Turkey’s most chaotic elections
More than 50 million Turks will cast their votes on Sunday, March 30, in the country’s most chaotic election ever, but unfortunately it will unlikely diffuse the political tension. We’ll all have the results of the election by Sunday night, but we’ll wake up to a much more polarized country where rival political groups will continue their fight, this time for the upcoming presidential elections. Here are important issues that will continue to dominate Turkey’s agenda in the post-election era:
Corruption: Turkey will continue to discuss the corruption and graft claims after the elections, probably in a more tense way, as a parliamentary investigation committee will be established in April. The decision for opening such a commission was made on March 19, when a summary of proceedings about four former ministers was discussed at the General Assembly. According to Parliament’s internal regulations, the commission should be established before May 3, but the government will do its best to prevent the commission being turned into a court.
On the other hand, hopes for an effective and indiscriminative prosecution of corruption and graft claims engulfing Cabinet ministers and some leading businessmen are likely to fade in the post-election period.
More leaks: For many, phone recording leaks and other sorts of illegal recordings of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will continue in the post-election period. Aiming to tarnish Erdoğan’s image in the eyes of public opinion, these leaks could become more frequent throughout the presidential elections.
The Gülen-Erdoğan fight: The fight between Erdoğan’s government and the “Hizmet movement” of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, will likely intensify. The two sides will use all their means to hurt the other while there are speculations that the government will remove more pro-Gülen bureaucrats from their positions. More pressure on pro-Gülen media and businessmen are also seemingly in the pipeline.
Espionage: The release of an illegal recording of a high-level security meeting had a game-changing impact on the Gülen-Erdoğan fight. The prime minister implied that what he called a treacherous espionage was carried out by the “parallel state” and vowed to “walk into their den.” A prosecution of the espionage has already been kicked out and will likely include some incidents from the past, like the stopping of intelligence trucks by the gendarmerie in Adana in January. Espionage is one the heaviest crimes and accusing someone of spying would bring about the heaviest of sentences, if found guilty.
The government and security forces are expected to go to any lengths to find the plotters of what they call serious espionage.
Twitter-YouTube: Bans of Twitter and YouTube have already been taken to the courts, but they will continue to ruin the country’s international image. One expectation is that the government will decide to lift the ban in few days after the elections, but the continuation of such leaks would delay this.
International concerns and reactions would complicate the situation for Turkey, especially from the European Union, which has already expressed its serious disturbance about restrictions on freedom of expression and the right to communicate. The post-election period is not going to be very pleasant for Turkey if it insists on such undemocratic bans.
Presidential elections: The results of Sunday’s polls will tell us more about what one should expect with regard to the presidential elections in August. The election process will begin in June, only two months after local polls, but discussions about it will immediately begin March 31. A vote less than 42 percent for the ruling party will make it really hard for Erdoğan to win the presidency in popular elections, which require a 50 percent majority in the first leg.
Peace process: Pro-Kurdish political parties seem to have made a strategic decision to support the government in its fight against the Gülen movement, believing that they can only get what they want under Erdoğan’s rule. However, Kurds will not wait until forever and the government’s unwillingness in meeting some very important demands from the Kurds could cause the derailment of the process.