Erdogan Wins Turkish Election And Expands Political Power
Recep Tayyip Erdogan won the Turkish election on Sunday, extending his 15-year control of the government, as well as broadening the scope of his power over the judiciary and legislative branches (1).
Last year, Turkish voters, through a small margin of voters, allowed Erdogan more executive powers.
He also won a majority in Parliament, as his conservative party and their allies won around 53% of the legislative elections on Sunday (1).
Following a coup d’etat attempt two years ago, Erdogan – through declaring a state of emergency – has been trying hard to crack down on many in the government, including civil servants, journalists, lawyers, and judges (1).
Erdogan’s critics portrayed the election yesterday as one final attempt to prevent Turkey from becoming an authoritarian state.
According to the New York Times, Erdogan’s victory has a lot of consequences for cooperation with NATO, security in Iraq and Syria, as well as the control of immigration into Europe.
Even though Turkey has collaborated with Western partners in the past, especially regarding terrorism efforts, Mr. Erdogan has tested that alliance by working with Vladimir Putin. Erdogan bought a Russian-created missile defense system and also has plans to build a Russian nuclear reactor (1).
A Strong State To Protect Against Terrorism
Like many other nations around the world, Erdogan convinced voters that a strong state was needed to protect against terrorism.
Reportedly, Erdogan won 53% of the vote while his primary competitor, Muharrem Ince, won 31% of the vote (1).
During his speech, the 64-year-old leader of the AKP said the nation “entrusted” him with the “duty of the presidency,” as well as a “very big responsibility in the legislature. (1)”
The opposing party, the Republican People’s Party, asked for the citizens – if they’re unhappy with the result – to protest through peaceful means, rather than through uprising (1).
Erdogan’s win of the Turkish election will make him one of the longest-ruling leaders in the nation ever since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who founded the Turkish republic following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire (2).
Erdogan’s Victory Allows For Extended Terms – But The Opposition Is More Engaged
After the changes to the government in 2017, Erdogan can run for a second term and even a third term, meaning he can stay in public office until 2032 (1).
Despite his win, the opposing parties won enough seat to establish themselves as a legitimate force in Parliament, in the form of the HPD party. The group surpassed the 10% threshold needed (1).
The HPD is a liberal democratic party who champions minority rights and is led by a Kurd – an ethnic group comprising around 20% of the Turkish population – Selahattin Demirtas, who currently is in jail (2).
Nevertheless, academics in Turkey and journalists are fearful for the power acquired by the president, with some comparing him to the political leaders from the days of the Ottoman Empire (1).
Soner Cagaptay, an author and academic, said that Mr. Erdogan was like a “new sultan,” referring to that time in Turkish history (1).
However, the new Parliament is the most politically diverse in thirty-five years, with almost every political faction represented (1).
Mr. Cagaptay explained that Erdogan is a good example of the political polarization in Turkey at the moment, as he is a “loathed” but also “adored” figure at the same time (1).
The way he conducts himself as a leader, a man of strength, continues to divide people, similar to Donald Trump in the United States.
Amanda Sloat, formerly an official for the Obama administration, said one of the most challenging tasks of Turkey today is to get over their sense of “deep polarization. (1)”
And she added Erdogan’s foreign policy efforts in the future will likely be influenced by Nationalist ideas.
However, in her eyes, Turkish democracy is resilient and the evidence of that is the diversity in Parliament now as well as the 90% voter turnout rate in the nation (1).
Turkey Continues To Struggle Economically
The election of Erdogan, too many in the country, was a referendum on Erdogan’s rule, with citizens expressing their worry that he will continue to grip the country authoritatively, as well as mismanage the economy, which is currently struggling right now (1).
Citizens in Turkey believe the economic problems in the nation are a result of both corruption and mismanagement.
At one time, the economy was doing great, a key factor for him to run on and acquire political support, but in the last year, it slowed down considerably. One of its biggest challenges is foreign debt, mostly a result of his way of interacting with Western leaders (1).
The Turkish currency, the lira, has lost 20% of its value and direct foreign investment is no longer interested because of Erdogan’s anti-Western tone (1).
And the problems with the economy are likely to cause problems in the future, especially in the face of political diversity among the opposition in the Parliament.
The Future Of Turkey’s Democracy And Economy
Bekir Agirdir, the creator of the polling company, Konda, said that Erdogan would struggle ruling over the country because his executive presidency – approved back in 2017 – was won by a narrow margin, just 2% (51 to 49) (1).
Agirdir said, “he cannot rule the remaining 49 percent.” He added that this election was only the “rehearsal,” the real one will come in two or three years (1).
People in the opposition feel as though this last election was one of the last chances to save Turkish democracy. The founder of the Good Party, Burcu Akcaru, said, “we are crossing the last bridge before it falls. (1)”
Mr. Erdogan called the election two months ago as a means of taking advantage of the country’s momentary faith in him. He wanted to acquire a big win so he could create a stronger and more powerful state.
Ironically, when Erdogan first began fifteen years ago, he was the opposite of what he is today. He was pro-European, a moderate Islamist, who supported democracy and economic liberalization (1).
However, he became increasingly more state-focused over time, especially after the coup d’etat attempt two years ago in July 2016.
In the new presidential system, Erdogan’s present powers, the ones acquired through a state of emergency, will establish themselves as a part of the system, and he’ll abolish the office of the prime minister (1).
Erdogan held that position from 2003 until 2014. Presidental appointees rather than lawmakers fill his cabinet, and the powers of parliaments have been extinguished, including the oversight of the budget (1).
Additionally, Erdogan has thrown many of his most vocal critics in jail, including Kurdish politicians and activists, leaders of civil society organizations, Islamists a part of the Fethullah Gulen, the group supposedly responsible for the coup attempt (1).
The opposition parties are now focused on how they can maintain their voice in an increasingly totalitarian political system.