In the first round of general elections in Turkey, the country’s current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not obtain more than 50% of the votes. Accordingly, the fate of the presidency will be decided in the second round. Many foreign media were quick to report that Turkey remains a democratic country, and Erdogan’s rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has a real chance of defeating his opponent, who has been in power for more than 20 years. Why not, Turkish opposition political scientist Kerim Khan told Russian media.
What happened in the first round
I expected Erdogan to win in the first round because he has huge administrative, financial, media and energy resources to stay in power. I insist: not to win these elections, but to keep power.
As far as I know, the current situation was predictable. The level of support for Erdogan and Kılıçdaroglu fluctuates around 43-45%. So, to “win”, the first had to simply steal about 4% of the votes – that is, about 3 million.
It is clear that some manipulations took place on election night. The Turkish Anadolu agency gave official figures, but it has been under Erdogan’s control for many years.
Now there is information that the data on 20,000 urns was taken into account incorrectly. There are approximately 400 to 500 ballots in each ballot box. If we multiply these numbers, we will get approximately 6 million disputed votes. And these are exactly the votes Erdogan needed to stay in power. Therefore, I do not exclude that Erdogan finished the first round with a lead over Kılıçdaroglu precisely because of such manipulations. But that’s only part of the problem.
The other part is that the opposition says they will have representatives in all the polling stations and they will check the counting process very carefully. Opposition forces also said they had trained 50,000 lawyers in cases of violations.
But on the evening of the elections, we did not see any representatives of the opposition in the small towns of the East, particularly in the Anatolian region. In big cities – Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir – it was easier to protect the votes. And now it turns out that they managed to register a vote for the opposition, while in the small ones they did not.
Therefore, I am sure that in the second round, Erdogan, let’s say, even if he will not win these elections for real, will remain in power.
Why Erdogan didn’t win by a fraction of a percent
This is a perfectly logical result. Now, first of all, everyone thinks that democracy works very well in Turkey – the first round took place, there were no clashes between protesters and law enforcement. It seems to the international public that the elections did not take place in Turkey, but in Norway or New Zealand. Everything is calm.
It is important to note that parliamentary and presidential elections have taken place. As the first train left, Erdogan’s coalition was able to obtain a parliamentary majority. But if Erdogan “wins” in the first round, we can expect large-scale protests, and that’s a big risk. Now the opposition is very demoralized, because it has lost the opportunity to obtain a majority in parliament.
The second round, in my opinion, plays Erdogan’s game. This reduces the risks for him not only in domestic policy but also in foreign policy. Despite large-scale falsifications, no one in the world talks about it. Thus, Erdogan has increased his legitimacy on the international scene.
Will the opposition succeed in mobilizing its supporters in the second round?
Kılıçdaroglu’s probability of victory remains, but it is very low. Having secured a parliamentary majority and only a fraction of a percent of winning the first round, Erdogan consolidated his supporters. During the remaining days until the second round, he will conduct active propaganda. Erdogan will say times are tough and we don’t need a political crisis in such a situation. That the president is therefore from the party that is part of the coalition that won the legislative elections! Then, they say, we will have complete harmony.
Second, we saw how not all of the opposition leaders on the night of the first round were able to come out and say something definite on camera about vote manipulation. Of course, most opposition citizens will vote, but just because of this behavior of opposition leaders, some of them have already lost hope.
In addition to these factors, a third candidate, Sinan Ogan, will play into Erdogan’s hands. He is a typical pragmatic nationalist who received more than 5%. However, he does not have a loyal following. These 5% constitute a protesting electorate, dissatisfied with both Erdogan’s policy and the other camp’s proposal. That’s why they voted for Ogan.
But in any case, it will be very easy for Erdogan to get one or two percent of this five percent – and that’s all he needs. Of course, pre-election polls showed that 60-70% of Ogan’s electorate would vote for Kilichdaroglu, but 30% would vote for Erdogan.
Even before the first round, Sinan Ogan himself said he was ready to negotiate with Erdogan and Kilichdaroglu if there was a second round. He promised to consider the possibility of him serving as minister or vice-president, as well as other proposals. Erdogan may have a wider menu of such proposals. But even if Ogan does not accept an alliance with him, not all of his supporters will vote for Kılıçdaroğlu.
