Possible scenarios for Turkey after the elections

Turkey’s upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections have shaped up to be far more competitive than initially expected, meaning that a defeat of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be on the cards in either election, wrote Carnegie Europe visiting scholar Marc Pierini in an article published Tuesday.

The former EU diplomat lays out three possible post-election scenarios based on outright victory for either side or a mixed outcome, in which the presidency and parliament are held by opposing sides.

In April, the AKP called snap elections to be held on Jun. 24, far ahead of their scheduled date in Nov. 2019. With the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) already in place as alliance partners, the call appeared to be an attempt to catch opposition parties off their guard and secure a swift and safe victory.

Thanks to a rapid show of unity, however, the opposition has managed to turn the election into a real contest. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) quickly joined forces with nationalist Good Party, Islamist Felicity Party and liberal Democratic Party to form the opposition Nation Alliance.

Nevertheless, the odds are in Erdoğan’s favour, and he and his party are still favourites to win both elections. If this is the case, the government crackdown that has seen thousands jailed or removed from their positions is likely to become cemented as “standard policy,” according to Pierini.

This could lead to “permanent malaise and tensions among Turkish society, a significant exodus of the country’s intellectuals, and capital flight,” he wrote.

Further, with the ultranationalists of the MHP as partners in parliament, there would be little chance of any accord with the Kurdish political movement.

Erdoğan has already said he will take a firmer grasp of Turkey’s economy, and this may spook markets and investors due to the president’s unorthodox views on interest rates, which he considers intolerable.

An outright victory by Erdoğan would likely also mean the downward trend in Turkey’s relations with its traditional western allies continues, and could conversely signal strengthened ties with Russia.

A Nation Alliance victory in both elections would likely usher in a period of massive political change, wrote Pierini, starting with moves to stabilise the country’s economy and “promote a return to normalization and tolerance,” with the new government likely to “aim to address the entire Turkish society after years of polarization and divisive narratives.”

“The policies could include lifting the state of emergency and canceling decrees issued under the emergency rule,” added Pierini, referring to the two years of emergency rule since shortly after the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

Pierini anticipates that normalising the country’s political sphere will be at least a medium-term project that will require a staggered approach, rolling back a large amount of laws and legislature to revive the country’s rule of law.

“Not every element of the country’s rule-of-law architecture would return at once, and a transitional justice mechanism would probably be needed, especially to address confiscated wealth and public sector job dismissals. Thus, domestic reconciliation, particularly with Turkey’s Kurds, will be a tall order,” he said.

The exit of Erdoğan, who has frequently used anti-Western rhetoric and actions for domestic political consumption, would leave an avenue for rapprochement with Turkey’s traditional allies, and an opposition victory also brings the possibility in an altered policy on Syria, where Turkey has recently cooperated closely with Russia and Iran, forgoing the UN-backed Geneva peace talks in favour of the Astana talks.

It would also leave space for Turkey to revive its hopes of EU accession, as it would almost certainly bring an end to anti-EU rhetoric and transform diplomatic meetings from photo opportunities into real avenues for policy discussion, said Pierini.

The two possible mixed outcomes of the elections would offer very different outcomes. In the event that Erdoğan is re-elected but loses his majority in parliament, past actions and statements by the president indicate that he would move to hold new elections in order to achieve a majority, according to the French diplomat.

If an opposition candidate is elected, however, the country would be faced with a “confused situation” in which the new president will have to decide on how to implement the new changes to the constitution, which grant her an executive presidency with vastly enhanced powers.

Either scenario would bring added uncertainty that would likely damage the country’s economy.

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