Jun 26 2018

Turkey’s election “perfect example of post-truth politics” - analyst

Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday provided an example of post-truth politics, wrote Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow at the Council of Foreign Relations.

“The entire process was somewhere on the spectrum between free and unfree and fair and unfair, bewildering participants and observers alike,” he said in a blog posted on the think-tank’s website Monday. The confusion, he said, helped President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “win with a veneer of democratic legitimacy”.

The electoral process allowed supporters both of the government and the opposition to cling to competing, incompatible narratives. For government supporters, this involves resisting suggestion that the elections were neither free, not fair.

Opposition supporters believe the opposite, pointing, for instance to the Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) surprisingly strong performance in the parliamentary election. By gaining more than 11 percent of the vote the MHP, an ally of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), defied pollsters’ predictions.

“How did this happen?” asked Cook, calling the result, “so at variance with almost every poll that it deserves scrutiny.”

But, he also pointed out that there were plausible and legitimate explanations for the MHPs surprisingly high performance, and no hard evidence of vote manipulation.

A second example Cook used to illustrate how Turkey’s election fed into both government and opposition narratives concerned the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK). Government supporters point to it as an independent and impartial organisation, while the opposition notes all its officials have been appointed by the government and says its independence is entirely notional.

“The unfortunate result,” said Cook, “is more anger, greater polarisation, further instability, and a deepening of authoritarianism. This is Turkey’s present, but it is the wave of the future.”

The polarisation that inevitably results from elections carried out in an atmosphere such as that in which Turkey’s was held is unlikely to deter Erdoğan and his ilk from holding future elections in similar environments. “It seems,” wrote Cook, “to be the perfect template for future elections in Turkey and other countries with populist and authoritarian leaders.”