Erdoğan losing Midas touch - U.S. analysts

With his voter support in apparent decline, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan may be losing the political “Midas touch” that has given his ruling party an unprecedented string of electoral victories, analysts said on Wednesday during a panel discussion at U.S. think tank the Hudson Institute.

The main topic was the May 6 decision by Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) to cancel the March 31 Istanbul mayoral result and set a rerun election for June 23. The Council of Europe, which sent election monitors to the March 31 vote and plans to do the same next month, said the rerun "has the potential to severely damage the trust of the Turkish voters in the electoral authorities".

Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party has won at least a dozen consecutive national votes since it first came to power in 2002. Lisel Hintz, assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, said the YSK decision made it clear that the country’s increasingly authoritarian strongman could not tolerate uncertainty or losing.

She added that increased electoral irregularities in recent years could be the most important development in Turkish politics since the country moved to multi-party democracy in the 1950s.

On Wednesday, the YSK published a 250-page reasoning for annulling the Istanbul result and made no mention of the vote theft repeatedly claimed by ruling party officials. The decision to rerun the vote hits the troubled Turkish lira and Turkish markets at a time when the country is already going through an economic recession.

Hintz pointed out a contradiction, that Erdoğan is institutionally the strongest since he came to power in 2003, while politically at his weakest. This may explain why Alan Makovsky, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, said he did not expect Erdoğan to call for early elections before the parliamentary and presidential vote scheduled for late 2023.

He added that it is “almost impossible” for opposition parties to pressure Erdoğan to call an early vote, which means Turkey’s president appears to have solidified himself within his new system of enhanced institutional powers. Makovsky ended his remarks by saying that this might lead to a very difficult situation for Turkey which can be summed up as ‘’a formula for extra legal action’’.

At the same time, Erdoğan may be losing his 'Midas touch' with voters, said Makovsky, a sentiment the other panelists appeared to share, as all agreed that his political support had begun to dissipate.

In terms of foreign policy, Erdoğan sees a variety of enemies as out to get him, according to Hintz, including the United States. Thus, Erdoğan may not trust U.S. Patriot missiles, which Washington has offered as an alternative to Turkey’s controversial purchase of Russian S-400s, to protect against an attack on his palace, according to Hintz.

© Ahval English

The views expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.

https://www.hudson.org/events/1691-under-pressure-the-trajectory-of-u-s-turkish-relations52019
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.