TURKEY – The country entrusting its fate to one man


Once more, Turkey left another election behind that it made in the last 15 years. The first, and the only for now, directly elected president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan arose triumphant from an election once again, but this time there were no big and flashy celebrations. The result of the referendum, by a narrow margin (51,4 percent against 48,6 percent) and highly questionable, was in the direction of what Erdoğan wanted. In the evening that the voting ended and the counting made, the Supreme Election Committee, which is responsible for ensuring the validity of the election, took an unusual decision that was clearly contrasting its rules, decided to consider unsealed ballots valid. There were objections about cheating in favor of the ruling party in the previous elections but any result of the elections which Erdoğan won, had never been as questionable as this referendum.

Let alone the result was questionable; the people who voted “No” were more than the people who voted “Yes” in the three biggest cities of Turkey (İstanbul, Ankara and İzmir), where Erdoğan’s political party holds the management of municipalities in the first two cities. So, this kind of result (Erdoğan lost the election in İstanbul and Ankara) had never been seen in Erdoğan’s political career. Ultimately, all the constitutional amendments Erdoğan wanted, came true. However, at least half of the country gave the message to Erdoğan that they were not satisfied with his management. Even though they would never admit, this result was what the main opposition party wanted. Because if the constitutional amendments that Erdoğan wanted were not made, Erdoğan and his proponents would show this as the reason for all the negative situations in the future and probably, undecided voters who change their minds from election to election, would believe this claim too. Actually, the result of this referendum, which Erdoğan won by a narrow margin (even being questionable) and couldn’t give great victory speeches, was the best result for the main opposition party.

Unless there will be big economic depressions; a possible loss of Erdoğan in the election that will be made in 2019, according to the newly changed constitution, seems to be impossible. If we look at the results of the referendum, half of the voters in Turkey seem to be against Erdoğan. But this opposition mass consists of people who have so much different worldviews that it is almost impossible they all will support a common opponent against Erdoğan. For instance, if a religious candidate just like Erdoğan, becomes the opponent against Erdoğan, there will be an important loss of voters of the main opposition party, secular and Kemalist, Republican People’s Party (CHP). If the rival candidate becomes one of the secular and Kemalist as the voters of Republican People’s Party demand, this time nationalist and conservative votes probably will support Erdoğan. Especially, though a very slight possibility, if there is an opponent whose Kurdish identity is at the forefront against Erdoğan in the second round of the election, we can observe that nationalist and secular Kemalists, who are considered as the most opponent to Erdoğan, will also vote for him. So, unless there is an economic crisis, which will alienate great voter masses from him, Erdoğan will remain in power in Turkey until his death. A military coup attempt that will prevent this seems to be condemned to fail – though Kemalist soldiers in the army have courage, they probably don’t have enough to perform this, again.

Erdoğan’s power in Turkey has reached a point, which is so high that let alone ending the state of emergency, which continues nearly a year, declared after the coup attempt against himself and by pretending the religious association called Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETO), which was nourished by Erdoğan himself, condoned to sneak into the state; he seems to be eager to use it to get rid of his opponents one by one until the end. Most of the executives of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is supported mostly by Kurds and anti-nationalist Turks, have been arrested and arrests are still going on. Mayors elected by the votes of 80-90 percent of Kurdish voters were arrested and assignments were made by the state. Discriminated by the mainstream media, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is in the condition that it can’t do politics anymore. Today, for a Turkish nationalist, it is actually not so difficult to see that it became impossible for Kurds in Turkey to defend their rights through politics, it made the existence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) legal in the eye of world public opinion and this is totally against national interests. However, political interests of Erdoğan (his desire to remove his opponents) are being shown as if they were the interests of Turkey (like the fight against terrorism) and the perception of nationalist voters in Turkey accepts it without questioning.

Just to maintain the illegal economic relations, highly for his own interest, with the IS, which was formerly adopted with great sympathy by conservative and nationalist masses in Turkey because they are fighting in the name of Islam and killing Kurds, having pursued a passive and even a protective policy, Erdoğan caused the establishment of a border Kurdish state which adopted the values of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Not just because of clumsiness and wrong decisions, because of the policy he implemented that is clearly preferring his financial interests to national interests, which protected by the state for 80 years, Erdoğan caused Turkey to contrast with both USA and Russia at the same time, which is so rarely seen in its political history, again because of the dance he made in the direction of his personal political interests. On quite the contrary, in Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey sees as the same organization as PKK, won the protection of both USA and Russia against Turkey at the same time.

Could Erdoğan perform a military intervention against the Kurds in Syria by confronting the USA? The answer is clear. Having already guaranteed his power until his death and making plans for his dynasty after himself; could Erdoğan risk all of these and perform a military intervention against the regions under the control of PYD? He could only make non-functional attempts without contradicting the USA. It would be a dream to think Turkey could perform a military operation despite the USA like in Cyprus in 1974.

Today, Turkey, which had never gone to any war of religion and sect during the history of the republic until Erdoğan’s era, is in the position of one of the upfront sides between Sunni and Shiite strife blazed by the rise of the IS. Is there anyone who could honestly explain the reason according to which Turkey’s national interests Turkey entered this struggle of sects, became a side in the conflict that existed a long time ago between Iran and Arabic monarchies, became hostile towards the governments of Iran, Iraq and Syria (without caring that it will be the reason of the independence of Kurds)? Could it simply be the financial support that Erdoğan took from the monarchies of the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf? This financial support is the thing that keeps Erdoğan in power and the Turkish economy alive in the last couple of years. In the first period, before everything became complicated, the situation that Erdoğan caused for Turkey in his own (political or economic) personal interest was being told to voters in Turkey as the formation of the new Ottoman Empire. For now, speeches of expansionist dreams of Ottomanism gave their place to the speeches (against dismemberment of state) of “anti-terrorism”. Every step that was taken in Erdoğan’s interests is being sold to voters as if it was taken for “anti-terrorism” and it can still be convincing.

In conclusion, Turkey and its people are passing through a period, in which their fate is tied to one single man’s personal interests. If it is going to be the same as the examples from history, maybe not soon but in the distant future, the possible results of the things happening today, could cause Turkey to experience great economic depressions and political disasters and to fall apart.

In that case, the nationalist and conservative masses of Turkey would not see Erdoğan as responsible, but would see the people responsible who are against him.



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Mustafa Ömer Kafkas

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