by instituDE, published on 11 December 2023


"Succession: The Question of Power Transition in Erdogan’s Turkey" by Hasim Tekines, Institute for Diplomacy and Economy 

His electoral victory in May 2023 gave President Erdogan five more years to further consolidate his power, eviscerate institutions, fill the bureaucracy with yes-men and expand his corruption network. This, of course, raises questions about the Turkish political system’s chances of recovery, the prospects for democratization after Erdogan and the regime’s tolerance for his demise. Given the length of Erdogan’s rule (+20 years), his age (69) and his illness, the question of succession will increasingly dominate Turkish politics in the coming years.

Erdogan’s departure from office does not mean the collapse of his regime, let alone a return to democracy. Elite support could help Erdogan’s successor maintain the regime. The end of the current regime would mean loss of income for many businessmen close to the AKP, loss of privileged positions in the bureaucracy, and perhaps prosecutions for corruption and other crimes. The primary interest of AKP elites would therefore be the continuation of the existing political order after Erdogan. This common interest, rather than internal struggles over Erdogan’s throne, could provide effective coordination among AKP elites to maintain the regime.

Turkey’s tradition of multi-party democracy is the biggest obstacle to the continuation of the Erdogan regime after him. Secular and nationalist groups still wield considerable power, with a broad social base, parties in the Parliament, and influence in the bureaucracy.

The Turkish military is unlikely to defy Erdogan’s personal authority but can return as an influential political actor after him.

Erdogan’s unexpected death due to illness could be catastrophic if Erdogan’s family and inner circle fail to make the necessary arrangements to guarantee the regime’s continuity. This would not only stop their income streams or access to power, but also usher in a period of revenge. It is therefore important to further weaken secular/nationalist groups and homogenize the ruling elite while Erdogan is still strong enough. These succession preparations may be one reason for the tensions between the AKP and the MHP that have surfaced as personal rivalries between Berat Albayrak and Süleyman Soylu, or for the current Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya’s fight against organized crime, gangs allegedly linked to the MHP.

The conditions of Turkish politics are not favorable for hereditary succession. The current distribution of power and deepening economic crisis complicate the bid for presidency anyone from Erdogan family. Yet, these are not insurmountable problems in the long run. A prolonged reign of Erdogan could make the necessary changes to ensure the continuation of the Erdogan dynasty.

According to studies of authoritarian succession, democratization after the death of an autocrat is unlikely. Nevertheless, popular demand for democratization, a more integrated Turkish economy with Western countries, and political leadership could put Turkey back on the democratic track.

"It’s Time to Reconsider Turkey’s NATO Membership" by Sinan Ciddi, Foreign Policy

It seems that, in every instance, Erdogan is devoted to undermining the trans-Atlantic alliance. Is it time for NATO to reconsider Turkey’s membership?

In November 2015, after Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet in its airspace (the first such instance by a NATO country since 1952), Putin had to think very carefully about whether to respond militarily against a NATO member. Suffice it to say that without NATO membership, there is good reason to believe that Turkey could have suffered a similar fate to what Ukraine has experienced since 2014.

The reason the United States and its allies want to admit Sweden into NATO in the first place is because Russia’s belligerent behavior is threatening European security and admitting Sweden will help bolster NATO against that threat. Yet Turkey is not doing the bare minimum to thwart the threat posed by Russia.

Recent reporting discovered that Turkey, with the likely permission of its government, was providing space in its territorial waters for Putin’s personal yacht to undergo renovations (Tuzla shipyards).

Were Ankara to apply for NATO membership today, it would not be considered, let alone approved. The only reason it is having to be tolerated is due to the fact that there is no mechanism for removing a member once it has joined. One could be forgiven for thinking that this is an obvious design flaw that should not be in place. They would be right, except for the fact that NATO was designed with the intent of thwarting the threat posed by the Soviet Union; the alliance’s architects likely never thought that one day, NATO would have to strategize against a threat posed by one of its own members.

Changing membership rules may be tough, but this is an opportune time when such a discussion must begin, given the numerous challenges the Western Hemisphere faces. At the very least, NATO members should remain united and agree not to sell Ankara any defensive capabilities such as fighter jets as long as it maintains Russian capabilities that could degrade collective defense. For the Biden administration and State Department, which bend over backward not to lose Turkey, it is long past time that Erdogan was read the Riot Act: You are either a NATO ally that accepts our common values, or you are not. Make up your mind.

