Local elections signal end of Erdoğan’s era - analyst
Turkey’s March 31 local elections represent a major shift in public sentiment toward Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who over the past few years has reversed the country’s most significant socio-political and judicial achievements, while dismantling what’s left of Turkey’s democracy, wrote Alon Ben-Meir, professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU, in New York-based Algemeiner newspaper.
While Turkey’s economic crisis and Erdoğan’s ineptitude in dealing with it played a role in his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) devastating losses in five of the country’s largest cities, Ben-Meir said, “other major factors that have directly contributed to public disgust with Erdogan’s ruthless one-man rule.’’
The March polls provided the first expression of the public outrage that has been building for the past several years, the article underlined.
Following the coup attempt of July 2016, Erdoğan accused his staunch nemesis, U.S-based cleric Fethullah Gülen of orchestrating the failed putsch.
Turkey’s strongman dismissed some 125,800 public officials and subjected nearly 446,000 to harsh interrogation as part of an unprecedented crackdown, where 17,000 women with over 700 small children have also been jailed.
It was in Erdoğan’s new police state, where ordinary citizens were terrified of the unfolding abuse, that the recent elections were held, Ben-Meir said.
Opposition parties became emboldened to challenge Erdoğan as the changing political winds had already weakened him considerably. As such, he wrote, opposition parties, namely the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), joined forces and took full advantage of the public’s dissatisfaction with how Erdogan dealt with the economic crisis.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan’s current coalition partner, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, has become very influential with Erdogan and his government, as the coalition is critical for Erdogan to maintain his razor-thin majority in the parliament.
This shift in the political dynamic is a sign that Erdogan’s firm hold on power is eroding, the article noted, underlining that the Turkish president has exploited his religious “credentials” to portray himself as a pious man while using religion as a political tool.
“A close alliance with the West has become an obstacle to realise his national aspiration, and he made a conscious decision to distance himself from his allies. Discarding Turkey’s critical alliance with the US, he incarcerated an American citizen and used him unsuccessfully as a bargaining chip to force the US to extradite Glen,” Ben-Meir wrote.
Most Turks view Turkey’s growing distance from the West as a major setback while they are alarmed by Erdoğan’s growing closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the article said.
Ben-Meir concluded that he disagrees with analysts who say the local polls will not undermine him in the long term, noting that “the end of Erdoğan’s era has begun, and his downfall is all but sealed; the only question is how soon.”