By Hatem Ete, Selin M. Bölme & Taha Özhan
The world’s economics in 2010 were still struggling to overcome the financial crisis, which began in 2008 in the United States and became global in 2009. Many of the world’s leading capitalist countries developed similar measures to fight the economic crisis.
The constitutional referendum of the 12th of September 2010 was potentially the most important political development of last year in Turkey. The referendum process itself and the proposed amendments to the constitution were marked by significant political events that helped plant the seeds in the minds of Turkey’s citizens that the “Old Turkey” was gone. However, certain political practices and the legacy of the, “Old Turkey” still linger. Nevertheless, the constitutional referendum strengthened the transformation of a “New Turkey” based on a healthy democratic process. During the referendum process, historical and political actors of Turkey’s establishment were either replaced or order under the “Old Turkey’s” military and judiciary tutelage, and compete with the AK Party’s dynamic government. In the process leading up to the June General Elections of 2011, Kılıcdaroglu runs the risk of continuing on a path without direction and being mired in an effort to get his political establishment and his base constituency to approve of a new CHP construction. transformed. In this context, the CHP (Republican’s People Party) lost its leader, Deniz Baykal, who was the symbol of the party; the MHP (Nationalist Action Party) lost its conservative political base, which was its backbone; the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) lost its democratic voice;, the army lost its dominant position among Turkey’s political establishment; and the judiciary lost the privilege to overstep its judicial bounds.
In the midst of the debate on the constitutional amendments, the leader of the CHP was forced to resign due to a scandal, and was replaced by the new leader of the CHP, Kemal Kılıcdaroglu. This new leadership attempted to re-enter the political scene by presenting a “new CHP” in sink with a “New Turkey.” However, the CHP did not question its past nor develop a radically different or new political platform. In fact, the only significant change was in the leadership of the party. Kılıcdaroglu is still trying to find the CHP’s place in Turkish politics by balancing the CHP’s rigid ideological base, it’s image in the media, the weakening of the established
Another significant issue of the last year was the Kurdish question and the issue of terrorism in the context of the Democratic Opening. The Democratic Opening, which was launched in 2009, maintained its experimental learning process for all sides during 2010. Political, bureaucratic, and civilian actors began a discussion on this issue that was unprecedented in the “Old Turkey.” However, during this same period, the PKK continued its operations. The position of the MHP by supporting such activities caused Turkish society to question the peaceful outcome of the Democratic Opening and ran the risk of putting the blame on and even discrediting the AK Party for proposing and implementing such a policy. However, the opposite took place. The Turkish people responded to the constitutional referendum with a resounding “YES” to the construction of a “new Turkey.” The implications of the referendum are far reaching, going well beyond the approval of the constitutional amendments or a mere vote of confidence for the AK Party. This “YES” vote laid down the basis and asked the hard questions of what this “new Turkey” would look like. .
Turkey was thrown into an international crisis with the Mavi Marmara incident of May 2010, which became one of the most significant events for Turkey’s foreign policy. Israeli commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara ship carrying humanitarian aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip in international waters, killing nine people. This incident was traumatic for Turkey because for the first time since its War for Independence Turkish citizens were killed during a time of peace. Turkey’s reaction to this attack was harsh. Highlighting the violation of international law by Israel, Turkey launched a significant diplomatic effort on the international scene in general and in particularly in international organizations and forums condemning Israel. Turkey stood by its positions and demands vis-à-vis Israel although this caused a major strain in relations with Israel and the United States, Turkey’s longtime ally. This incident showed that the visionary and principled foreign policy of Turkey that began following the 1 March Parliamentary decision brought results.
Another important development of the previous year was the signing of the Tehran Declaration with Iran – brokered by Turkey and Brazil. The agreement was based on the uranium exchange proposal of the IAEA of October 2009. The declaration outlined the exchange of a portion of Iran’s uranium to Turkey for fuel to be used in a Tehran research reactor. However, Turkey’s initiatives were sidelined by the UN and the decision to impose new sanctions against Iran was adopted. Turkey, despite significant pressure, voted against these new sanctions and held to its position of a third way in dealing with Iran. The Iranian crisis also marked this year’s NATO summit within the context of ballistic missile discussions. Another key development in foreign policy was the further strain on Turkish-American relations due to the activities of the Israeli and Armenian lobbies. Given these differences, relations between the US and Turkey were expected to continue to be tense. However, the Wikileaks documents brought some respite. Subsequently, Turkish-American relations gave the first signs of progress.
The world’s economics in 2010 were still struggling to overcome the financial crisis, which began in 2008 in the United States and became global in 2009. Many of the world’s leading capitalist countries developed similar measures to fight the economic crisis. Accordingly, central banks issued the money, economic stimulus packages were adopted. However, developed countries still reached unsustainable levels of public debt stock and budget deficits. 2010 saw certain countries, like Greece and Ireland, be on the brink of a de facto bankruptcy. The aftermath of the 2008-2009 crises will bring about a reshuffling of the economic cards in the next 10 years. The tangible outcome will be a new distribution of the ranking of the world’s leading economies. Already Turkey came out of this financial crisis intact and is the 16th largest economy in the world. It is poised to continue to ascend the ranking of economic world powers.
Turkey’s success in overcoming the global economic crisis of 2008-09 was due to a number of factors. First, Turkey had put in place since its economic crisis of 2001 strict economic policies under the guidelines of the IMG. Second, it kept public debt stocks low and maintained balanced budgets. Third, it has a dynamic economy with a stable financial system. Fourth, Turkey’s economic recovery in 2010 saw growth rates jump from 3% to 8%. It is anticipated that 2011 will see the economy remain stable and even continue to thrive despite the upcoming general elections. In addition, the developments in interest rates and expected growth rates increase the likelihood of taking more structural steps to overcome the employment problem.
The outcome of the constitutional referendum of the 12th of September opened a new phase in creating a new political system in Turkey. This “new Turkey” will hopefully kick off a dynamic debate among all different political segments and be an inclusive process. Irrespective if all parties agree or not on the form this new Turkey will take. Partaking in this process would already be a victory for the strengthening of Turkish democracy.