작성일 2023-04-20 22:09
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To Understand Turkey’s 2023 Elections, Think Iran 2009


By Uzay Bulut, Gatestone March 29, 2023
  • Pray that Turkey's election of 2023 would not follow the election of 2009 of Iran.
  • Pray that all areas of Turkish society including Human rights and economy would improve in Turkey through the May election.
  • Pray that the new spiritual atmosphere would come in Turkey, Syria and all Middle East after the recent earthquake.

“Turkey is the largest democracy between India and Germany and it election results will reverberate a across a vast region.” So said the Washington Institute’s resident Turkey watcher Soner Cagaptay, looking forward to the country’s May 14 elections.

Such spin is akin to saying North Korea is the largest democracy between South Korea and China. Still, the State Department, many journalists, and other officials believe that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who trails in the latest polls, will allow or accept the outcome of a democratic vote. This is wishful thinking. Erdogan believes in democracy not as a concept but as a tool. “Democracy is like a streetcar,” he famously quipped. “You ride it as far as necessary and then step off.”

Erdogan does not trust the people to choose correctly. He believes his authority comes from God, not from the people. This is why he described himself a quarter century ago as the servant of Sharia [Islamic law] and imam of Istanbul rather than as mayor. He believes those who do not interpret religion his way do not have the right to empower themselves just because they may attract votes. This is why, rather than win arguments on their merits, he acts as Turkey’s snowflake dictator, hiding behind a corrupt judiciary and outdated laws that conflate criticism with insult. It is also why he represses Turkey’s ten million Alevis and why, rather than debate his own Muslim Brotherhood-inspired views with followers of one-time ally Fethullah Gulen, a man whose Sufi-inspired interpretations have deep roots in Anatolia, he slanders them as terrorists and imprisons them.

Simply put, in Erdogan’s Turkey, elections are for show, not as a mechanism for public accountability, let alone change. While wishful thinking may be comforting, to understand Turkey’s forthcoming elections, the best comparison is to Iran.

In Iran, elections are carefully stage-managed by forces unwilling to subordinate their power to the will of the people. While unelected figures such as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei hold ultimate power, the Iranian government uses the theater of elections and voter participation rates to suggest regime legitimacy. While many journalists, academics, diplomats, and some think tankers are willing to play the game and pretend Iranian elections are fair or even matter, the facts belie such a reading.

In 2005, Mehdi Karroubi, a two-time parliamentary speaker, went to sleep leading the ballot count, only to wake up in third place, knocked out of the final round vote. This allowed hard-line candidate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to triumph. Four years later, the regime claimed Ahmadinejad won a second term in an election beset by fraud. Iranians poured into the streets to protest, but Iran’s leadership did not care. Regime ideology trumped voter preference. Elections were for external consumption more than internal change.

So too are elections in Turkey. There is nothing in Erdogan’s character to suggest the humility necessary to accept a loss. The only questions are the degree of cheating and fraud and his mechanism of voter suppression. How many rival officials will he imprison before Election Day? Will police break up opposition election rallies? Will the state media only cover his speeches? If his internal polls suggest a massive loss, will he allow the election to proceed, or will he create a national emergency to force a delay? If so, will that delay be indefinite?

It may be comforting to believe Turkey is a democracy or that the relatively colorless Kemal Kilicdaroglu will win. If Turkey were a system of one-man, one-vote with all ballots counting equally, he might indeed win. After 20 years of Erdogan, however, Turkish elections are corrupt. To pretend otherwise simply plays into the would-be sultan’s ambitions just as much as treating Iran as a democracy plays into Khamenei’s hands.

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