"Why did President Erdogan make a U-turn in Turkish-Greek relations?" by Fatih Yurtsever, Turkish Minute

Despite the escalating tensions, a significant diplomatic pivot was observed with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s official visit to Greece on December 7, 2023. During this landmark visit, he signed a declaration endorsing “good neighborly relations,” a phrase that marked a stark contrast to the previous hostilities and seemed to signal the arrival of a new era in Turkish-Greek diplomacy. This abrupt policy shift, often interpreted as Erdogan’s U-turn in relations with Greece, raises intriguing questions. So why did Erdogan make a U-turn in relations with Greece?

The positive atmosphere in Turkish-Greek relations cannot be separated from Greece’s status as a member of the EU, its strategic relations with the US and its political and military cooperation with Israel in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey is currently in the midst of a serious economic crisis, which requires foreign capital investment and foreign currency inflows in order for Turkey to recover. To this end, Turkey has initiated a process of normalization and détente in its diplomatic relations with the UAE, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Turkey also wants to accelerate the process of détente and normalization with the EU.

In order to normalize relations with Greece, the Erdogan administration signed a non-binding declaration of friendship and good neighborly relations, solidifying its commitment to repair historically strained ties. Turkey and Greece have committed to addressing and resolving conflicts through non-violent approaches, strictly adhering to international legal frameworks. Concurrently, they have reached a consensus on implementing various confidence-building initiatives, particularly in the military domain. These measures are designed to significantly reduce unnecessary sources of tension, thereby fostering a more stable and cooperative environment.

Turkey’s diplomatic initiative to normalize relations with Greece, a strategic move primarily aimed at bolstering its ties with the European Union, is poised to have significant ramifications on its domestic political landscape. This rapprochement signals a potential shift in the longstanding coalition between President Erdogan and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), led by Devlet Bahceli. The sustainability of this alliance is under scrutiny, as it hinges on Erdogan’s willingness to recalibrate his traditionally nationalist policies concerning the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean. Such a recalibration might necessitate a realignment of political alliances, possibly leading to a dissolution of the current coalition with the MHP, a party known for its hardline nationalist stance. The coalition between Erdogan and Bahceli will not last long, either, because in order for Erdogan to abandon his nationalist policies in the Aegean and the eastern Mediterranean, he needs to end his coalition with the MHP.

"Turkey moves to counter rising tide of Chinese EV imports" by Taylan Bilgic and Firat Kozok, Bloomberg

Turkey is cracking down on Chinese electric vehicle imports, the latest country to do so after the European Union launched its own probe into the Asian country’s EV subsidies.

Companies importing EVs to Turkey must have at least 140 authorized service stations spread evenly across the country and open a call center for each brand, according to a Trade Ministry decree published last month.

The onerous requirement is widely seen as targeting Chinese vehicles. Imports from the EU and countries that have free-trade agreements with Turkey are exempt from the decree. Importers have only until the end of the month to comply, a next-to-impossible task for many.

The new rules are intended to bring order to a rapidly developing industry and enable it to move forward in a controlled environment, an official in Ankara told Bloomberg, speaking on condition of anonymity. There are no plans to revise the rules or delay their implementation, the official said.

BYD Co., China’s top-selling car company, plans a nationwide authorized service network and has been signing contracts with dealers to deliver services to customers, said Ismail Ergun, general manager of BYD Turkey.

“If the rule is implemented as planned, imports may have to wait at the border for months,” Ergun said.


  • President Erdogan is set to visit Budapest, Hungary, on December 18. During the visit, Erdogan will participate in a meeting of the Hungarian-Turkish Strategic Cooperation Council and commemorate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.


Turkish opposition faces setback as Good Party withdraws from alliance 

In a significant setback for Turkey's main opposition party, the nationalist Good Party withdrew from the alliance aimed at forming a united front against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling coalition in the upcoming March local elections. 

The Good Party, citing the poor performance of the opposition in recent parliamentary elections, blamed the main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and decided to field its own candidates independently in the March elections. The decision was announced following a significant board meeting on December 4, with party spokesman Kursad Zorlu stating, "Our party decided to enter the elections freely and independently."

HEDEP plans to maintain dialogue with CHP and AKP despite critiques

The Co-Chairs of the Peoples' Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP), Tulay Hatimogullari and Tuncer Bakirhan said in a meeting with journalists that despite criticisms, as the third-largest party in the country, they will continue to engage with all parties on various issues. 

