Turkey hangs on for UN Security Council bid

Turkey hangs on for UN Security Council bid

Screening the news on Turkey, both domestic and foreign, one would get the impression that the country is in real trouble. Not only is war on its doorstep, it is increasingly feeling the spillover effects of the conflict to its south. The country is ravaged by violence as Kurdish protestors clash with the police, with a death toll nearing 20 people.

Turkey’s standing in the international community does not look bright either, as it has been criticized for supporting radical Islamists fighting in Syria. It has strained relations with countries like Israel, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, while its dialogue with the United States is thorny. The government’s authoritarian tendencies, such as restricting press freedom and judicial independence come under increasing scrutiny by Western institutions.

So who would confide a non-permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council to a country with this problematic outlook in the vote that will take place next week in New York? Especially in view of the fact that Ankara is competing with Spain and New Zealand, which definitely enjoy a better image than that of Turkey.

“More than 10 people died in Turkey? That happens daily and with even bigger numbers in this part of the world,” a Turkish diplomat on duty in an Asian capital told me.

“What we see as earth shattering domestic developments do not make it to this continent,” said another on duty in an African country.

In contrast to those who think that Turkey has exhausted the positive capital it accumulated in the first half of the 2000s when it won a non-permanent Security Council seat with a record number of votes, it still enjoys a positive image, especially in the third world.

“Turkey is seen as an important power and a success story from this part of the world. What some in the West see as antidemocratic authoritarian tendencies, are interpreted here as strong leadership; something many people aspire for. Let’s not forget that colonial psychology is still vivid. When [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan starts yelling against Western leaders, it resonates positively here,” said the Turkish diplomat talking to me from an Asian country.

The fact that Turkey does not have a colonial past is also an advantage, as far as sub-Saharan Africa is concerned. It seems that many there are resentful of traditional powers’ rivalries in the continent, as well as China’s neocolonialism.

“African countries are impressed by the growth success of Turkey, despite the fact that it does not have a specific natural richness to export. The message that Turkey wants to benefit from are its advances in welfare, such as facilitating visa regimes, increasing bilateral trade, as well as investments,” the Turkish envoy to an African country told me. The Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency’s (TİKA) development projects do not go unnoticed, according to the same envoy.

I have written this before: Turkey’s special interest in Somalia, at a time when everybody shied away from it has also left deep, positive marks on the psyche of the Africans. Erdoğan’s visit to Somalia together with his family has not been forgotten.

No doubt, Turkey cannot secure the votes of some Arab countries, as well as some Western countries, mostly due to its policies in the Middle East. Another disadvantage of Turkey is the fact that it is a latecomer in the race; several countries said they had already pledged their support to the other contenders.

However, it seems that the votes of third world countries might try to come to the rescue. Whether that will be enough or not, we’ll find out in a week.