Comment on Turkey’s Elections

Source: Reuters

Below you may find brief comments on Turkey’s elections that I provided to a Turkish news agency in the form of an interview after their own request; the answers were accepted for publication but then censored and eventually not published. Simply because they describe President Erdogan’s policies as authoritarian. The same thing happened to me last year, from a different Turkish news agency, with regard to Turkey’s policy vis-a-vis the so-called “Islamic State” in Iraq and the crisis with the Turkish hostages.

Here are my brief answers to their three questions:

1) The results of the June 7 national elections in Turkey were not surprising although they will certainly shock Turkey’s political scene. The factors that led to the AKP’s defeat (9% lower than the 2011 elections) are several. The most important one is the increasing authoritarian tendencies of former Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the evident reversal of the democratic reforms that the AKP achieved in the previous decade. Erdoğan’s efforts to transform the country’s political system into a presidential one was the peak of this authoritarian trajectory that was first opposed fiercely at the Gezi Park protests in the summer of 2013. Further, important failures in foreign policy and economy contributed to the bad image of the AKP and the popular dissatisfaction. At the same time, the pro-Kurdish party HDP managed to understand the societal anxieties and went through an ideological and organizational transformation so as to become more democratic and more inclusive without, however, abolishing its pro-Kurdish cause. This had a great impact on the election results as well.

2) Right now, the AKP does not have too many options. It will either try to proceed to early elections in the hope that it will gather more votes due to societal fears of instability, or it will try to form a minority government with the support of the nationalist MHP. In the latter case, and other more distant coalition scenarios, I believe that the country will eventually be led to early elections because of the significant divergence in the ideologies and policies of the parties that entered the parliament.

3) On the one hand, the international community, despite the whole atmosphere of suspense, perceives the election results as a positive development towards a more democratic Turkey. However, although the AKP lost much of its power, this doesn’t necessarily entail that it belongs to the past. The “golden era” of the AKP might be over, but 41% is still a high percentage and the AKP will have a role to play in tomorrow’s Turkey. As such, if the AKP and most importantly Erdoğan continues to affect the developments domestically, Turkey will continue on a track of democratic deficit, economic problems and foreign policy challenges. This dynamic will also create space for more societal and political polarization with potentially more friction between the various groups and even exacerbated political violence. In this sense, should the elected political parties fail to form a stable government Turkey will enter an transitional period of great uncertainty which, in turn, will impact its international image and stature negatively.

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