Position, Power & Opposition…
Since coming to power in 2003 (as Prime Minister), Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (abbreviated officially AK Parti in Turkish or the AKP) have won many elections! Erdoğan founded the AKP in 2001, leading the party to General Election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011, before stepping down upon his election as President in 2014. On July 9, 2018 (two weeks after his re-election), he moved Turkey closer to autocracy by replacing its Parliamentary System with one concentrating virtually all Presidential Powers… With the increase of his power, the President has become an authoritarian ruler, and has influenced all the institutions, from Government Offices to the Media!
The time has gradually, but surely changed! The main Opposition party – Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (CHP or Republican People’s Party) – has won local elections (held recently) in major cities, like Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir. Although Erdoğan and his party are not ready to consider the outcome as a verdict against their policies, the fact is that the ruling party has faced the defeat because of its failure in maintaining a proper economic growth! A sudden increase in unemployment and commodity prices has destabilised the Turkish Economy. Experts believe that the collapse in the National Economy has prompted the people to cast votes in favour of the CHP!
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Ahead of the Municipal Elections, Erdoğan tried to influence the voters possibly by generating the communal sentiment. He even made the Christchurch terror attack an electoral issue, ignoring the global objection. In 2018, the Turkish Lira plunged by over 20% against the US Dollar into a record low territory… and the President tried to hide the issue, instead of attempting to bolster the Economy! As expected, the AKP claimed that the Oppositions had rigged the polls and the media, loyal to the State, backed the claim! According to the ruling party, it faced defeat even after receiving more than 50% of votes!!!
Critics have opined that outcome of the polls certainly ‘shocked’ the authoritarian ruler and that is why his party ‘challenged’ the results after losing popularity! Indeed, it’s the biggest jolt in Erdoğan’s political career. There are mainly three significances of this defeat. Firstly, the AKP’s defeat in Istanbul is a huge gain for the CHP (in political and symbolic sense) as Erdoğan had come to the limelight as the Mayor of Istanbul in 1994-98! The AKP had ruled the big cities, like Istanbul and Ankara, for so many years.
Secondly, the local polls were considered as a referendum on Erdoğan’s dictatorial system! The Turkish Strongman had not only selected his party candidates before the local polls, but also addressed at least eight election rallies everyday… and, his efforts went in vain!!
Thirdly, Erdoğan had created a myth that he was invincible. However, the outcome of the latest polls has dispelled the myth!
The Opposition parties had made a right decision to form a pre-poll alliance. The CHP promised to bring political, economic and social changes in the country ahead of the polls, and it received support from the minority Kurdish party. The move has already paid dividends to Opposition parties. (Now), if the coalition governments perform well at local levels in the coming years, then the AKP will have to face a tough challenge in 2023 General Elections! Well, it might be so that President Erdoğan’s ‘Policy of Repression’ against his Political Opponents, Media and Protesters would not allow the concerned authorities to hold ‘free and fair’ elections in 2023, but the Turkish people have made it clear that they would not allow their President to neglect the democratic institutions in the pretext of populism! President Erdoğan’s ‘populism’ is no more popular in the country, straddling Eastern Europe and Western Asia with cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.
It is said that if any ruler neglects Democracy, then Democracy tends to hit back at the ruler… and Turkey, it is being seen, has set an example of this!
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