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Turkey: the inner springs of foreign policy

In the socio-economic and the political life of Turkey, there are important processes that can have a serious impact on the foreign policy pursued by Ankara, and even give the foreign policy of the country dangerously unpredictable.

At the end of January 2017, the international rating agency Fitch reduced Turkey's long-term credit rating in foreign currency to a record low "garbage" level of BB + from the previous "investment" level of BBB-. However, the matter is not only and not so much in currency borrowing and speculation. Negative tendencies in the sphere of Turkey's gross domestic product are much more dangerous. According to Fitch experts, the average growth of the Turkish gross domestic product in 2016-2018 will not exceed 2,3% in comparison with 7,1% in 2011-2015. "Changes in policy and security issues undermine the economy and institutional independence," Fitch believes, and conclude that in Turkey "significant security problems are likely to persist."

All of the above factors have in the case of Turkey, two key consequences directly related to its national security - a significant increase in external debt while reducing investment attractiveness. The stable deficit of the current balance of payments in 2016 exceeded 4% of the Turkish GDP, short-term foreign debt of the country by the end of November 2016 reached 100 billion dollars, 84% of which is denominated in foreign currency. This amount is equal to the size of the gold and foreign exchange reserves, which at the end of November decreased to 98 billion dollars. At the same time, according to the assessments of international experts, Turkey has become "extremely vulnerable to outflow of foreign capital".

Do not carry a lower risk for the Turkish and global processes in the trade, economic and political spheres. Not by chance the London weekly The Economist has included the country (along with China, Mexico, South Africa and Brazil) in the list of states that may suffer the maximum financial and economic losses in case of changes in the political and economic priorities of the new US administration.

According to available information, the steady growth of crisis phenomena observed in the Turkish economy over the past year has already received a very concrete political dimension in the form of a forthcoming referendum on constitutional amendments. According to the decision of the Central Election Commission, the plebiscite must pass 16 April. At the end of January, the relevant amendments were already supported by the parliament, where the MPs from the Justice and Development Party have the most votes. And now the ruling coalition will try to use the socio-economic situation in the country in order to mobilize its own electorate as much as possible in support of the proposed constitutional changes - and at the same time not to miss the moment when financial and economic problems can turn against the government and the president.

The most massive since the days of Kemal Ataturk change the basic law of the country in the direction of its transformation into a presidential republic - a key point of the theory and practice of the current heads of State Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey's current constitution was adopted in 1982 year, when the country was shaken by political instability and military coups that led to 1981 year to the adoption of the law on the prohibition of the existing political parties. Then a draft basic law on referendum was 91% of the vote.

Erdogan expected to launch the mechanism of constitutional reform in 2013, but protests in Taksim Square in Istanbul and the subsequent period of internal political instability slowed down the said process. Nevertheless, it is obvious that Erdogan will not abandon the idea of ​​creating in the country a maximally adjusted model of the state system. In particular, if in the upcoming referendum the majority supports the amendments, in Turkey, the post of prime minister will be abolished in 2019, and the head of the government will be the president himself. In addition, the head of state will have the right to independently issue decrees, declare a state of emergency, appoint ministers and other high-ranking officials and dissolve the parliament. Just for 2019 year scheduled and holding presidential and parliamentary elections. The presidential term will be five years with the possibility of re-election for a second term. Thus, Recep Tayyip Erdogan will get the right to run for presidency in 2019 for a five-year term, and in 2024 to go for re-election for another five years.

Another key point: the draft of a new constitution (and this is the fundamental difference of the current situation from the constitutional reform of the year 1982) gives the president the right not to suspend membership in a political party for the period of presidential authority. With reference to Recep Tayyip Erdogan this means the opportunity to return to leadership in the Justice and Development Party (left by him in 2014) - which will further strengthen the centralization of power in Turkey by "closing" both party-representative and executive powers on the presidential figure. It is no coincidence, according to Turkish sources, that the current bill on constitutional reform was prepared in a narrow circle of the leadership of the Justice and Development Party without consulting with representatives of other parties and any public discussion.

In this situation, the question arises about the likely outcome of the upcoming referendum. Getting support for the required majority in parliament was not difficult for the ruling majority of the Justice and Development Party. Against the bill on constitutional reform, the deputies of the opposition People's Republican Party (NPP) and the pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party, who in sum received 36% in the last parliamentary elections of 2015, expectedly voted. The leader of the NRP, Kemal Kılıçdaroglu, called the results of the vote "the betrayal of the parliament by his own history".

However, the outcome of the forthcoming referendum is not so obvious for President Erdogan. Sociological studies conducted by two leading agencies of the country - Gur's A & G Research and Metropoll, given the opposite meaning of, but they both show that neither supporters nor opponents of the constitutional reform does not have a stable majority. According to a study by Gur's A & G Research, 52% of voters would vote "for", while the forecast Metropoll says that 51% of the electorate would vote "against".

Much will depend on what position will Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). In the parliamentary elections, she 2015 12% scored and entered into a coalition with the ruling Justice and Development Party. However, as the research shows Al-Monitor, at least half of the supporters of the party opposed to the constitutional reforms aimed at strengthening presidential powers.

This constitutional proposals Recep Tayyip Erdogan does not currently support approximately 20% of supporters of the most Justice and Development Party.

The uncertainty surrounding the results of the upcoming referendum that is politically key for President Erdogan gives grounds to predict Ankara's attempts to use foreign policy factors to consolidate its own electorate and attract "hesitant" to its ranks. In this context, the intensification of military and political efforts on the Syrian and Cypriot tracks, as well as, possibly, in the Black Sea and Transcaucasia, seem to be the most beneficial for the Turkish leadership, along with the traditional playing of the map of "Kurdish terrorism". When Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the next two months will be able to present to the voters the real achievements of the country in terms of strengthening Turkey's position in Syria and around Cyprus, as well as in the context of the development of relations both with Russia and the new US administration, the question of victory in the constitutional referendum can be considered solved.

A source: Strategic Culture Foundation

Author: Peter ISKENDEROV

Tags: Turkey, Erdogan, Policy, Research, Middle East, Reforms