Will Turkey’s municipal elections determine Erdogan’s future?

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Supporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) wave Turkish and party flags during an election rally in Ankara March 28, 2014. (Photo-AFP-Adem Altan)

By: Hüsnü Mahalli

Published Saturday, March 29, 2014

Istanbul – Sunday’s election in Turkey will be fateful, and will largely determine the political future of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The election is exceptionally important because it is taking place in a political climate fraught with tension, on account of the corruption scandals – to the tune of $200 billion – surrounding the prime minister and his son Bilal, as well as a number of government ministers and their families. Add in to the mix the recent audio leaks purporting to expose Turkish plans to intervene in Syria.

Over 52.7 million Turkish voters are supposed to go the polls, which number 170,000 distributed across 81 Turkish states, to elect their mayors, local councils, and elected neighborhood officials. Twenty two political parties will participate, led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s main opposition party, along with the Nationalist Movement Party and the Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party.

Public opinion surveys have produced conflicting results regarding the possible outcomes of the election, which will reveal the reaction of the Turkish people to the allegations they have been hearing for a while now about Erdogan, his party, and his government, regarding both domestic and foreign policies. Some think-tanks have predicted that the Turkish voters will continue to support the AKP, after Erdogan managed to persuade them that the audio leaks were false and fabricated, and nothing more than the work of his archrival Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.

The quarrel between Erdogan and Gulen has helped the CHP immensely. With the followers of the preacher fully mobilized, the party has been able to benefit from their formidable capabilities to gain more support among the electorate.

The CHP has sent out positive messages to Gulen’s supporters and to nationalist and liberal movements as well, taking on some of their members as candidates in the elections. However, traditional leftist forces have accused the leader of the party, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, of seeking to get rid of the traditional Kemalist ideology, and transform the CHP to a center-left party infused with liberal-nationalist – if not religious – elements.

Many here are wagering on the CHP’s collaboration with the Turkish right. Indeed, the CHP has failed throughout the past years to take power, which has always been monopolized by the right, represented at present by the AKP. Its competition this time could come from the nationalists, including the Nationalist Movement and the Islamic Felicity Party founded by the late leader Necmettin Erbakan.

Observers believe the election will be particularly significant in Istanbul and Ankara, which Erdogan’s supporters have controlled for twenty years. But this could come to an end in tomorrow’s election; if the CHP candidates win in the two cities, the end of Erdogan’s political career will come very fast.

AKP polls predict that the party will win around 35 percent of the vote, significantly lower that its 2011 general election share, which was 50 percent. Other pollsters downplayed the effect of the campaigns against Erdogan on Turkish voters, and estimated that the AKP will retain at least 46 percent of the vote.

On the other hand, many are wagering on a high turnout on election day. They say that if the turnout is more than 85 percent, then the winner will no doubt be Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. To be sure, some say that the leader of the CHP has managed to convince the Turkish people of his integrity, seriousness, and credibility, in contrast to the dozens of question marks now surrounding Erdogan’s character.

Regardless of all these calculations, however, everything that has happened throughout the past several weeks confirm that Erdogan, even if his party technically wins, will be the biggest loser in the electoral battle. Polls show that 75 percent of the Turks believe the accusations made against him in the corruption scandals, even if some of them end up voting for the AKP for their personal interests.

Everyone realizes that the results of Sunday’s election will determine the future of Erdogan. If he loses the elections, he will lose everything, including his dream to enter the presidential palace in Çankaya Köşkü. Even if he holds his ground, it will not be easy for him to carry on, because the Turkish people, as the protests in Gezi park have shown, will not remain silent vis-à-vis his government’s practices.

Indeed, it is widely expected that as of next Monday, Erdogan’s government could begin an all-out offensive to impose its total control on all facets of the Turkish state. This would require the elimination of all opposition forces, which know very well that the survival of Erdogan in power would mean the end of the Turkish republic as they know it, to use the words of Kılıçdaroğlu.

But if the CHP wins the elections, then this will open the door for the party and its leader to seize power at the earliest opportunity. So perhaps Monday will bring a series of surprises at both the domestic and foreign policy levels, with the ouster of Erdogan and his dangerous policies in Turkey, Syria, the region, and the world.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

Turky under ErDOGhans policy is turned into an open guest house for a killing-machine against the poor syrian people, who did not do any harm to Turkey. The real butchers are coming from abroard especially via Turkeys borders. Everybody knows that terrorists from more than 80 different countries, such as Chechenia, Saudia, etc. are flowing through the open borders getting assistance by turkish armee. ErDOGhan only pretends to be a muslim like his hypocrate or misled followers do. The holy prophed (peace be upon him) did not teach us killing, lying and disrespecting other peoples faith ("lakum dinukum wa li-ed-din"). By the way, the syrian president Mr. Al-Assad is not Shia, he became a Sunni more than ten years ago, when he got married with his sunni wife. So actually all these so called Sunni who think they have to fight Shia are not only misled, they even serve zionists interests some of the knowingly, many of them without awareness of this.
ErDOGhan go home!!

Yes the chp is good with all its sex scandals and hijab banning. what planet are you living on. AKP provided growth while you promote anti islamic policies. You support the butcherer of syria who is shia and you regularly dine with him ( CHP ). the media needs to be purged by erdogan in turkey and many people agree.

You have the gut´s to criticize Turkey and speak about elections? LOL

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