Hope for Turkey’s democracy, even if Erdogan wins


Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces stiff competition from his opponents, including main opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem Ince and Iyi (Good) Party leader Meral Aksener, in Sunday’s elections, when the Turks will vote for a president and also the parliament, notes Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Research Program at The Washington Institute. Odds are stacked in Erdogan’s favor: polls are held under a state of emergency; pro-Erdogan businesses control around 90 percent of the media; the government can censor online content; and a new electoral law will staff election-monitoring bodies with government appointees vice the independent monitors in past elections, he observes.

Will the election be free and fair? The FT asks:

Opposition parties say the campaign has been deeply unfair. It has taken place under a state of emergency, imposed following the violent attempted coup of July 2016, that allows restrictions on public gatherings. The media is dominated by pro-government outlets that devote hours to Mr Erdogan’s speeches and rallies while giving little or no time to his rivals. Selahattin Demirtas, the presidential candidate for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is campaigning from behind bars, where he is awaiting trial on terrorism charges that he denies. Mr Erdogan’s rivals have also said they are worried about fraud on polling day. Civil society activists are working to ensure they have observers on every ballot box to guard against that possibility.

However, even then there is still hope for democracy in Turkey, adds Cagaptay, the author of The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey.

Erdogan and his supporters easily undermined previous contenders, labeling them leftist or “irreligious” candidates, he says. Erdogan has also played the populist card, casting his CHP opponents as elites from Istanbul who are unable to connect with Turkey’s Anatolian masses. That is no more the case. RTWT

Graphic above from the International Republican Institute, a core affiliate of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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