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24 June, 2018 11:56:28 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 24 June, 2018 11:57:24 AM

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Turkey election: A change in the offing

Arif Mahmud
Turkey election: A change in the offing

Today the Turks will go to the polls to elect a president and a new parliament. But unlike previous elections, this one bears immense significance as a win by the current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would allow him to wield unquestionable power, comparable with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who enjoys his reign completely unopposed, or Xi Jinping, who has already secured his position as China’s president for life.

The Foreign Affairs magazine writes: These elections may be the last chance to defeat Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country’s strongman president, and prevent a total collapse of Turkish governing institutions.
Turkey has seen a dramatic change in its global image in the last few years, including a bolstering presence in the Middle East and straining of ties with the US. The detention of American pastor over terrorism charges and discord over US support of Syria’s Kurdish militia YPG, which Turkey terms a wing of its ‘terrorist’ separatist group PKK, has made the relations tense.
Turkey is also currently going through a difficult period of financial woes. And the people rightfully blame the Erdogan government – who they entrusted to run the country. The lira has lost some 20 per cent of its value in the last six months, inflation has risen to about 12 percent and interest rates are very high – up to 18 percent, according to reports. The young Turkish people are becoming impatient. They think they deserve better. Life has turned difficult for the middle and lower-middle income classes. Many western media tells them they deserve a better life, but the power hungry ‘pseudo-dictator’ Erdogan isn’t allowing them one.

But the Western narrative isn’t easy to ignore. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) had 12 electoral victories in last 16 years, making Erdogan the republic's longest-serving leader. He has consolidated his power in every possible way, with the last being the closely-won referendum which gave sweeping powers to the president. After the failed military coup d’etat in 2016, allegedly by the Gulenists, , Erdogan eliminated his opponents by firing tens of thousands of government workers, restraining public institutions, jailing opposition voices, and clamping down on the media.

Erdogan supporters, however, see him as the man who has championed Turkey at home and in the global arena. Apart from building a modern nation with new roads, better hospitals, more public transportation and other facilities, he has also made a bold stance against stronger forces in the globe to earn Turkey the recognition and prestige that it never enjoyed before.

Erdogan’s firm stance in international affairs has elevated Turkey’s status in the world stage from a mere NATO member to a major regional power. He has not backed down in the face of intimidation of the West and Turkey’s ongoing involvement in Syria is one example. Turkey, despite being a NATO member, went as far as considering purchase of Russian air defence system as the US threatened to turn its back towards Turkey, labeling it as a reluctant NATO ally, even a ‘frenemy’. The move in US congress to bar the sale of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey is one example. But Turkey has now grown too big, as defense industry analyst Teal Group expert says, “Turkey is just too big as a key NATO power, geographically it’s in an extremely important position, and on top of that, it’s a huge economy.”

The supporters of Turkish president seem him as a visionary who is doing the painstaking job of rebuilding his country against stiff opposition - not so much from home but mostly from abroad. But the young Turkish people, living so close to Europe and its socio-cultural influences, feel they are being deprived. They want a quick end to their woes and a better, more convenient life. In their understanding of the Turkish people’s sentiment, Foreign Policy magazine writes: The Treaty of Sèvres has been largely forgotten in the West, but it has a potent legacy in Turkey, where it has helped fuel a form of nationalist paranoia some scholars have called the “Sèvres syndrome.”… Moreover, Turkey’s foundational struggle with colonial occupation left its mark in a persistent form of anti-imperial nationalism, directed first against Britain, during the Cold War against Russia, and now, quite frequently, against the United States. Reading the narrative, one cannot fail but notice how conveniently these western media forget to register the Turkish people’s genuine intent towards building a great nation, which has nothing to do with paranoia or anti-west delirium.

Today’s polls have given rise to a political union in Turkey never seen before. Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has joined hands with its opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to form the People’s Alliance. Its challenger, the National Alliance includes the Islamist Saadet, the neo-nationalist IYI Party, and the Republican People's Party (CHP), divided between older Kemalists and younger social democrats. It’s a bit bizarre because the people in National Alliance have ideologies that are so far apart, and yet they have come together with one sole objective – to bring down ‘dictator’ Erdogan. Even their first-round election strategy is not poised for a win, rather to decimate the president’s chance for a straight win by dividing the votes among CHP’s  Muharrem Ince, IYI Party’s Meral Aksener, Temel Karamollaoglu from the Islamist Felicity Party, and HDP’s Demirtas, who is, sadly, having to contest from behind bars.

If the National Alliance succeeds in its plan, perhaps charismatic Muharrem Ince of CHP, a member of parliament for the last 16 years, will win the backing of the parties to challenge Erdogan in the second round. He has promised to end the nepotism of the Erdogan government, improve economic conditions and foster pluralism.  

But would the 54-year old Ince, often referred to as ‘a former high school physics teacher’ by the western media, be able to stand tall when it comes to hotly contested matters of national interest, when his support base remains so highly divergent? Will he be able to further the cause of the Turkish people at home and abroad? It is for the Turkish people to decide and choose.

The World has witnessed an impressive rise of Turkey. The spirited Turks look all set to build a great nation again. The people in Turkey will freely exercise their democratic rights today in a country where the Western media claim Erdogan has murdered democracy. Despite all the claims and counterclaims, the will of the people is still the deciding force in Turkey. The people must choose wisely and preserve the zeal to build a prosperous nation.

The writer is a journalist working for The Independent

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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