Erdogan’s regime has been responsible for the arrest of 50,000 people since July 2016, including 231 Journalists. Most under charges of terrorism in response to the failed coup against Erdogan. Following this, Turkey voted Yes in its constitutional referendum to approve 18 constitutional amendments.
The amendments designed to give Erdogan further executive powers to deal with problems in Turkey has been criticized for rendering Parliament useless and granting Erdogan excessive political power. Erdogan has used this round up those who oppose him and bring about controversial change to areas such as education, where the teaching of evolution is now banned.
Protests against Erdogan’s creeping Authoritarianism have become more common, climaxing with the opposition parties’ 450km Justice march from Ankara to Istanbul. Starting on the 15th June the march directly protests the arrest of an MP who allegedly leaked documents showing the Turkish government had armed jihadists in Syria. It has been seen more as a symbol of defiance against Erdogan and his regime, and the eroding of democracy in Turkey.
The march led by Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, ending in Istanbul, was attended by tens of thousands with the peaceful protest in Istanbul, at the end of the walk, having hundreds of thousands join them.
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu ended the protest with a speech about his vision for the future and spoke of his 10 demands to Erdogan. The demands included: an end to the state of emergency, an independent judiciary, and the release of imprisoned journalists, politicians and others who were arrested during the purges that followed the coup attempt.
Erdogan claimed the protesters supported terrorists by making these demands.
The protest was mainly a failure. Failing to make it any progress on negotiations for the release of political prisoners and a regression to parliamentary democracy. Nor did it garner any attention in the Western media. Despite being started by an MP who may have evidence that Erdogan is helping to arm militant groups like IS.
As Mr Kilicdaroglu says “It’s not an easy task to fight against a dictator.” and his plan is to win to unseat Erdogan at the presidential elections in 2019.
However, if Turkey truly wish to impact Erdogan’s government it’s a mass strike not a march that they should be utilizing. The oppositions power lie in the affluence of the regions that are against Erdogan, this is clear when viewing the referendum results.
The regions against Erdogan are the urbanized, richer regions. The cities of Istanbul, Izmir, Antalaya and Ankara are clearly opposition strongholds, the No vote being higher than 70% in some of these cities. The Kurdish regions in the East are unsurprisingly against Erdogan’s rule.
These regions make up 72% of the country’s economy.
And that shows what the opposition to Erdogan must do. They must force Erdogan to concessions by bringing these regions to an economic standstill. An economy that is more vital to Erdogan than it is to Turks in the region. Money, he needs to enforce his will and keep rural regions on side and maintain links with the rich elite of the Turkish society. A protest that will physically affect Turkey.
The opposition control nearly all of the Mediterranean coast vital to its links with its main trading partners in the EU. Istanbul alone deals with 60% of Turkey’s imports and exports, the city as it has since its formation in 660BC holds vast political and economic worth. The city, straddling the Bosphorus strait, is the route money takes into Turkey. The city alone is 46% of Turkey’s economy. Erdogan’s opposition could bring down the Turkish economy without leaving Europe.
The key to utilising this weakness is communication and mobilization. It relies heavily on workers Unions or other organisations to mobilise huge numbers of people. Some of the largest industries in Turkey are associated with unions, especially in economically key industries. Turkey rank 4th in the world for Ship building and 8th for steel production. Interestingly, both of these industries have key industrial plants in both Istanbul and Ankara, including companies like Erdemir who are the nation’s leading steel producer. If the strikes can utilise these industries they would be a force to be reckoned with. However they would have to openly pit themselves against Erdogan, a dangerous thing to do at this time.
Erdogan is reliant on areas of his nation that do not agree with him. Reliant on cities that do not support him to keep trade flowing and keep his manufacturing sector alive.
He is not vulnerable politically or culturally but economically.
Erdogan’s opposition must do something more significant than march to show their strength, they must strike at his Achilles heel, the economy.