An unpromising election
In the past, there have been elections in Turkey that took the country out of a political crisis and initiated a brighter era. This Sunday’s elections, however, do not seem to have such potential. Quite the contrary, they could initiate an even darker era in Turkish political history.
Here is why. Although these elections are local, in which only mayors and other local administrators will be nominated, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has turned them into a vote on his personal popularity.
Moreover, he wants to use this popularity as a mandate for his “war of liberation” against numerous enemies, both domestic and foreign. So, a strong Justice and Development Party (AKP) victory will signal only more authoritarianism, because no “war of liberation” is won by normal democratic means.
You can read this as meaning more bans on the Internet, more pressure on the media, and perhaps even political arrests and trials.
Then, you might wonder, wouldn’t the elections bring the country peace of mind if the AKP experiences a setback rather than victory? If Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian rule is the source of all problems, wouldn’t Turkey take a deep breath if the prime minister faces a dramatic decline at the ballots.
Well, things might not be that simple. Because while Erdoğan’s authoritarianism has become all too obvious as one of Turkey’s key problems, there is something else that is going on: The unusual, if not illegal, tactics of a veiled power that wants to take Erdoğan down.
The very exposure of a series of wiretaps that clearly targeted Erdoğan and his inner circle has exposed this veiled power and its staggering capabilities. Moreover, while the wiretaps in question were about corruption and other misdeeds of the governing circles until this week, last Thursday they jumped to another level: Espionage. Because this time, the revelation was the wiretapped audio files of an emergency meeting on national security held at the very office of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu. As Hürriyet Daily News editor-in-chief Murat Yetkin put it right in his yesterday’s column, this is no small matter because, “tapping a secret security meeting of a country’s foreign ministry is espionage.”
Meanwhile, another revelation came from Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which gave another clue about what has been happening behind Turkey’s scenes. On a TV show, Kılıçdaroğlu said he had recently watched a secretly recorded video of Erdoğan that was shot four years ago while Erdoğan was watching the secretly recorded sex video of Deniz Baykal, who was then the CHP’s leader. In other words, someone first videotaped Baykal during an affair, then displayed this to Erdoğan while recording him at the same time, and then recently displayed this to Kılıçdaroğlu. Wow.
This veiled power that has been scrutinizing politicians and exposing them with some considerable political timing also needs to be considered a part of Turkey’s political troubles. Therefore, while a victory for Erdoğan might be a scary scenario for many, a mere defeat of Erdoğan is not either likely to save Turkey from the current quagmire. What Turkey needs is a fundamentally new approach to politics, which favors transparency over secrecy, trust over paranoia, and consensus over confrontation. Right now, unfortunately, this is only sounds like a distant dream.