Jun 27 2018

Turkey no longer a democracy, says ME expert  

Turkey is no longer a democracy and it is not likely to be a friend to Europe and the United States, said Howard Eissenstat, an associate professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University and a non-resident senior fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy while speaking to Reuters on the outcome of the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a decisive victory at the polls, with 52.5 percent support as president and a majority in parliament together with allied the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). As president he will become a more powerful head of state, wielding extensive executive powers approved in a narrowly approved controversial referendum last year.

‘’Free and fair elections are not just determined at the ballot booth, but throughout the campaign. And here the problems were much more acute: campaigning was undertaken under a state of emergency, opposition media have largely been shut down and much of the leadership of one major opposition party, the HDP, is in prison,’’ Eissenstat noted in response to a question on whether Sunday’s elections were free and fair.

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) used state resources and its control of the press to ensure that its message was heard, he adds.

Turkey was effectively an authoritarian state before the election, he said, and it remains one today. ‘’Through the referendum last year and these elections, [Erdogan] has put into law what was already the practice. I don’t see the election as doing more than consolidating an authoritarianism that was already in place.’’

The West should recognize that Turkey is not the country it was and likely will not be again, Eissenstat said, however; this does not mean that ties should be broken. ‘’Turkey remains a NATO ally and there are ways in which meaningful cooperation can and must continue. But Turkey is no longer a democracy and it is not likely to be a friend to Europe and the United States. The West should seek cooperation where cooperation is possible. But there will be no reboot to the old days of close friendship and the relationship is likely to remain contentious despite our diplomats’ best efforts.’’