Democracy is dead. Long live authoritarianism?
“Democracy dies in darkness” — The Washington Post
We have just witnessed Erdogan’s victory in the latest Turkish parliamentary and general election.
After the hype in Turkey (and around the world) that the strongman will most probably be toppled by the recent election, now we are faced with the bitter reality that that was not the case.
Many media wrongly predicted the result, which raised the hope and expectation in the country that the people would not only visit the poll station on June 24 but also later on July 8.
Ahead of the actual poll, it was expected that Turkey will go for the second round on July 8 as the first round did not expect any single candidate to gain more than 50% of the vote cast.
Alas, Erdogan and his party, the AK Party, won the majority in June election.
Now, as Erdogan will once again lead Turkey with his one man rule characteristic, is democracy dead in Turkey?
Briefly introducing to you: Erdogan
Erdogan was the mayor of Istanbul from 1994 to 1997. During his tenure as the mayor of Istanbul, he was known for his anti-secular agenda, giving him the popularity among the media as the “first Islamist mayor of Istanbul” (NowThis World, 2018).
He even referred himself as the “Imam” of Istanbul, and also promised to build a mosque in the city center (NowThis World, 2018).
Later in 1997, he was arrested for inciting hatred during a rally. Sentenced for 10 months, he served only four of the full sentence. Consequently, he was also barred for life from public office (NowThis World, 2018).
After released from jail, he founded AK Party, which later won the election in 2002. Then, Erdogan used his party’s power in the parliament to reverse his lifetime ban from politics (NowThis World, 2018).
One year later, his political career as the Prime Minister of Turkey started. After serving for more than a decade, Erdogan switched his role from the Prime Minister to the President of Turkey. He later abolished the post of Prime Minister, a post that he held for 11 years and five months himself.
In 2013, Erdogan administration faced a corruption investigation, which he claimed as an effort to delegitimize his government and blamed Fetullah Gulen for it.
Gulen is a religious leader in Turkey, whom Erdogan has previously been aligned with prior to 2013.
Later, Erodang’s popularity sunk. In 2016, an attempted coup to topple him took place. The motivation behind the attempted coup varies, from unsatisfactory economic condition to disagreement towards Erdogan’s anti-secular agenda.
He was so fierce towards the attempted coup that he overhauled the judiciary by arresting hundreds of thousands of people in the country (Vox, 2017), in which many of whom were believed to be linked to Gulen.
In 2017, to strengthen his grip, he conducted a facade referendum to abolish the post of Prime Minister and to increase the power to overrule the law of previously ceremonial President’s post.
In Trevor Noah’s words, “Presiden Erdogan was asking people to vote — democratically — to make him a dictator.”
Autocratic and authoritarian Erdogan will continue to Islamize the country that was built on secular foundation by Ataturk.
This article will bring you to revisit democracy in Turkey and in the wider world that we live in. And as democracy dies in darkness, are we in darkness already?
About the Snap Election
On April 2018, Erdogan called for snap parliamentary and presidential elections in June — 18 months ahead of the schedule.
Turkish people has been distressed by the fact that Turkish economy is weakening.
By calling the election 18 months early, critics say he has a better chance of winning (NowThis World, 2018).
This year only, Turkish Lira has tumbled about 20% against USD since the beginning of the year (CGTN, 2018).
Erdogan promises that he will lift the state of emergency status in the country if he won (NowThis World, 2018).
State of emergency was imposed by himself after the failed attempted coup in 2016 (NowThis World, 2018).
How did Erdogan conduct his foreign policy?
Erdogan is once again the President. That being said, Erdogan will further his anti-secular agenda both home and abroad.
Abroad, Erdogan has taken several steps in furthering his agenda. Condemning United States’ policy towards Israel-Palestinian issue is one of them.
Erdogan even went further by hosting Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s Special Summit on Palestine.
Many people raised their eyebrows when Venezuelan dictator Nicholas Maduro attended the summit in Istanbul last year.
Erdogan has denounced the United States by claiming that the United States is no longer an impartial actor that has the right to be the mediator between Israel and Palestine in the conflict after the United States moved their embassy to western Jerusalem, a rightful territory of Israel.
Turkey has also taken different and even opposing stance vis-a-vis the United States in the Syrian Civil War.
The United States supports Kurdish group of YPG in Syria because the United States sees YPG as an essential ally in fighting ISIS.
However, Turkey continues to violently storm YPG in Syrian territory due to Erdogan’s fear of the emergence of Kurdish power in the Middle East, in which Turkey itself has a considerable amount of population within its territory.
To understand Erdogan’s fear, Kurdish people in Iraq has voted for independence on September 2017. Adding to that, in June 2018 election, Kurdish political party in Turkey gained considerable amount of vote to secure enough seats in Turkish parliament.
Turkey’s Strategic Importance
If some of you wonder and ponder about the importance of all this, let’s start with some of the basics.
First of all, Turkey is located right between the East and the West.
Secondly, Turkey hosts NATO military base. Turkey is also NATO’s second largest armed forces (Wall Street Journal, 2018).
Thirdly, Turkey is also essential in the distribution of energy from the Middle East to Europe (Wall Street Journal, 2018).
Not to forget, the waterways from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean pass the country.
Why Erdogan is so fierce to the United States?
Erdogan claimed that he has given the United States any terrorist that the United States asked Turkey to extradite (Wall Street Journal, 2018). However, the United States refused to extradite Gulen — who currently lives in the United States. The United States argues that the evidence provided by Turkey is insufficient, added by the fact that Gulen himself denied the accusation made by Turkish authority (Wall Street Journal, 2018).
How will Erdogan conduct his foreign policy?
As Erdogan drifted apart from the United States as more days pass, Erdogan will likely continue to do so.
Erdogan will pursue closer relations with Russia, Iran, and Qatar. This is especially true due to the fact that Russia is now supporting many infrastructure projects in Turkey.
Qatari Emir has also congratulated Erdogan for his recent “victory” although no official result has been announced.
He will continue to undermine Kurdish minority within Turkey’s territory and in the neighboring countries such as Kurdish minority in Syria.
As Turkey moves closer to Russia, Turkey will even further drift apart from the European Union, contradicting Erdogan’s own campaign promise when he first rose to power as Turkish Prime Minister.
As quarrel with the United States continue, Turkey will further contradict its stance in security issue — including those related to NATO.