Expressing dissatisfaction with the revealed protocol between the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the far-right Victory Party (ZP), Hatimogullari and Bakirhan referred to it as a "document of shame." They added that while the protocol has caused resentment, it won't hinder future collaborations with the CHP, and discussions will be held. 

The co-chairs also emphasized their readiness to discuss the constitutional amendment proposal with the government.

MHP leader Bahceli affirms joint candidates for metropolitan cities

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahceli dismissed claims of a crisis within the People's Alliance due to a disagreement between the AK Party and the MHP on the 50 plus 1 per cent required for the election of the President. He announced that joint candidates from the People's Alliance would run in all metropolitan cities.

Bahceli noted the completion of productive work by the commission established by both parties, emphasizing that candidate nominations have not yet been made, but there is no conflict between the parties.

Former minister indirectly calls for Erdogan's dismissal with proposal for political ban on +65

Former Minister of Environment and Urban Planning, Erdogan Bayraktar, who served in Erdogan's cabinet from 2011 to 2013, indirectly called for the removal of the Turkish President by proposing a political ban on individuals aged 65 and older. In a tweet outlining five recommendations for the country's prosperity, Bayraktar's suggestion was to restrict political involvement for those aged 65 and above, which currently includes President Erdogan, who is 69.

His other recommendations included reducing the number of universities, nearly halving the count of civil servants, reducing the number of MPs from 600 to 200, and implementing measures against judges who "deliberately make incorrect decisions."

Former footballer and MHP Deputy Saffet Sancakli resigns after row with AKP

Saffet Sancaklı, a Sakarya Deputy and former football player, resigned from the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) on December 9 following a dispute with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Sancaklı allegedly criticized the AKP during a meeting with the Kocaeli Journalists Association, citing the lack of MHP representation in Kocaeli province municipalities. 

MHP leader Bahçeli responded, questioning if Sancaklı aims to continue his tradition of playing for three big clubs in both football and politics. In response, Sancaklı denied making those remarks; however, MHP deputy chair Semih Yalçın called for his resignation on social media. Sancaklı resigned from the party in response, citing the desire to avoid speculation around the People's Alliance and the MHP.


Turkey's annual inflation sees modest increase in November

In November, Turkey's annual inflation rate saw a slight increase, reaching 61.98 percent compared to 61.36 percent in October, as the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) reported on December 4. The increase continues the trend of inflation levelling off, following a series of substantial interest rate hikes over six consecutive months, which elevated borrowing costs from 8.5 per cent to 40 per cent.

Turkey raises minimum real estate investment for citizenship to $600,000 

Starting in 2024, changes to the regulation for acquiring Turkish citizenship through investment will raise the minimum real estate investment requirement from $400,000 to $600,000, according to a report on December 6 by the T24 news website. The $200,000 increase was outlined in a recent regulation by the Interior Ministry’s Directorate of Migration Management, set to take effect in the new year. Until the end of this year, foreigners purchasing real estate at the $400,000 level will still be eligible to apply for Turkish citizenship. 

Turkey had previously lowered investment criteria in 2018 to encourage foreign investment, allowing citizenship for those owning $250,000 worth of property for three years, but increased it to $400,000 in 2022.

Turkey's anti-corruption efforts criticized in Council of Europe Report

Turkey's compliance with anti-corruption recommendations from the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), the Council of Europe's anti-corruption organization, remains "globally unsatisfactory," according to a report released on December 7.  

The Fourth Interim Compliance Report of the Fourth Evaluation Round focuses on preventing corruption among members of parliament, judges, and prosecutors. GRECO adopted the report during its 94th plenary meeting in Strasbourg held from June 5-9.

According to the report, Turkey has satisfactorily implemented only three out of 22 anti-corruption recommendations, partially implemented nine, and left 10 unimplemented. GRECO emphasized the necessity for more substantial changes, especially to reduce the executive body's role and influence on critical matters related to the judiciary. 

GRECO also expressed disappointment that no measures had been taken to align the composition of the HSK (High Council of Judges and Prosecutors) with European standards.


Journalist Nazli Ilicak begins serving prison sentence for libel conviction

Prominent Turkish journalist Nazli Ilicak has begun serving a two-and-a-half-year sentence in prison after an appeals court upheld her conviction for libelling a public prosecutor. The 79-year-old turned herself in at a prison in Sakarya on December 4. The charges stemmed from a 2016 article where prosecutor Orhan Kapici claimed she had libelled him. 

