Why did Turkey lose in the UN vote?
The Turkish government is understandably trying to play down its defeat in the United Nations vote for the Security Council’s temporary seats.
To secure one of those seats during the 2015-16 term had been a very important target for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his Prime Ministry period. It has been a major target for not only the Foreign Ministry but also for a number of public agencies. For the last few years, the Turkish Cooperation and Development Agency (TİKA) built schools and opened water wells in distant African and South Asian countries, Turkish Airlines (THY) established new direct flight routes to capitals without giving much priority to profitability - and nobody knows the amount of money from the secret budget of the prime minister (formerly Erdoğan, then Ahmet Davutoğlu) for this purpose - expecting that poorer countries would then vote for Turkey when the day comes.
The day of the vote came on Oct. 16. Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu had been in New York for more than a week already. Government officials now deny that they ever said they expected to win 140 votes, when 129 was enough to win a seat, but they did seem pretty sure that Turkey could get one of two seats allocated for the “Western Europe and Others” group, where there were three candidates: Turkey, Spain and New Zealand.
In the first round of voting, New Zealand won one of the seats, and neither Spain nor Turkey was able to get the magic 129. The number of votes, 109, was alarming for Turkey, but hopes were still high for the next round. The expectation was that with Erdoğan’s challenging of the superiority of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members with his “The world is bigger than five” slogan, the smaller countries would sympathize with and vote for Turkey as their advocate. There were also the Islamic countries to consider, with Erdoğan seen as having a certain charm among the peoples of the Muslim world. In addition, a umber of European countries hinted they would vote for Turkey, ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) circles believed.
In the second round, Spain was still unable to get the sufficient number, but the votes for Turkey dropped to 73. The seat went to Spain in the third round when the votes for Turkey dropped further to 60.
When Turkey won a temporary Security Council sear for the 2009-10 term it attracted 150 votes. What has changed since then and why did Turkey miss out in the latest vote? It is possible to list a few things:
1- Arab governments, especially Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which consider the Muslim Brotherhood that Erdoğan favors to be a terrorist organization, are thought to have worked against Turkey.
2- Claims about the Turkish government tolerating Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq, as the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) rises, worked against Turkey.
3- Erdoğan and Davutoğlu insisting on the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a neighboring leader, could be antipathetic to many countries, especially smaller ones with strong neighbors.
4- Erdoğan’s “The world is bigger than five” campaign could be regarded as antagonistic by the five permanent members and the countries that they could influence.
5- The recent stance of the government regarding freedom of assembly, freedom of the press and the independence of the judiciary fail to draw a desirable picture regarding the situation of Turkish democracy.
Back in 2008, Turkish diplomacy was also on rise. Turkey had been in better relations with not only its neighbors, including Armenia, but also with the world. In contrast, today's Turkey does not have ambassadors in three important countries in the neighborhood: Syria, Egypt and Israel.
The latest outcome is not a success and there are lessons for Ankara to draw from it.