Rivals should offer Erdoğan immunity for fair elections - analyst

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a rational, calculating individual and in order to incentivise him to hold fair and free elections, the opposition should promise a blanket amnesty for him and his family if he loses, Washington Institute for Near East Policy senior fellow Soner Çağaptay wrote.

“Since coming to power in 2003, he has demonized so many opposition groups – a number of people Erdoğan arrested have died in jail while waiting to appear in court – that he faces certain prosecution if he loses elections," Çağaptay saidin an article for War on the Rocks. "To avoid being ousted democratically, Erdogan has decided to end democracy in Turkey."

“The problem for Erdoğan is that despite his best efforts to build a majority in his favor, and even with extensive allegations of voter fraud, he only won by 51 percent in a recent referendum to increase his executive powers," he said. "Erdoğan’s policies have not created a solid majority, but a deeply polarized society.”

Çağaptay said Erdoğan’s legitimate electoral prospects are fading fast and an ongoing state of emergency left over from a July 2016 coup attempt is being used to stifle democracy and free expression.

“Turkey’s democracy is on a death watch. It will only be saved if factions opposing Erdogan come together and offer him a grand bargain, including a promise that he and his administration will not be prosecuted should they lose elections,” he said. “The end product should promise that neither Erdogan, nor any members of his party, family, or administration, will face persecution for their acts in the past 15 years – in other words a truth and reconciliation manifesto.”

The Turkish Armed Forces could act as an honest broker to ensure that this pledge is met, Çağaptay said.

“Turkey’s opposition and Erdoğan together have a chance to save the country and its democracy,” he said. “This strategy is not guaranteed to work, but it is the only graceful exit that may be left.”