Turkey’s direction after the latest elections. What to expect
The results of the latest elections in Turkey were no surprise to anyone. Perhaps, the leader of the opposition party, Muharrem Ince (CHP) would have expected to receive a larger consensus but still his percentage was within the limits set before the elections. According to the OSCE’s International Election Observation Mission in Turkey, “in the 24 June early presidential and parliamentary elections, voters had a genuine choice despite the lack of conditions for contestants to compete on an equal basis. The incumbent president and his party enjoyed a notable advantage, also reflected in excessive coverage by government-affiliated public and private media. The restrictive legal framework and powers granted under the state of emergency limited fundamental freedoms of assembly and expression, including in the media. Still, citizens demonstrated their commitment to democracy by participating in large numbers in campaign rallies and on election day. Hastily adopted changes to the election legislation were made without consultations and removed important safeguards for election day procedures. Election day procedures were generally followed, although important legally prescribed steps were often omitted during counting and tabulation”.
Members of the Political Analysis Center of SAMER, based in Diyarbakir have laid out documents proving that groups from the Army and the Police, controlled mainly by the nationalistic MHP (Erdogan’s AKP partner) have interfered to change the number of their votes to their favour. They mention that those votes were mainly taken from the HDP party which is affiliated to the Kurds and whose chairman is currently in jail. HDP managed to enter the parliament with 67 deputies though, despite the hardships.
MHP party, known also as grey wolves turned to be particularly important for AKP since without its 11%, Erdogan could not form a government.
This parameter is significant. It means that Erdogan will strengthen its grip and extend nationalistic policies. During his celebration speech, he already made it clear that the efforts to suppress the terrorists, as he calls the Kurds and especially the PKK organization, in the country will be maximized. Moreover, he also declared that Turkey will continue to free lands controlled by the terrorists in Syria which means the continuation of the operations abroad. Next targets, after Afrin, would be northeastern zones of Syria as well as Kurdish areas in northern Iraq.
This evolution would bring Erdogan in a delicate position vis-à-vis Russia and the US. This is a crucial point as Ankara cannot play forever the vacillation game between the West and Moscow and Erdogan will be asked to clarify his intentions. At the moment, regime-controlled newspapers and media claim that Turkey is no longer a regional power but rather a global one as it can be seen by the gigantic investments of Turkey in military equipments and infrastructures. Indeed, Erdogan over the last years has tried to raise his influence in various parts of the world and especially in the Balkans, African countries and Pakistan. In case Turkey will not face a severe economic failure, Erdogan will feel more secure while playing the role of protector of the oppressed muslims around the world. And Washington and Moscow would be unable to keep a passive stance towards this attitude.
Turkey-Cyprus confrontation is another important issue. Nicosia is ready to host the drilling operations to be carried out by international energy economic groups over its exclusive economic zones. Ankara seeks to anticipate the evolutions taking place with the East-Med pipeline and it is already preparing its own drillship and drilling rig. As long as the European Union and the US will not cede to Ankara’s pretensions, Erdogan is expected to raise its pressure against Greece and Cyprus while the relations between those traditional enemies have been deteriorated significantly during the last 2 years. The Turkish government could potentially provoke the neighbours and raise tensions in Aegean sea or in Cyprusin order to impose its political willing and raise its popularity at home. This would jeopardize the stability in an already troubled region.
In conclusion, what we know for sure is that the kemalist and secular Turkey is steadily heading to the end. In its place a new Turkey has already arisen. Erdogan’s Turkey includes a lot of elements seen in other authoritarian regimes in the Middle East such as the dominance of Islam over the political institutions and the populist rhetoric against some unfair superpowers that infiltrate into the internal affairs of the country. It is true that Kemalist Turkey, during most of its existence, did not function as an actual democracy and a lot of Erdogan’s practices are well known in Turkey. There is also a common feature in both regimes which was never strong during the Ottoman Empire, that is the concept of nation. In fact, the legitimation for any kind of persecution in both Kemalist and Erdoganist Turkey results from the need to protect the nation. Someone could claim that the new Turkey is an ultimate combination of the Ottoman Empire and the Kemalist doctrine, in other words a combination of Islam and Turkish nation.
M.A. in International Relations and Diplomatic Affairs, University of Bologna
OSCE (2018, June 25). Statement of preliminary findings and conclusions, International Election Observation Mission, Republic of Turkey – Early Presidential and Parliamentary Elections – 24 June 2018. Retrieved from: https://bit.ly/2KxVI33.