Howard Eissenstat: ‘No chance of losing İstanbul for Erdoğan’

There is no chance of losing Istanbul for Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the country’s local elections set to take place on Sunday, associate professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University and a non-resident senior fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy Howard Eissenstat told Ahval.

Erdoğan has been campaigning aggressively for over a month for the upcoming polls, visiting most of 81 provinces in Turkey while deploying all state resources and manpower.

Erdoğan can go for even broader scale of manipulation in İstanbul to achieve a win and he will not accept a loss there, Eissenstat told Ahval podcast.

Sunday’s elections are in fact “the lowest stake election” Turkey has experienced in its recent history, and the power will stay with Erdoğan regardless of the results of this election, Eissenstat told Ahval’s editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar and Ahval English’s Ilhan Tanir during a podcast.

When it comes to the Kurdish question, Eissenstat thinks a resurgence of urban warfare in Turkey’s southeast might be witnessed once again since the basic regional reasons in the dynamic of the conflict have not gone away. Syrian Kurdish forces’ close partnership with  U.S. forces in Syria could be the main reason for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has not attacked Turkish Army posts for sometime. As the U.S. is planning to withdraw and reduce its forces in Syria, there is an increasing likelihood that “violence might go up” Eissenstat said.

The Russian S-400 system is a done deal for Turkey and appears to be irreversible despite the fact that the U.S. sanctions appear inevitable. This can lead to increased tensions between the U.S. and Turkey following the S-400 decision. Though growing dependence on Russia will continue, we will not witness a breakdown between Turkey and the EU.

Turkey decided to procure the Russian S-400 defense system while expecting to receive the U.S. made F-35 state of art fighter jets as a partner in the project. However, U.S. administration officials have repeatedly warned Ankara that it cannot have both S-400s and F-35s. On Friday, U.S. Senators in a bipartisan bill, proposed to ban the transfer of F-35s if Turkey goes ahead with the S-400 purchase.

Turkey’s unemployment rate is over 12 per cent while its inflation rate is at 20 per cent and lira continues to fluctuate.

Eissenstat underlined the fact that the economic costs are real and immediate for average Turkish citizens. The Turkish president, after the elections, will either rationalize Turkey's economy or IMF will rationalize it for him, neither of which options will be pleasing to the country.