Erdoğan’s war is set to continue

Erdoğan’s war is set to continue

The local elections were not expected to produce a major surprise and they did not. Many hoped for a surprise outcome of course, but most opinion polls indicated this was unlikely. The debate revolved around how strong the Justice and Development Party (AKP) would come out of these elections or whether it would lose support.

Judging by the 2009 local election, when it received 38.8 percent of the overall vote, the AKP has increased its vote. Many analysts argue, however, that the yardstick should be the 2011 general elections, when the AKP received 49.95 percent of the vote, because Prime Minister Erdoğan turned these local elections into a vote of confidence for his government.

If that is to be taken as the measure, then the AKP lost ground and can no longer lay claim to have 50 percent of the votes in its pocket, since the percent of the population that did not vote for the AKP has increased.

But this does not alter the fact that Erdoğan is the clear winner of these elections. There is little, therefore, that can be said against the triumphalism that is now pervasive in AKP circles.

The results from March 30, Sunday, will also make the race for the presidential elections in August, and the general elections - which are planned for 2015, but may be pulled forward by Erdoğan to strike while the iron is hot - much more interesting.

The question for today, however, is a different one. The AKP tampered with the democratic system badly in the lead-up to these local elections to protect itself against corruption charges.

It dealt a blow to the separation of powers principle by effectively bringing the judiciary under its control. It also dealt serious blows to the freedom of thought and independent media.

It remains an open question if Erdoğan will use his reinforced mandate to put Turkey back on the democratic track according to EU standards. The signs are that he will not. His victory speech on Sunday night shows he remains on the warpath against his political enemies. 

“Those that fled by now are gone.” Erdoğan said going on to declare that he had given the names of others to the prosecutors so a warrant for their arrests could be issued before they flee the country.

“Like I said before, we will enter their dens. They are going to be made to pay” he added, targeting members of the rival Islamist Gülen group who he accuses of being behind the corruption allegations against himself and his government, and a slew of embarrassing tape recordings leaked over the Internet.

Given that the judiciary is more or less at his beck and call, now prosecutors will respond to him. It is also very unlikely that these prosecutors will follow up on the corruption charges leveled by previous prosecutors, who have since been fired or displaced for allegedly being members of a “parallel state” set up by the Gülen group.

So we can expect the witch hunt against this group and those, rightly or wrongly, accused of being associated with it to intensify in the coming period. Turkey is facing another version of the Ergenekon case which clipped the wings of the Kemalists.

The Gülen group, however, has shown that it is also capable of entering the government’s “dens” by bugging the most sensitive of discussions in the private room of the foreign minister. It can, therefore, be expected to come up with more tricks aimed at embarrassing Erdoğan and the government in the lead up to presidential and general elections.

Put another way, Sunday’s local elections are unlikely to bring the political stability to Turkey that many Turks crave. Neither are they likely to prompt the government to return to the path of true and pluralistic democracy. In short, Erdoğan’s war will more than likely continue and probably intensify now that he and members of his government feel stronger following Sunday’s outcome.