European Perspective: Turkish elections 2018

, by Michał J. Ekiert, Radu Dumitrescu, Tobias Gerhard Schminke, Xesc Mainzer Cardell

All the versions of this article: [English] [polski]

European Perspective: Turkish elections 2018
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in 2013 Photograph:

In the Turkish presidential election, the country’s authoritarian leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won a new term in office, securing an outright majority of 52.5% in the first round. Erdoğan’s ’People’s Alliance’ coalition won an absolute majority in the Turkish legislature, although the AKP party no longer commands a parliamentary majority by itself. Editors from different editions of the JEF web magazine reflect on the election.

Radu Dumitrescu, Editor-in-Chief of The New Federalist: “Vote!”, cried the sultan

Almost 80,000 people arrested, with 140,000 detained and just as many dismissed. 190 media outlets shut down and 319 journalists arrested, according to TurkeyPurge. International condemnation from previously vital partners such as the European Union and NATO. The modernized and democratic hope of a vastly Muslim country, crushed. A balance sheet of Erdogan’s rule since the July 2016 coup is daunting, but impressive. An entire system, together with its parliament, army, justice system, universities and press defeated, dismantled and brought to submission by one man.

The same song plays again and again throughout history, and its lyrics spell a disaster unbeknown to the singers. Turkey has become the living proof that democracy can backpedal and slide into soft authoritarianism.

Turkey was supposed to represent a civilizational break. It was supposed to be more European than Middle Eastern; more democratic than autocratic; based on institutions, and not the person of the leader; secular, and not Islamic. Instead, Erdogan dragged his nation backwards in history, turning Turkey into an unstable military partner, a paranoid negotiator, a hotbed for radical religious belief and a suppressor of freedoms.

In his quest for absolute power, however, the sultan did not use tanks or the long arm of a secret police. He did not use old-fashioned propaganda and he did not bypass the voting booth. Instead, Erdogan legitimized his regime on a simplistic understanding of democracy – the rule of the majority. With enough votes, you can do anything. That is a message that the populists of Europe understood from Turkey’s present sultan. You can claim anything, say anything, imprison anyone, suppress any journalist – as long as you have the votes. It is high time that Europeans and their leaders understand and embrace the liberal component of their democracy. Less visible, it is the liberal part of our liberal democracy that ensures our freedoms and keeps our way of life.

One day, Turkey will rejoin the European context as a viable partner and a solid democracy. That day, however, will not come in the following 5 years.

Xesc Mainzer, Editor-in-Chief of El Europeísta: One man to rule them all

Not even the largest show of strength ever displayed by the Turkish opposition, with a powerful and energetic campaign in contrast to the one performed by a government that’s been in power for 15 years already, managed to stop the advance of the 21st century sultan. In the end, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan managed to beat all odds and reach his goal of becoming the first strongman in Turkey since the days of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He spared no expense to achieve that objective: voter intimidation, media bias, even imprisoning of opposition. We shouldn’t forget that Selahattin Demirtaş, leader of the leftist and pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has been in prison for over 19 months.

Though the opposition expected to halt Erdoğan’s election or, at least, force him to a second round showdown against social democratic candidate Muharrem İnce, the government’s tactics being far more effective than expected and a large level of popular support for the president made that impossible. After the 2016 coup attempt and the following crackdown on army officers, teachers and judges, the 2017 constitutional reform, and the 2018 Afrin offensive on Syria, President Erdoğan’s regime seems to be reaching new heights of authoritarianism and militarism.

With President Erdoğan’s re-election, the European Union remains surrounded by authoritarian regimes ruled by strongmen keen on bringing liberal democracy to an end. Turkey had long maintained a secular and progressive republic, but now it seems much clearer that 2023 (the end of Erdoğan’s new term in office and the 100th anniversary of the Turkish Republic) may signal the end of Kemal’s Turkey.

Tobias Gerhard Schminke, Editor in Chief of Orbánism and Erdoğanism: Just another wake-up call for liberals and progressives

Turkish elections are usually remarkable events, and this year‘s was by no means an exception. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s strongman for 16 years, did it again: he wins the Presidential election with an outright majority of more than 52% of the valid votes in the first round. The result is better than most of the urban liberal-progressives in the Western part of the country expected.

The conservatives and right-wing extremists, who also supported Erdoğan’s party alliance of AKP and MHP, turned out to vote, leaving the rest of the country flabbergasted by a result which was unarguably better than what the opinion polls predicted and far better than what the social media pictures of main opposition candidate Muharrem İnce suggested in the days before election day. Denial followed frustration. The numbers of votes counted for Erdogan by the electoral agency of the government were questioned, mostly unjustified, as it was revealed during the evening of the election. No doubt, Erdoğan’s election was neither fair nor free. Still, the wannabe-sultan has massive support in Turkey and among Turkish voters in Europe. As has “the dictator” Orbán in Budapest. As has the clown in chief in the Washington. As has Benito Mus-salvini in Rome. As has Brexit in Britain. Illiberalism is looking for further prey in Sweden this autumn and in 2019 in Europe. The liberals and progressives need to question themselves: Why do they keep failing to convince the average voter that they offer the political solution to their everyday problems? Only if this question is answered, can the concepts of multilateralism and liberal democracy can be saved from Orbánism and Erdoğanism.

Michał Ekiert, Kurier Europejski: The Ottomans’ business as usual. For sure?

Mr Erdoğan has just won his next term in office. The first one since the constitutional amendment was passed a year ago, extending the term of the president, as well as his powers, transforming Turkey into a presidential republic. Election of the new National Assembly, now greatly limited in its powers, was held on the same day. We can look at the situation from two perspectives.

On the one hand, Erdoğan’s personal popularity remains fairly stable. ‘The Sultan’ has got almost the same share of votes as in previous elections. He’s certainly going to fulfill his new term, and maybe even win the next election.

On the other hand, his party, the AK Parti, has lost a significant part of its base. The CHP, secular Kemalist party lost some voters, but their parliamentary position remained stable. Their presidential candidate made a nice comeback after his party’s past inability to counter Erdogan’s team in the presidential elections. The Pro-Kurdish HDP remains in parliament, as a possible future kingmaker between the secular opposition in the next elections.

Mrs Akşener and her self-proclaimed ‘Good Party’ made it into parliament and created a niche of their own, maybe constituting a possible foundation for a classical centre-right in the future, although failing to steal a sufficiently significant number of nationalist voters to change the outcome of the election. The relatively serene collaboration of her İYİ Party and the CHP within the National Alliance is worth noticing.

So, Erdoğan stays in power, but he is getting older, and liberal values are still in play. Turkey’s secularists and pro-Europeans may have lost the battle, but they certainly haven’t lost the war. It’s up to them whether they will be able to transfer their gained political capital into a defeat for the AK Parti and the neo-Ottoman, pseudo-imperialistic side of Turkishness. The Sultan’s palace hasn’t fallen yet, but has certainly been weakened.

Your comments

Warning, your message will only be displayed after it has been checked and approved.

Who are you?

To show your avatar with your message, register it first on (free et painless) and don’t forget to indicate your Email addresse here.

Enter your comment here

This form accepts SPIP shortcuts {{bold}} {italic} -*list [text->url] <quote> <code> and HTML code <q> <del> <ins>. To create paragraphs, just leave empty lines.

Follow the comments: RSS 2.0 | Atom