Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced snap presidential and parliamentary elections that will be held on June 24, 18 months sooner than the scheduled election date.
The reasons for this are multiple. The difficulties the Turkish economy faces have probably made Erdogan unsure of how popular he’ll be in November 2019. So, he decided to ride the wave of euphoria that has overtaken the Turkish public after the success of the Turkish army during the operation Olive Branch. His latest spats with the US, Greece and EU also boosts his tough-leader image.
Now you might wonder why an autocrat like Erdogan would care about popularity and elections.Erdogan values the respect an actual election projects for their winner, but at the same time he will not risk losing. Turkey, in that respect, is neither like Russia or Egypt.
According to surveys, the Turkish public values democratic institutions in contrast to Russia, where a strong leader is what most people prefer, and Erdogan himself clearly understands the respect a legitimate ruler wields.
That doesn’t mean that he is willing to risk losing everything he has tried to build for decades though.
The trick here is that Erdogan wants to win with a facade of legitimacy. A 140% Putin-style win will destroy any suspension of disbelief in the Turkish democracy.
The 2016 attempted coup gave Erdogan ammunition to target his opponents that are systemically weakened either with arrests and prosecutions, as is the case with the Democratic People’s Party (HDP) members, or with laws like the one passed last March that allows for security forces to be present in voting stations. He will also has the support of Nationalist Action Party (MHP) that has become his de facto junior partner. His main opposition, the Republican People’s Party, has never risen above 26 percent of national vote since 1977.
A pro-western party that has also received a lot of favorable coverage from western news agencies is the so-called “Good Party”, created by former members of the MHP. It is uncertain, however, whether they’ll manage to make a dent in AKP’s support or if they will even be allowed to take part in the elections.
Turkey is in a very strange crossroad. Created by a pro western man, Kemal Ataturk, on the ashes of the Ottoman empire, who spared no effort to change his country into a modern state, now ruled by a man who longs the olden days of Ottoman glory. A man who with laws and machinations exerts an extend of control that not even the founder of the country was able to have. His almost certain victory in the June elections, accompanied with his earlier changes in the nature of the Turkish political system will cement Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the ruler of Turkey for many years to come.
Featured Image Courtesy of Kremlin.ru [CC BY 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons