Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Democracy struggles in Turkey but is not dead

Erdogan votes June 23rd. Source NYT
If you have been following Turkish politics over the past couple of decades, you have seen some interesting and frightening changes. As Prime Minister, Erdogan led his AKP party in a series of economic and political reforms over the first ten years that had people thinking a moderate Islamist might be not so bad. Then Erdogan began acting like Putin, clamping down on press freedom and opposition.

An attempted coup in Turkey three years ago couldn't have been better for Erdogan is he had planned and carried it out himself. Blaming former ally, Fethullah Gulen, for the coup, he purged the army, police, judiciary, bureaucracy, schools, and universities of anyone he suspected of being a sympathizer. Thousands of people were convicted in mass trials and jailed, and hundreds of thousands lost their jobs.

Erdogan was then elected president and in a rigged referendum gave himself executive powers, in effect president for life.  The new system came into effect in 2018. Elections in the past several years have been, shall we say, less than free and fair.  Opponents tend to be arrested or banned. In a previous election, the lights went out all over Turkey when the ballots were being counted, as an example.

American news has likely been keeping people up to date on Erdogan's coziness with Putin, purchase of anti-aircraft rockets, problems with NATO, etc, so I won't go into that.

This brings us to this year's municipal elections. Erdogan's party and chosen candidates lost the election for mayor of both Ankara and Istanbul. Perhaps his invincibility is coming unraveled? Istanbul is a loss he could not afford.  Too much face to lose and too much opportunity for directing city money to friends in city contracts. Since the winner edged out Erdogan's man by a mere 0.5 percentage points, the election was canceled on a technicality and rerun on June 23rd.

This time the opposition candidate, Ekrem Imamoglu, with a unifying message beat Erdogan's candidate, Binali Yildirim, by 9 percentage points.  this in spite of Erdogan throwing everything he had into the campaign.  Erdogan is highly divisive, those not for him are enemies of Turkey.

When the economy is good, everyone loves an authoritarian but the Turkish economy is in a bad way and people are getting tired of living in fear of the constant crackdowns on liberty. 

These three articles sum up the situation and the hope that this win might be the beginning of the end of Erdogan's one-man rule.

Istanbul mayoral vote: Is ‘disastrous’ loss beginning of Erdogan’s end? 

Turkey Trials Seen in New Light After Erdogan’s Istanbul Defeat 

The global importance of Istanbul’s election


  1. Unrestful times for everyone. The more I read about the political situations elsewhere, the happier I am to live in Canada. Our politicians aren't any less greedy (and probably not much less corrupt) but at least they've been kept more or less in check (so far). What frightens me is how quickly and easily that can change. We are lucky here, but we can't afford to get complacent.

  2. The truth is; most Americans couldn't find Turkey on a map. It is sad, but true. The educational standards in this country are focused on passing some abstract questions on a commercial standardized test. And as far as the young people of today; if it isn't the latest technology, or covered on social media they don't find it relevant.
    If America spent as much time teaching history, as we do teaching the Bible, we would be a much smarter country.
    the Ol'Buzzard

  3. Are you still in Canada or have you returned to Ukraine by now?

  4. I wish I had more than hope here. :-(


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