Following the abolition of the Caliphate in the year 1924, Turkey embraced parliamentary democracy. In a parliamentary democracy, the Prime Minister is the most powerful official of the state while the role of a President is mostly ceremonial. People vote for members of the parliament who ultimately choose the Prime Minister and President. This system prevailed in Turkey until a constitutional amendment introduced in 2012 by the ruling AK party (AKP) mandated direct-voting for the post of President. This move was orchestrated because leader of AK party, Tayyip Erdoğan had been elected Prime Minister thrice and could not compete for the post beyond that (Similar legislation was introduced in Russia to pave the way for Vladimir Putin and the list of similarities with Erdoğan doesn’t end here). While AK party has cruised through national elections since 2002, its popularity is on the wane in urban areas due to increasing unrest among the educated classes. The Gezi Park protests of 2013 were a manifestation of unrest among urban dwellers dissatisfied by an increasingly authoritarian regime.

In mayoral elections conducted in March 2014, AK party candidates won in most urban centers and only faced stiff competition in the south-eastern Kurdish-majority cities. There was widespread electoral rigging, particularly in capital city Ankara, but major opposition party (CHP) refused to pursue the irregularities in higher courts. Presidential Elections were held in August 2014. It was a three horse race among AK party’s nominee Tayyip Erdoğan, Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtaş and joint candidate of major opposition parties (CHP, JHP) Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu. Mr. İhsanoğlu was a curious choice for nominee because CHP is a traditionally secular party while Mr. İhsanoğlu is an Islamic scholar and has previously served as secretary general of OIC (Organization of Islamic Countries). Most commentators foresaw a clear victory for AK party because of its tremendous appeal in the Anatolian heartland and because it received the maximum number of media coverage in the run-up to elections. AK party rallies were held across Turkey with much fanfare and Mr. Erdoğan peppered his speeches with references to Turkish nationalism, religion, achievements of his party and denouncement of (imaginary) Anti-Turkish forces.

Direct Presidential elections were held on 10th August 2014, and voter turnout was estimated as 73%. Mr. Erdoğan gained 51% of total votes cast (21 Million), while Mr. İhsanoğlu gained 38% of votes (15 Million) and Selahattin Demirtaş received 9.8% votes (3 Million). A breakdown of the results reveals that Mr. Erdoğan comfortably gained victory in the central Anatolian belt while Mr. İhsanoğlu edged him out in coastal area (Edirne, Balikesir, Canakkale, Antalya, Izmir, Mersin) with close encounters in Istanbul (49% voted for Erdoğan) and Ankara (51% voted for Erdoğan).The poll numbers denote that Turkish society is divided in almost equal halves when it comes to affinity or hatred for AKP and its policies. After the expected victory, the search for a successor started with a vigor. Names of various ministers and even Abdullah Gul (the outgoing President) were thrown in the ring but the final decision was left to Mr. Erdoğan. Journalists close to AK party predicted that foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu will be elevated to the post of Prime Minister, and they were proven right. As foreign minister, Mr. Davutoğlu had been hailed as “Turkey’s Kissinger” and “champion of Turkey’s greatness” by international publications. An honest, modest and hard-working man, he has an impeccable character, free of any corruption scandals.

The appointment of Mr. Davutoğlu as Prime Minister of Turkey serves to reaffirm the continuity in neo-Ottoman foreign policy direction taken by the AK party for the last few years. On the domestic front, there seems to be no end in sight for Mr. Erdoğan’s quest for greater authority, even as President. Currently, AKP lacks the two-thirds majority in parliament needed for the constitutional tweaks to increase the president’s powers. Results from the Presidential elections affirmed the fact that AKP is not popular in at least half of Turkish population. A significant problem for the ruling party is that economy is beginning to wobble after years of stability. Inflation is up while growth is down to around 4%. Exports are slipping because of the violence that has engulfed Syria and Iraq, Turkey’s second-biggest market. In an article titled “How Far back is Turkey Sliding”, visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, Marc Pierini mentioned that “One of the most potent symbols of the new Turkey that has emerged under AKP rule is a sizable conservative business class often dubbed the “Anatolian Tigers,” a cluster of companies active in the construction sector as well as in the energy and manufacturing sectors. These firms’ fortunes depend on alliances with foreign businesses, on borrowed hard currencies, and on Turkey’s standing in international markets. They also rely on a stable lira and on government support for their new foreign ventures. The current crisis is wreaking havoc for this segment of the conservative establishment.”

The most pressing foreign policy concern in the Middle East right now is to contain the threat of ISIS.Turkish policy, however, has been conciliatory towards the Jihadis by keeping open its 510-mile border with Syria (touted as Turkey’s ‘Open Door Policy’). This gave ISIS, Al-Nusra Front and other opposition groups a safe rear base from which to bring in men and weapons. The border crossing points have been the most contested places during the rebels’ ‘civil war within the civil war’. Most foreign jihadis have crossed Turkey on their way to Syria and Iraq. Turkey, despite getting flooded by refugees from ISIS-affected areas, is continuing on its dangerous quest to oust the Assad government in Syria by ‘tolerating’ ISIS. Recent negotiations between Turkey and ISIS which led to release of Turkish hostages, were initiated on the understanding that Turkey will not become part of planned US-led initiative against ISIS. The dangerous path chosen by Turkish government leading to getting the regime ostracized by the International community. Mr. Davutoğlu needs to act before it is too late.

 The writer is a freelance columnist.