Apr 03 2019

Severe blow for Erdoğan and looming U.S.-Turkey crisis - Henri Barkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suffered a severe blow in Turkey’s local elections and a very big crisis is coming in Turkey-U.S. relations, analyst Henri Barkey told Ahval Pod on Tuesday. 

In Sunday’s local elections, Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost control of the capital, Ankara, a real setback after 17 years in power. The opposition is also ahead in the contest for mayor of Turkey’s largest and most important city, Istanbul. 

Official figures have opposition mayoral candidate Ekrem Imamoğlu leading the Istanbul race by some 25,000 votes with a few ballot boxes left to be counted. Erdoğan is not yet conceding defeat in Istanbul, with the results still unofficial. 

Henri Barkey, adjunct senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bernard L. and Bertha F. Cohen Chair in International Relations at Lehigh University, viewed the loss of Istanbul as a surprise and a severe blow for Erdoğan.

Barkey emphasized that Kurdish votes were crucial, arguing that the opposition won Ankara and Istanbul largely because of the added Kurdish votes. 

Western media outlets have been saying that this election result might mark the beginning of the end for Erdoğan. Barkey says this is not realistic, as Erdoğan will be holding onto power for at least four more years, until the next general election, schedule for June 2023. 

Still, the U.S.-based expert thinks Turkey’s relations with the United States will soon face a very big crisis.

The deployment of advanced Russian military hardware, thanks to Ankara’s purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile system, by a NATO ally threatens NATO secrets, sets a precedent that could harm U.S. arms sales and makes Turkey ever more dependent on Russia, said Barkey, adding that Erdoğan will never turn back from the deal with Moscow.