Sunday

29th May 2022

Analysis

Turkey elections: More democracy or authoritarianism?

  • Turkey could for the first time since 2002 get a coalition government which would be a blow to president Erdogan’s dreams of an almighty presidential system. (Photo: svenwerk)

Turkey is heading to general elections on Sunday (7 June) which many seasoned observers argue will be fateful for the future of Turkish democracy.

The ruling party AKP, which has been at the helm of the country since 2002, is still the frontrunner and will certainly be the biggest party according to all election polls. However, winning big is just not enough for president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party this time around.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The pro-Kurdish party HDP has risen as the best possible counterweight to Erdogan’s ambitions.

Erdogan, who has taken his oath of office by publicly and officially declaring that he would be neutral and above party politics, has been very actively campaigning for AKP, violating the basic principles of the Turkish constitution.

He is asking of voters to elect 400 AKP deputies out of 550 in the parliament, so that his party will go over the threshold of 360 deputies needed to change the constitution without being forced to go to a referendum.

This will enable Turkey, according to Erdogan, to sort out its decades-long and ossified problems and make the Turkish economy one of the strongest on earth.

Deep in his mind, he wants a presidential system.

But it is not the American presidential system he has been envying where checks and balances are strongly entrenched in the political system. Rather he is asking for a Mexican style of presidency where the leader has almost unchecked powers.

Success hangs on the Kurds

For those who think Turkish democracy is at stake, the pro-Kurdish party HDP has risen as the best possible counterweight to Erdogan’s ambitions.

Taking a huge risk, HDP has decided to enter the elections as a party instead of running as independent candidates to give it the past chance of passing the 10 percent threshold needed to get representation in parliament, the highest among Council of Europe countries.

So, for many, the fate of Turkish democracy ironically hinges upon the success of HDP, once seen not more than a window dressing for PKK, recognised as a terrorist organisation by EU, Nato and US.

By expanding and deepening its outreach to almost all walks of life in Turkey i.e. secular, religious, Kurdish, Turkish, Alevites, minorities, the charismatic leader of HDP, Selahattin Demirtas, seems to have succeeded for the first time in the party history to convince at least a considerable part of Turkish constituency in the Western part of the country that he is not a mere puppet of PKK but a democrat.

He and his party is also seen as one of the last chances to stop Erdogan’s ambitions to change the parliamentary system to a presidential system which will bode very ill for fundamental freedoms and rights.

Governing coalition?

If HDP goes above the 10 percent threshold, there is a good chance that AKP for the first time since 2002 will be forced into a coalition government which might give a fatal blow to Erdogan’s dreams of an almighty presidential system.

If not, AKP could gather enough deputies to go to a referendum to change the parliamentary system. Both the main opposition party CHP and the nationalist party MHP, that will certainly pass over the 10 percent threshold, cannot tip the balance.

It is only HDP that could make a difference.

Thinking of the developments since Gezi Park protests and corruption charges of 17 December 2013, a large segment of society is quite concerned if Erdogan and AKP win big enough to change the political system.

Fundamental freedoms and rights, the very basic principles of democracy i.e. rule of law, independence of judiciary, separation of powers, media freedom are at stake in this election.

Press under pressure

The prosecutors and judges who have initiated the corruption charges of 17 December have all been sacked.

Two judges who have decided in favor of releasing Hidayet Karaca, the chairman of Samanyolu TV, one of the biggest broadcasting companies who have been in jail since December for allegedly ‘leading an armed terrorist organisation’ have been very swiftly imprisoned as well, which is unprecedented in Turkish history.

Meanwhile, Erdogan recently sued Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, which published the footage of the alleged transfer of weapons to radical groups to Syria.

Erdogan is asking prosecutors to punish Dundar with one aggravated, one normal life sentence and 42 years in prison.

These are just a few of many worrisome developments in the last several months.

The fear is that if Erdogan’s party, which he has unconstitutionally campaigned for, comes out of the ballot box strong enough to change the parliamentary system, Turkey will have to brace for a more authoritarian future.

If HDP can succeed in overcoming the threshold, it might contain Erdogan’s ambitions of an omnipotent president.

Selcuk Gultasli is the Brussels bureau chief of Zaman.

Analysis

Erdogan down but not out

Turkey’s voters have shown they don't want to be ruled by one man, slowly shifting away from Europe.

Opinion

Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine - the case for granting EU candidacy

Granting EU candidacy status to Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine will firmly anchor their ties with Brussels — and enable the EU to secure its place in the Black Sea region, connecting Europe to China and energy-rich Central Asia, bypassing Russia.

Opinion

The EU Parliament Covid inquiry: the questions MEPs must ask

A basic lack of transparency around the EU's vaccines procurement negotiations has prevented effective public and parliamentary scrutiny. It has also made it impossible to answer some of the key questions we put forward here.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us