Although Ilicak hoped for an open prison placement, her lawyer, Kemal Ertug Derin, said she was assigned to a closed prison due to a prior suspended conviction for espionage. Ilicak is expected to spend two to three weeks in prison before a potential transfer to an open prison, where she might be released on probation.

European Parliament rapporteur visits jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala

On December 6, Nacho Sanchez Amor, the European Parliament's Turkey rapporteur, made the first-ever visit by a European Parliament member to the imprisoned Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala. Sanchez expressed gratitude to the Turkish Ministry of Justice and Foreign Affairs on social messaging platform X, hoping this openness signals a new era in EU-Turkey relations. 

Additionally, he called on Turkish authorities to implement the European Court of Human Rights rulings concerning Kavala and other cases.

In its quarterly meeting on December 5-7, the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers addressed Turkey's failure to comply with European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rulings concerning jailed Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala. The Committee strongly urged the Turkish government to release Demirtas and Kavala. Specifically, the Committee called on Turkey's Constitutional Court to expedite the review of Demirtas’ ongoing detention, emphasized the court's authority to end Kavala’s detention, and demanded his immediate release.

Turkey's Constitutional Court annuls controversial Penal Code article

Turkey's Constitutional Court nullified a controversial provision, Article 220 § 6 of the Turkish Penal Code, which penalized individuals for committing crimes on behalf of an organization without being its member. The top court's decision followed the İstanbul 22nd High Criminal Court and the Patnos High Criminal Court in Agri, eastern Turkey, dropping cases related to the contentious provision and referring the matter to the Constitutional Court.

The Constitutional Court ruled that the provision lacks clarity and predictability, does not meet required standards, and, therefore, is incompatible with constitutional principles. The decision will take effect four months after being published in the Official Gazette on December 8, allowing the Turkish parliament time to enact a law aligning with the court's criteria. Otherwise, the provision will be unenforceable in Turkey, potentially impacting existing cases.


Turkey firmly rejects Israel's post-war buffer zone plan in Gaza

On December 6, President Erdogan said that Turkey rejects Israel's recent plans to establish a post-war buffer zone in Gaza, emphasizing that such a move would be disrespectful to Palestinians. Erdogan, speaking during a flight from Doha, emphasized that decisions about Gaza's governance and future after the war should be taken by Palestinians themselves. 

In response to reports about Israel considering operations to pursue Hamas members in other countries, Erdogan warned that such actions in Turkey would have "very serious" consequences. He underscored that any mistake of this nature would result in a heavy price for those involved.

Greece and Turkey forge a new era of relations

On December 7, Greece and Turkey agreed to strengthen their ties in a landmark meeting between Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Turkish President Erdogan in Athens. The NATO allies aim to double their bilateral trade volume from $5 billion to $10 billion. Both leaders emphasized the importance of good neighbourly relations, open communication, and military confidence-building measures to reduce tensions, particularly in the Aegean Sea.

The meeting, which lasted longer than expected, resulted in positive remarks from Erdogan: "There is no issue between us that is unsolvable," expressing optimism about resolving differences. Mitsotakis highlighted the historical responsibility to bring the two countries closer, envisioning the Aegean as a "sea of peace."

Greece reinstated an automatic visa system for Turkish nationals visiting 10 of its islands on the same day. Mitsotakis mentioned ongoing meetings and hinted at a potential step forward in the dialogue, such as reaching a deal on demarcating continental shelves and economic exploitation zones when conditions allow.

On December 8, while talking to reporters on his return flight from Greece, Erdogan shared that the meetings had a "very positive" atmosphere. He also expressed Turkey's interest in enhancing collaboration with Greece, particularly in the field of nuclear energy. Erdogan said that he suggested an opportunity related to the nuclear power plant Turkey plans to construct in Sinop without providing further details. 

He also noted that Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis responded warmly to the idea during their discussions.

Turkey expresses 'complete disappointment' as U.S. vetoes UN ceasefire resolution in Gaza"

On December 9, Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed deep disappointment after the United States vetoed a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan conveyed this sentiment after discussions with counterparts from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League, who met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington. Fidan highlighted that their allies underscored that the U.S. stands alone on this matter, especially in the recent UN vote.

Turkish President Erdogan also criticized the UN Security Council on December 9 following the US veto of a Gaza ceasefire resolution, labelling the international body as the 'Israel Protection Council".

"Since October 7, the Security Council has become an Israel Protection and Defense Council," he said, highlighting that only the United States voted against the resolution.