dammit) that bilateral treaties with those willing to defend themselves is a better alternative to NATO. Estonia is one of the five members of NATO who meet their 2% commitment (Poland is another), Lithuania and Latvia are at 1.45%. The three represent tempting targets for two reason: domestic nationalism and control of the Baltic Sea. The biggest problem will be the furious resistance of DoD to a drawdown in Europe.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Good heavens! We have to stop these violent agreements, or someone will mistake us for FG and Anthony and suggest that we get a room!

          • Andrew Allison

            Heaven Forfend!

          • Andrew Allison

            Seems that the President-elect shares our views. It would be ironic if a President of whom so much was expected did such a lousy job and one of whom so little did a good one.

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