Erdogan's Istanbul Manifesto

President Erdogan's Istanbul manifesto is important not only because it puts forward his strategies in the lead-up to the June 24 elections but it also sets out his political vision.

Erdogan's Istanbul Manifesto
An AK Party supporter waves a Turkish flag during a ceremony to mark the 16th anniversary of the party’s foundation, Ankara, Aug. 14, 2017.

"The most important condition for our country to overcome the domestic and international problems and pressures it faces is to develop national policies supported by the people. We desperately need a local stance, a national stance."

Recep Tayyip Erdogan first said these words on July 24, 1999. He was not prime minister or president yet. He had been imprisoned due to a poem he read while the mayor of Istanbul and was prohibited from political participation by court order. Erdogan was released from prison that day and made the above statement to those who greeted him.

These words were repeated by Erdogan 19 years later, this past Sunday. Indicating that he was in the process of preparing a manifesto after the decision for the snap elections, Erdogan read this manifesto at the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Istanbul Provincial Congress on May 6.

The reason why Erdogan recalled these words is to put forward the consistency in his political struggle on one hand and to answer the criticisms that have been brought against his nationalism on the other. Erdogan emphasized that he has had the approach that is today referred to as "local and national politics" from the very beginning.

Erdogan's Istanbul manifesto is important not just because it put forward his strategies in the lead-up to the June 24 elections but also because it sets forward his political codes.

We can consider Erdogan's manifesto in four parts. The first part was about how his positions are in the political movement he leads and its identity frame. Erdogan asked the question, "Who are we?" and sought its answer in the first part. While answering this question, instead of referring to the historical understanding of the Kemalist period, he spoke about the Seljuk and Ottoman heritage. In this way, he went beyond the historical understanding of Islamic figures and spoke of this heritage as one of the most important sources for the Republic Ataturk founded.

Erdogan divided the modern Republic's history into three parts. He defined the period between 1923 to 2002 as the foundation, 2002 to 2018 as the awakening, and from today on as the ramping up and rising period. He then emphasized that it is the people who are the actors that assure these transformations and the transition from period to period.

In the second part of the Istanbul manifesto, he tried to set forth what the political movement he leads has accomplished. Erdogan expressed that the AK Party administration increased domestic income by 3.5 percent, that it increased exports five-fold, and that it lowered inflation to single digit numbers. According to Erdogan, the AK Party served not only the economic development of the country during its 16 year tenure, but also in its liberation. In this sense, we see that the terms development, democracy and freedom were often repeated in Erdogan's manifesto.

Erdogan stated that the AK Party administration's successes also set forth the frame of local and national politics. "To be national, to increase national income means the growth of the people's work and food. Being national means the transfer of the money going into interest to the people through investments and social aid. Being local means to keep Turkey from waiting at the IMF's doorstep in need of maybe just 5 cents, and to not be dependent abroad for the defense industry."

In the third part of the manifesto was important due to there being concrete indicators of Erdogan's and the AK Party's vision for the future. Erdogan set out his vision for foreign policy, economy, social policy, education, health, and other areas.

We can say that Erdogan emphasized the concepts of independence in foreign policy, growth in economy and cohabitation in the social space.

Erdogan emphasized that the Turkey which had become a regional power over the past 16 years would become a global one. He emphasized that Turkey would not become the satellite to any camp or actor on the global level and that it was in search of establishing equal relations with global and regional actors. He underlined that in a period where global uncertainties and regional chaos is on the rise, Turkey would continue to give precedence to its own national security.

Erdogan stated that they would be continuing their efforts to grow Turkey's economy and that they would continue with the rise in exports. Alongside this, he explained that Turkey's outward economy and its competitive structure would continue, and that it would not join up with the protectionist wave ongoing across the wider world.

In his speech, Erdogan addressed all parts of Turkey's public. He emphasized more democracy and more freedom. He indicated that all citizens who were not involved with terrorism and that all domestic and international investors' rights were safe.

In the last part of the Istanbul Manifesto, President Erdogan referred to the Canakkale Victory, the War of Independence, the Republic, democracy, the July 15 resistance and the spirit of Yenikapi. From these values, he embarked on a pact with all parts of the public.

Erdogan's Istanbul manifesto contains many elements that should be deeply analyzed in order to understand Erdogan's politics and his vision for Turkey and the world. Of course, my words are not directed towards those who want to look at Turkey through the pre-prepared molds of propaganda and stereotypes.

Source: Daily Sabah

Fahrettin Altun
Fahrettin Altun is a Professor at Ibn Haldun University and the General Coordinator of SETA Foundation, Istanbul. Altun is the Editor-in-Chief of the monthly political magazine Kriter, the author of “Modernleşme Kuramı: Eleştirel Bir Giriş" and the co-author of “Freedom Press in Turkey.” Currently a columnist for Daily Sabah and Sabah newspapers, he is also a weekly analyst on “Enine Boyuna” and “Dışa Bakış” – two television series aired live on TRT 1 and TRT Haber respectively. Altun’s research areas include sociology of media and political communication, Turkish modernization and political culture.