The Would-be Successors of Recep T. Erdogan
by Leonidas Koumakis*
It may be the case that the majority of Turkish society is indignant and groaning under the regime of the absolute one-man monarchy that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gradually imposed on Turkey.
Erdogan may have already shaped the conditions and mechanisms of his lifetime stay in Turkish power with absolute control of the army, civil and military police, the secret services, the judicial system, mass media, the entire wider public sector, and the various strangleholds on every category of individual freedoms.
It may be that the effective mechanisms of electoral fraud of the popular will through the 192,000 electoral ballot boxes set up in Turkey, allow him to emerge as a “winner” in elections where he was defeated, just as has been done systematically since 2014.
From 2002 to 2013, the populist Erdogan enjoyed widespread popular support that allowed him to pretend to be a “democratic leader.” But in 2013, when corruption scandals emerged starring Erdogan himself and his “family” along with courtiers of all categories, and unprecedented anti-government demonstrations took place with the excuse of “park development”, i.e., the seizure of Istanbul’s Gezi Park, popular support for Erdogan began to decline rapidly.
Since then, Turkey has gradually been led into a state of absolute monarchy where the desires of Erdogan, the monarch, are now obliged to be fulfilled not only by the mechanisms of the regime, but also by the Turkish people themselves.
The Turkish Parliament long ago stopped supplying the Turkish government with elected deputies. The Turkish parliament is now the refuge of all the regime’s sycophants who are “rewarded” with parliamentary immunity for the slew of their criminal offenses in carrying out the orders of the monarch.
The members of the Turkish government are now chosen, appointed and dismissed by the monarch, Erdogan, and are usually “heaven sent” with absolutely nothing to do with popular choice or preference selections in the electoral processes.
In a country large in size and population, with particular geostrategic value due to its geographical position which borders or maintains excellent relations with many authoritarian regimes, Turkey’s slide towards a perpetual monarchical state has been a slow and steady development, thanks to the extraordinary personality of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
With harsh and insulting characterizations made by foreign leaders, international media, and the Turkish opposition (the most apt characterization is the “Rogue Dictator” attributed to him since January 2016 by Kemal Kilinçdaroğlu) against R. T. Erdogan, one cannot fail to recognize the extreme populist Erdogan’s oratorical skills and unique ability to enchant the crowds that flock to his various speeches either by blackmail or obligation.
Having consolidated his absolute power in the mechanisms of the regime he has imposed on Turkey, but facing significant health problems, Recep Tayyip Erdogan is now obliged to turn to the proper preparation of his successor, so that after his biological death all the stolen goods of his family and courtiers can be protected and his posterity ensured so that in the future he will be considered as worthy as or even superior to Mustafa Kemal in the conscience of the average Turkish citizen.
According to self-exiled Turkish journalist Cevheri Güven, as a newly minted monarch R.T. Erdogan would prefer his youngest son Bilal Erdogan to be his successor and the successor of the regime he imposed on Turkey. After finishing his schooling in Turkey, the third of Erdogan’s four children (born in 1981), Bilal Erdogan was sent to the US where he studied (at Indiana and Harvard universities), married, and worked until 2006. Then, he returned to Turkey, as an invisible collaborator of his father, to prove that he has all the “qualifications” to succeed him. Since then, he has managed to date to be involved in a series of corruption scandals: Money laundering, interference in mass media operations, illegal transfers (robbery) of state land, persecution of journalists, senior judicial officials, even police officers, relations and ties with terrorist organizations – he was considered the “informal oil minister of the Islamic State”.
For all practical purposes R. T. Erdogan has supported this preference for many years, methodically preparing the groundwork for succession carefully. Already Bilal Erdogan, with the systematic support of the palace, has amassed enormous economic power and influence within the powerful bureaucracy of the Turkish regime. Since the scandals of 2013, with the father-son tapes about the “pricing” of a money laundering racket or with the judicial escapades regarding money laundering both inside and outside Turkey, Bilal Erdogan has been amassing financial power and support within the regime, managing his father’s excessive “portfolio”. He already runs gigantic organizations looted by the Turkish state (TÜGVA, TÜRGEV, ENSAR VAFKI, İLİM YAYMA VAKFI, YUNUS EMRE VAFKI, etc.) and is quietly preparing for the continuation of the regime in the next generation.
There is, of course, a whole list of would-be successors vying for influence within the state bureaucracy:
Of Recep T. Erdogan’s other children, US-based Ahmet Burak is not expected to be involved in any succession contest, but his two daughters, Sumeyye and Esra, are certainly already involved in the succession race through their husbands, Selçuk Bayraktar and Berat Albayrak.
Of this new dynamic and powerful duo of power, Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan proffers (by Erdogan’s own admission) a large boxful of valuable secrets of the state bureaucracy and is already making appropriate use of his position of the Foreign Ministry to expand his acquaintances and international support, while İbrahim Kalın (director of MİT the national security organization of Turkey), beyond his “dowry” of Erdogan’s secrets for decades, is sure to start systematically filling MİT with a second box of valuable secrets for possible use against political opponents in the future. One thing is certain: Both have far greater ambitions than the positions they held or hold within the state bureaucracy.
Finally, there are some seemingly “decommissioned” people who no one knows if at some point and under the right conditions, will attempt to return to the fore, such as General Hulusi Akar, Süleyman Soylu, or Abdullah Gül.
C O N C L U S I O N S: It seems perfectly logical that within a regime that has gradually turned into a monarchy, there should be planning for a successor state that will fully secure all that has been stolen over a period of twenty years but also take care of the posterity of the “monarch”. Erdoğan’s youngest son (full name Necmettin Bilal), is counted as the most “suitable” candidate even though the establishment bureaucracy itself and Turks ridicule him. He has never held an official government position, is permanently in his father’s shadow, and excels in behaviors reminiscent of the saying about the apple that doesn’t fall far from the tree. His name is constantly implicated in all kinds of scandals and plots, from money laundering, kickbacks, to harmonious cooperation with terrorist organizations.
In authoritarian regimes, the succession of the monarch does not depend on popular acceptance but on the strength and influence of the successor in the state bureaucracy of the regime, and Necmettin Bilal Erdogan’s “performance” in this area already excels.
The current government “ally” of Erdogan, Devlet Bahçeli, in a speech in the city of Nevşehir in 2015, had accurately described the current regime of Turkey, which however was imposed with his own Ovidian transformation i.e., his endorsement of Erdogan, in 2017:
“Erdogan does not dream of a Turkish presidential system, but of a presidency according to his own measures. He is running towards a goal that will leave all the power in his hands, as he wants a system of one dictator. A dictatorship without a throne and a crown, in which there will be no braking and no control mechanisms by Parliament”.
In the year 2023 Turkey looks exactly like this. And its continuity will be ensured only by imposing a successor chosen by the monarch himself. It doesn’t matter at all what the Turkish people or the democratic parties (legal or “illegal”) that represent them would like.
It remains to be seen whether R. T. Erdogan will be able to engineer the placement of his chosen one into power or whether there will be a reaction from some other aspiring candidate, naturally without excluding any surprise actions external to any central arrangement.
Translated by Prof. Eleni Phufas-Jousma
* Leonidas Koumakis: Lawyer, Author, Columnist-Analyst, member of the International Hellenic Association. His autobiographical, timeless book The Miracle-A True Story, which refers to the methodical extermination of the Hellenism of Constantinople by the Turkish state, is available completely free of charge in the IHA electronic library, both in Greek and English.
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