TURKEY 2023: STRONG DEMOCRACY, STRONG ECONOMY

Turkey 2011 | DIPLOMACY | INSIDE PERSPECTIVE

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, on the country's transformation into one of the world's most dynamic trading centers, and his vision to strengthen democratization.

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
BIOGRAPHY
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan played soccer professionally after he graduated from university, and also worked for Istanbul’s transportation authority. He entered politics full time in 1994, being elected Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. In August 2001 he founded the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), and the party was swept to power shortly after in the 2002 general elections. In 2003 he became the Prime Minister, replacing Abdullah Gül.

I believe that our export figures are a very good way to gauge the robustness of the Turkish economy. Total Turkish exports in 1923, the year our republic was founded, amounted to $51 million. Unfortunately, for decades after that, there was no significant growth in overall foreign trade and export figures. It was only in 1969 that annual exports reached $500 million. They reached the $1 billion mark in 1973.

By 2002, exports were recorded at a value of $36 billion, the highest level of annual exports in 79 years. In 2004, we once again reached an important threshold, surpassing $50 billion; by 2008, we attained a record sum in the history of our republic—$132 billion. The global economic crisis and its adverse effect on international trade also took their toll on Turkey, but by 2009 exports were recorded at $102 billion, and by 2010, the figure had reached $114 billion.

When we look at the monthly figures from the Turkish Exporters Assembly, we see that in the first five months of 2011 alone, Turkish exports reached $54 billion. Export figures from the past 12 months show growth of 14%, reaching $123 billion. We hope to reach $132 billion by the end of 2011. We have set a very ambitious goal for ourselves, and it will be a long road to achieve that goal. Our goal is that by 2023, the centenary of the Turkish Republic, annual exports will reach $500 billion. The Turkish Exporters Assembly prepared a very detailed 2023 strategy and has subsequently announced it to the public.

We will continue to mobilize Turkey's potential by working, producing, and selling. The process that began with $51 million in 1923 will have increased ten thousand fold 100 years later, in 2023. We have attained these levels by solving problems, overcoming obstacles, and working in unison through consultation and cooperation. We will continue to work in the same way—united—so as to reach that $500 billion objective.

JUNE 12: A FRESH START

The general elections on June 12 mark a very important and fresh new beginning in terms of reaching our 2023 goals. With these elections, Turkey has opened a new page in its progress. When we look at exports since 1923, we find that they have always increased parallel to the development of democratization and an active foreign policy. All economic indicators, especially exports, have improved on a solid, consistent, and safe trajectory, parallel to our democratization reforms and strong foreign policy.

There is no doubt that the fast pace of economic growth and increase in exports since 2002 is a result of the stable and secure environment that Turkey has become, and the brave democratic reforms that have been achieved. Today, the fact that democratization and economic growth must develop in parallel—hand-in-hand—has been proven beyond all shadow of a doubt. That's why the new process that began with the June 12, 2011 general elections carries so much importance.

We will attain our 2023 objectives by developing Turkey's standards in all fields in the coming 12 years. Our goal is not just to bring annual exports up to $500 billion. That is only part of a broader aim to create a Turkey that is a strong and stable, modern player in its region, and a country where democratic standards have reached much higher levels parallel to ongoing economic development. As long as this environment of stability and security continues, as long as we continue to pursue an active and peaceful foreign policy, and as long as democratic reforms continue unabated, we have no doubt that our 2023 goals will be reached of their own accord. When we look at Turkey's history of democratization, we see that this will clearly be the case. The first multi-party general elections were held in 1946. Since 1946, there has been a vibrant and heated discourse on democracy in Turkey, and an ongoing debate over the idea of a truly open, free, and fair democracy based unconditionally on the will of the people. We have had to overcome crises, calamity, and often great pain, experiencing interruptions along the way. But this nation has never lost its hope and has always gone to the ballot box to defend and uphold the national will.

One of the most important messages of the June 12, 2011 elections is this: our nation has reached a point of democratic maturity whereby democracy is now a fundamental part of our national identity. When faced with any kind of crisis, any kind of debate, or any kind of issue, our nation goes to the ballot box and has the last word. The idea that sovereignty truly and completely rests with the people, that the nation is the sole determiner of its own fate, has now become firmly ingrained in our culture and identity.

Turkey has now achieved a very high level of democratic maturity, with a robust democratic culture and very high standards of democracy that have been embraced by the people. It is now unavoidable that every institution in Turkey, be it political parties, civil society, or the media, also attain these standards.

THE OTHER 50%

The June 12 elections do not just signify a fresh start for Turkey. There is also now a great new horizon, a whole new vision, and a different culture of democracy in our country. Yesterday's parameters belong to yesterday. Yesterday's debates have now been left behind us. Our nation has clearly and finally turned its back on yesterday's political polemics and on yesterday's style of politics.

To not heed the message of the ballot box belongs to yesterday's political culture. Today's political culture is about paying very close attention to the message of the ballot box and taking the necessary steps accordingly. I say this clearly: we are more concerned with the 50% who did not vote for us than we are for the 50% that did. Just as we did after the September 12, 2010 referendum, we are also trying to understand the 50% of the public who did not vote for us on June 12.

Our research, evaluation, and scientific studies concerning this factor continue. We are trying to understand who we were unable to appeal to, and who we were unable to explain ourselves to. We hope and expect that the other political parties do the same.

The nation has handed us the responsibility of governing the country for the third time, and with a far greater number of votes than in the previous two elections. We continue to work for the nation, keeping this responsibility fully in mind. We have no desire to revive the polemics and debates of the past.

A NEW CONSTITUTION

The new process that was begun by the June 12 elections is one in which I believe the rule of law will become much more firmly entrenched in our country. This will be a process in which democratic standards will reach new heights. Recent debates and events also show that Turkey is now, more than ever, in need of serious legal reform and a new constitution.

We will never accept or condone any obstacle to, any privilege above, or any shadow cast over the will of the people. Turkey is a state of law. We are all critical of the constitution. However these criticisms do not mean that we will not respect or act within the parameters of these laws. We will discuss, debate, consult, share, and consider all these criticisms together.

Going into the June 12 elections, our greatest project was that of formulating a new constitution. We have clearly and openly stated that our aim is to create a broad consensus for the new constitution. Despite the problems encountered in the opening of the new parliament, I strongly believe that we will create a new constitution that will be embraced by all 74 million of my fellow citizens. Turkish democracy has the maturity and experience to be able to achieve this.