Fall of Sudan's Bashir is blow to Turkey's AKP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stands at a decisive moment in his political career but he insists on not giving in an inch of his ambitions, preventing Turkish and Kurdish aspirations for the return to democratic order and rule of law.

Although two weeks have passed since critical municipal elections, the voters of the opposition blocs are left nervously wondering whether Erdogan will let go of Istanbul and whether Kurdish politicians of the Peoples’ Democratic Party will be given approval to rule in provinces they have won.

Turkey’s extremely centralised and authoritarian administrative system is generously implemented in both cases. The Supreme Electoral Council has given in to the series of breaches of the law by dragging the process in the direction indicated by Erdogan and his circle.

As a result, the gap between the people’s will and the totalitarian obstinacy of the current power structure has widened. Every erratic move by Erdogan — supported by adventurers nested in bureaucracy — deepens the crisis in the country to the point of ungovernability. There is no sign of a diversion from that path.

Does Erdogan know the magnitude of the problems his administration piled up and postponed over the years? Given the mental arsenal of assessments, the answer could be “yes.” His road map these days may be covered by a thick fog.

Turkey’s iron ruler may be estimating that keeping or giving away Istanbul is a crucial moment for his political survival, that he has all the state leverages at his disposal to maintain a reign of fear. However, he must be aware also of the fact that external developments — out of his control — may have started to be set in motion, that they on their own may weaken and shorten his rule.

One is the decline of the economy that makes Turkey needy of the International Monetary Fund. The second is the rapidly gathering storm in Washington over Erdogan’s insistence on buying Russia’s S-400 air defence missile systems, opening the gates in slow motion about a sanctions regime over his government.

The third one, which seems to have entered unexpectedly, has existential marks written all over it. It was the ouster of Omar al-Bashir, the Islamist ruler of Sudan, by military force. Coupled with developments in Libya, the disruptive change in Sudan is doomed to be the strongest element of preoccupation in Ankara. The change in Khartoum is existential because al-Bashir’s fall delivers a severe blow to those who dreamed of a political rule dominated by religion.

”As Sudan turns a new chapter in its history after the removal of al-Bashir, it puts an end to the three-decade-long political Islam project that proved to be a failure. That Islamist project resulted in several crises in Sudan, divided the country and led to civil wars that still have an impact and create agonies,” said political analyst Ghassan Ibrahim.

Islamic history expert Rasheed al-Khayoun said: “A new stronghold of Islamist parties is diminishing. States and key figures have expressed their unease, and their frustration has appeared, because their Muslim Brotherhood project has deteriorated.”

Sources from Erdogan’s party, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), did not hide the fact that the ambition of their leader was to establish himself at the top of the hierarchy in the Islamic sphere, dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood doctrine. However, the AKP has been facing the fact that if ruthless majoritarianism is coupled with hyperinflation in lands ruled by Islamists, the path turns into a cul-de-sac.

Seeing that the severe decline in Sudan’s economy was the real reason for al-Bashir’s fall, Erdogan certainly must be concerned. His project, which has abandoned all ethics and morality over the years and depended on low-educated cadres of his party, is heading for failure.

The vote results in Istanbul, which turned out to be a nightmare for Erdogan and his cronies, has become strong proof of AKP’s shortcomings.

As Turkish scholar Pinar Tremblay wrote in the Jerusalem Post: “AKP, representing Turkish Ikhwan, or Muslim Brotherhood, invested heavily in reversing the secular curriculum into an Islamic one. It backfired.

“Now Istanbul has a youth bulge with little to no skills for the job market… The elites struggle to justify their corrupt rags-to-riches stories along with pious morals to the youth. The youth are fed up with the government’s hyped-up Islamic rhetoric and ever-growing lavish lifestyle…

“Different religious order leaders are coaxed to openly endorse Erdogan but they are not sufficient to convince the youth that political Islam is a viable path. ‘Dawa [Islamic cause] traded in for iPhone’ is a common sentiment. Islamists, particularly young, expected-to-be Islamists, are disillusioned.”

So, the claim that Erdogan is instilled with fear by the domestic opposition may not explain his current state but the tremors keep the Islamic geographies uncertain. In Khartoum, his men see darkness mirroring their destructive adventures.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.