This issue of Insight Turkey highlights some of the various regional developments around Turkey and discusses various movements of new actors and instruments, crises and progresses, from economy to culture, and how Turkey responds to these changing dilemmas.
This issue of Insight Turkey comes with a different format and brings to its readers two different topics that require special attention when we consider the latest regional and global affairs. The planned topic was Central Asia; however, the early presidential and parliamentarian elections in Turkey led us to cover a second topic in the issue. First, the current issue focuses on a forgotten but very important region of Central Asia. The second section of the journal comprises commentaries and articles on the latest elections in Turkey, how to understand them and what could be the future of the presidential system.
The European Union is a success story. It brought enemy countries together, combined their powers, fostered economic and social development, successfully competed with the American market and also resisted against the Soviet expansionism. As the most developed supranational international organization in modern history, the EU maintained Europe at the center of world politics. With the end of the Cold War, the member states attempted to transform the organization from an economic institution into a political and military structure having the ultimate goal to create a federal state-like institution. However, after unexpected changes in the global system and the emergence of new political actors, the EU began to experience many difficulties.
The Gulf is a sub-region consisting of Saudi Arabia and five small states, namely Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. This sub-region emerged after the British recognized the independence of the above-mentioned small entities between 1961 and 1971. Having an abundant amount of natural resources, i.e. oil and natural gas, the Gulf States are among the richest countries in the world; therefore, they do not share the poverty and political instability widely found in the Middle East.
Today, the world system is in a transition and experiencing a deep international crisis. The U.S. has begun to oppose the basic international institutions such as the United Nations and its subsidiary organs and specialized agencies, even though most of these were established with American motivation. The hegemon state, the U.S., has been alienating most of its partners and even allies. The U.S. governments have begun to focus on the national setting and to underestimate the international one; to favor unilateral policies over multilateral ones. The presidency of Donald Trump has expedited this process. American rejection of providing global public goods such as international security and free trade has led to a systemic crisis.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it took a while for Russia to recover from an existential crisis. As one of the poles of the global system during the Cold War, the Soviet regime lost its raison d’etre after the collapse of the USSR, while the other pole, the U.S., declared its victory or as is considered by some scholars ‘the end of history.’ At the end of the 1990s, the Russian Federation, the main inheritor of the Soviets, recovered from the confusion, the identity crisis and the political instability.
The American Presidential election in 2016 is a significant breakpoint in American history for both the uniqueness of the election campaigns and the unexpected results. After Donald Trump declared his electoral victory, getting fewer votes than his rival, Hillary Clinton, in nationwide elections, thousands of Americans poured out into the streets, protested the results and denounced Trump’s presidency.
Turkey has been experiencing a transformation process since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. Then President of Turkey, Turgut Özal, instigated a program of change; however, his successors failed to continue the process. Throughout the 1990s, Turkey was trapped into unstable coalition governments and it was unable to initiate a large-scale reform package. It was when the AK Party came to power in 2002 that Turkey initiated a comprehensive program for the reconstruction of the state.
Turkey is located between some of the most penetrated and volatile regions in the world, namely the Middle East, the Balkans, Caucasia and the Eastern Mediterranean. Political and economic instability, historical and cultural problems, and the interference of global powers make it difficult for regional countries to pursue an independent foreign policy since these regions are among the main geographies used and sacrificed for the global power calculations.
Turkey has been holding elections since the end of the 19th century; and the country has been enjoying democratic elections since 1950. With a well-established electoral system, both local and general elections in Turkey are held in peace and stability. While there is no debate about the freeness, fairness and transparency of the elections, there are always some discussions about the representation problem such as the real power of politicians, the national threshold for political parties to be able to send their representatives to the parliament and the lack of instruments to overcome political crises.
The date of July 15, 2016 is a watershed in the history of democracy as well as in the history of Turkey. On the night of July 15, the world witnessed an exceptional and historic event. The Turkish people heroically stood up against the brutal coup plotters; they became an example for other peoples on how to defend your nation and on what is the real meaning of national self-determination. At the same time, they gave a valuable lesson to the Western governments on how to support a democratically elected government. But more than anything, Turkish people proved to themselves that it is they who decide for themselves, for their future. After all, isn’t that what democracy is all about?
The Syrian Crisis, the bloodiest front of the Arab uprisings and one of the main determinants of policies of regional and global powers, has been dominating international politics for the last five years. Having caused the death of more than 300 thousand civilians and forced relocation of more than 7 million Syrians, it is one of the direst international problems that the global powers must deal with.
Germany, who challenged the British and its allies twice in the first half of the 20th century, began to reemerge as a global political power and to play the “big game” in the wake of the Cold War. As the strongest economy and the most crowded country in the European Union (EU), Germany has decided to lead the EU institutions and the old continent in global platforms. Especially after the reunification of the country, Germany started to dominate European politics.
Religion, religious groups and teo-politics are always most vital topics of the Western politics. The relationship between politics and religion is reciprocal. While both domestic and international political actors try to exploit religion and religious sensitivity for their political interests and gains, religion and belief systems want to use significant power over main political and cultural actors and perceptions. With the emergence of the violent non-state actors such as Taliban, al-Qaeda and DAISH, which were all surfaced in the Middle East but have become transnational actors deeply affecting European politics, and the recent popularity of far-right Islam-phobic movements such as PEGIDA in Europe have once again forced us to look closely at the relationship between religion and politics in Western politics specifically in Europe.