Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used the threat of domestic terrorism to discredit his opponents and manipulate public opinion in a bid to fulfil his "dream" of amassing unlimited power by switching to a presidential system, analyst Jack A. Kennedy wrote for the National Interest.
The analyst is not saying that terrorism is not an issue in the country. It clearly is as evidenced by a string of recent deadly attacks, but the risk and significance of terrorism are "being manipulated as part of a political project that will fundamentally undermine the stability of the state."
This project was launched last year when Erdogan's plan to change the constitution ran into trouble after the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) party failed to secure a majority in the parliamentary elections held in June. The voting outcome was a major blow to the Turkish president since he needed a majority.
People walk in Istanbul, Turkey, Monday, June 8, 2015, following national elections that resulted in the biggest swing against Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) since it first came to power in 2002.
The elections also marked a success for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). The party's triumph was overshadowed when the fragile two-year-long peace process between Ankara and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) collapsed and fighting ensued.
Since then, the Turkish authorities have made an effort to paint all Kurds as posing as a threat to state security trying to capitalize on voters' fears of Kurdish terrorist attacks. That strategy has worked. Snap elections held in November saw the AKP regain its lost majority, but the party still failed to secure the necessary 330 votes that Erdogan needs.
As a result, Ankara has continued its crackdown on opposition groups by toughening laws, jailing or threatening anyone dissatisfied with government policies and taking opposition media outlets under control.
"As Erdogan sees it, an executive Turkish presidency will be decided by eliminating the Turkish opposition," Kennedy observed.
Dissent is not the only challenge that the Turkish president has to deal with. The country's economy appears to be strong, but Turkey's economic miracle is gradually turning into a feature of the past. The economy is struggling to contain high inflation and rising unemployment. The collapse of the country's tourism industry and sanctions imposed by Russia following the Su-24 incident have also taken a toll.
Erdogan is trying to sweep these concerns under the rug using the same strategy.
"By shifting the domestic narrative to confronting imagined terror threats in Turkey's political opposition, Erdogan can at once distract attention away from the failings of his administration and fundamentally discredit his opponents, perhaps even opening them up to legal prosecution," Kennedy noted.
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