IIn an interview with CNN reporter Becky Anderson on May 19, 2023, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan narrowly missed an outright election victory, he ignored Criticism of Turkey’s long slide towards authoritarianism: “How can someone who is going to a runoff election instead of completing the first round be a dictator?”
The Turkish President was shocked by the allegations against him and did not hide his displeasure. “It’s reality,” he explained. “We have a coalition with 322 MPs in Parliament and the leader of this coalition will go for the runoff in the first place. What kind of dictator is this?
At the center of his criticism was US President Joe Biden, who once called the Turkish leader a “autocratic” during his 2020 campaign. But the broader target of Erdoğan’s rebuke is the Western world, which has portrayed him as a strong leader throughout his 20 years in rule.
The May 14 elections were universally regarded as a make-or-break moment for the future of the country’s political system. As Turkey celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Republic, Erdogan’s seemingly invincible grip on power has led many to think that the Republic of Turkey may sink into the oblivion of history after another victory for Erdogan. Against this backdrop, the stakes of the May 14 vote—which pits Erdoğan against an opposition coalition led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu that promises to restore Turkish democracy—makes more sense than ever.
Yet for some observers, Erdogan’s Message Go home. After all, what kind of tyrant would head to a runoff election after winning 49.5% of the vote in the first round? Why bother with a second round instead of pushing 49.5% to slightly over 50% that night to nail their victory once and for all?
This argument not only smacks of gross logical errors, it is also misleading. That Erdoğan agreed to the result “gracefully” could not be undermined by the fact that the elections were hardly fair. In its preliminary findings After the vote, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observation delegation said that while the contest was “competitive and largely free”, Erdoğan had an “unfair advantage” over the opposition due to the restrictions on the press and the freedom of the press. Meeting.
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The opposition candidate received a 32-minute broadcast on state-run Turkish Radio and Television (TRT), while Erdogan Received 32 hours in a month leading up to the election. This discrepancy explains much about the tilted playing field long before the parties began campaigning. What’s more, Erdoğan put immense resources at his disposal, mobilizing the state and party apparatus to bend and twist them to his liking.
A victory in this climate does not burnish Erdoğan’s battered credentials or restore his public record. An electoral victory still does not make Erdoğan a democratic leader, however important it may be in the definition of a democracy. It only serves to cover up the true nature of the authoritarian regime it has successfully helped build all along.
Democracy is not only about elections. I am not a political scientist nor an expert in the history of electoral politics. but my own Situation—the fact that I can’t meet again and can’t meet myself Guardian The past seven years—and the tragedy that thousands of people have gone through—is a testimony to the kind of regime that prevails in Turkey. These elections serve as a cover for a new type of regime that Erdoğan sought to create an electoral autocracy. His record needs no elaboration or philosophical explanation. Even an opposition victory would not mean a smooth return to democracy overnight, as it would take years, if not decades, to destroy what Erdogan had established.
Although it now seems like ancient history, after the 2013 Gezi Park protests and politically charged corruption scandal, Turkey has seen Erdogan’s close circle and family members give way to a president who has rejected the central tenets of democracy. trampled upon, stamping out the last vestiges of already imperiled judicial independence, swelling the ranks of bureaucracies with incompetent loyalists, snuffing out space for free speech and the media, and conspiring to rebuild the Turkish state in its own image Carry out a massive purge of loyalists. Erdogan has done all this and more. They have imprisoned over 100,000 people including countless women And children, After ostentatious political trials. In doing so, the President has told the entire world that he has no moral compulsion to imprison the most vulnerable members of society for the reason that they were not among his loyal flock.
Elections, regardless of their results, do not change what Turkey has experienced under Erdogan’s leadership. His “graceful” consent to runoff elections would not have overnight transformed him from an outcast to a liberal democrat in the Jeffersonian mold. Rather, in Erdogan’s two decades in power there is a vast body of evidence about the type of leader he is and the regime he has built.
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