May 19 2018

Erdoğan’s quest for dominance continues as elections draw near- analysis

The reasons why Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for snap elections a  year and a half ahead of schedule are the situation in Syria, the countries economic woes and the fear of mounting opposition to Erdoğan’s rule, argue Günay Işıkara, Alp Kayserilioğlu and Max Zirngast, in an article they penned for Jacobin magazine.

Erdoğan is looking to widen his powers next month as the polls will usher in a new presidential system narrowly approved in last year’s referendum.

‘’Erdoğan and his ruling clique have responded crises by holding ever tighter onto power and using increasingly oppressive and brutal means to consolidate their standing — a process of outright fascization, if a very fragile one,’’ the article states, referring to the Gezi Park protests of 2013 and the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.

In the run up to the elections, the alliance between the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) faces one of the more formidable groups that is the Good Party (İYİ Parti), the article opines. Together with the conservative-Islamic Felicity Party (SP) they comprise ‘’a right-wing anti-Erdoğan bloc.’’

Following weeks of speculation, parties have finally announced their presidential candidates:

‘’Erdoğan, supported by the AKP and MHP; Akşener, supported by the Good Party; Muharrem İnce, supported by the CHP; Temel Karamollaoğlu, supported by the SP; and lastly, Selahattin Demirtaş, the HDP’s imprisoned former co-chair. Demirtaş ran for president in 2014 and was one of the key reasons for the party’s success in the June 7 elections that year. But he was swept up in Erdoğan’s post-coup crackdown, and has been detained since November 2016.’’

While the article points out that CHP candidate and outspoken Erdoğan critic İnce is the favorite to make it to the second round to contest Erdoğan, Akşener stands a chance as well.

A candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the votes to guarantee a win in the first round, otherwise, round two follows.

The Jacobin article also highlights that the elections will not take place under “normal” conditions. Turkey has extended its state of emergency, implemented after the July 15, 2016 coup, for a seventh time.

 '’Turmoil in recent years has driven the value of the Turkish lira further and further down. Its value against the dollar has dropped 141 percent since May 2013, 41 percent since the state of emergency was declared in July 2016, and 15 percent since the beginning of this year. Every day it drops to new lows. A debt and insolvency crisis seem to be just around the corner. The external debt stock of the private sector now totals more than a quarter of the country’s GDP, and some of the biggest conglomerates are lining up for debt restructuring,’’ the Jacobin article points out.

The economy is marred by a combination of currency depreciation, soaring debts, increasing inflation and interest rates, and high unemployment, and a crisis appears inevitable, but according to Erdoğan, the election must be won before a solution can be found.

Another issue that has been brought up by analysts recently is that if Erdoğan does lose, he may not abandon his seat so peacefully.

‘’Erdoğan has been regularly mobilizing supporters since the coup attempt, and he would not hesitate to do the same if chaos and uncertainty prevail following the election. Alternatively, the “restorationist” forces could take the stage and mount a push for a different political arrangement that weakens Erdoğan without changing much else — all the while labelling this as “antifascist” or “anti-dictatorial” in order to capitalize on people’s discomfort with the current regime,’’ the article states.

With a little over a month left the elections, Turkey is sure to face eventful weeks ahead. Meanwhile, current polls point to Erdoğan receiving well below the 50 percent support required to win in the first round of presidential elections.