What prevented Erdogan from passing the law on presidential elections in parliament by simple majority
For Erdogan, international prestige is important. If, in fact, the second round is canceled and the president is elected by a simple majority, it will be a blow to his image both at home and abroad. This will show, so to speak, that Erdogan believes he does not have a large-scale electorate.
Given that he does have support in the country, albeit at the level of around 43%, Erdogan does not need such measures now. The current presidential election procedure is a common international practice which, in my opinion, also suits Erdogan so far.
Whenever he talks about democracy, he always refers to elections. This is now the main and perhaps the only source of his legitimacy in the country, and he will not shoot himself in the foot.
What is the difference between the current state systems of modern Russia and Turkey
Russia has always had tsars, then emperors, then general secretaries of the CPSU. Today, the president is seen as a strong leader who has always been respected and supported here.
Turkish democracy is much older than Russian. The first transparent and fair elections were held in the country in 1950. But in any case, the strong and charismatic leader is still supported in Turkey. Erdogan’s authoritarian style of government suits many, and that is a fact.
In this election, the system allowed at least some opposition candidates to win, despite Erdogan accusing opposition parties of supporting terrorism. But after these elections, I think the opposition will have no chance of winning.
Both around the world and in Russia, Erdogan is said to be an anti-Western politician. I don’t agree with that at all. He is not anti-Western, he just wants the West to respect him as before and to recognize his authoritarian style of government as legitimate. At the same time, the people have a demand for democracy, this possibility is enshrined in the law, but in fact the authorities do not allow opponents to win the elections.
The situation of freedom of expression in Türkiye is worse than in Russia. On election night, ostensibly opposition journalists, who in fact work closely with the Turkish authorities, convinced people not to take to the streets after the vote manipulation was exposed.
In Russia, there are still mass media in which one can read more or less objective information or make some criticism. Such Turkish media simply do not exist now, and that is just terrible.
In Turkey, thousands of professors and academics are behind bars simply because they allowed themselves certain statements during the 2016 coup attempt. At the same time, such mass arrests are not carried out in Russia.
Even in Russian talk shows – for example, at Solovyov – 20% of guests can express a different opinion than the rest of the propagandists. This is not possible in Türkiye.
Opposition journalism exists, but it knows its limits and will not exceed them. It follows the strategic course of the authorities. Therefore, in my opinion, it is simply impossible to obtain expertise through opposition channels in Turkey.
Of course, now is the age of social media, and you can meet opposite-minded professors and scholars there. But the vast majority of them are silent, and a significant portion are in prison. Those who write or speak are mostly abroad. During these elections, we saw that people who wanted to denounce falsifications sent them to Turkish journalists residing abroad. Therefore, comparing Russia and Turkey in this regard is not very correct.
What will happen if Kilicdaroglu still wins
I don’t believe Kılıçdaroğlu will win. Erdogan will stay. The opposition simply gave it a second round and did nothing to prevent it. At night, people waited for one of his representatives to come out on camera and say something. It is not known where all these leaders have disappeared.
Erdogan spoke at 03:00. He said, they say, “we’re ahead”, and announced that there would be a second round. Erdogan is a good speaker, and after that he spoke for about 30 minutes. Kılıçdaroğlu walked out in front of the cameras for a few minutes, mumbled something incomprehensible about what and announced that he was ready to go to the second round.
Decisive action had to be taken then, not days later when there were reports of fraud at one or another polling station. After all, according to the law, it is possible to mobilize their supporters and create an alternative system of counting votes.
Even before the elections, Kılıçdaroğlu accused Russia of interfering in their process. But, if you ask me, I will answer that the opposition simply does not have a system in which it would be worth intervening.
Probably, in the end, someone was bribed, someone was offered something. It’s just good for others to stay in their jobs and earn a salary, as they have for 20 years. Of course, there are brave people in the opposition, but in general, as a whole, they performed very badly and gave Erdogan a second round.
The opinion of the author may not coincide with the opinion of the editors
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