Disappointment is spreading: among those Turkish voters who, after 20 years of AKP rule with all its Islamist, populist and divisive ingredients, who finally wanted to breathe a sigh of relief again; among those abroad who were already almost certain that long-term ruler Erdogan would finally have to leave the stage, clearing the way for a pluralistic, Europe-oriented Türkiye. Now the future of the country on the Bosphorus will probably have to decide in the runoff election in two weeks time which path Türkiye will take in the next few years. The result of the first ballot is already a great, surprising success for Erdogan. Apparently, a considerable number of Turks regard him as a savior, despite the disastrous government record.
The ruler already claimed victory yesterday, but according to the results published by the state news agency he is well below 50 percent and thus around four percent ahead of his challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu. The AKP did surprisingly well in the parliamentary elections that took place at the same time. According to the counts on Monday morning, Erdogan’s party alliance is just under 50 percent, the CHP alliance at around 35 percent.
Since neither Erdogan nor Kilicdaroglu got 50 percent of the votes, a runoff election is expected to take place at the end of May. The ruler himself has already announced that he is ready for a runoff. The opposition around Kemal Kilicdaroglu can expect a May of manipulation, smear campaigns and renewed attempts at falsification on election day. In the runoff election in two weeks, Erdogan will probably have a head start. His alliance achieved an absolute majority in parliament: 322 of the 600 seats. That could persuade many voters in the second round of the presidential election to vote for stable conditions instead of voting for a candidate who would not have his own majority in parliament.
In the new parliament, the extreme right will now take the reins, together with the successor organization to the Islamist-terrorist Hezbollah. These are the forces that have already caused Türkiye to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention to Combat Violence Against Women. Now, after their appreciation by Turkish voters, it is to be feared that these parties will annul laws protecting children from sexual abuse, so that children can also be married in accordance with Sharia law, and homosexuality will be prosecuted. This alliance in parliament, forged out of Islamism and extremism, now has an absolute majority.
The far right is clearly the winner. Sinan Ogan, the third presidential candidate, also won, surprisingly getting around five percent and making a decisive contribution to the fact that the presidential election is likely to go into a second round. Ogan does not represent the other shades of the extreme right. Not Islamist, but extremely nationalist. His topics: resentment against Kurds and refugees. Not a good omen for the upcoming runoff.
If this run-off election shows a very close result, another group of voters could possibly “tip the scales”: The Turks living abroad in Europe! The first figures clearly show that the election campaign events of Erdogan and his AKP in the Turkish mosque communities have again been successful, with strong help from the associations in Germany or Austria, i.e. Ditib or Atib. The Turks living in Germany voted for the long-term ruler with 65 percent, in Austria it was even almost 77 percent. It can be assumed that the figures in other European countries with a large number of Turks will show similar results. As a consequence, this could mean that the Turks abroad will decide on the future of their home country.
Even if one can only give partial credence to the state electoral authorities – many urban electoral districts that are not suspected of being Erdogan fan clubs have still not been counted – the disappointment is great among the voters, who had hoped already in the first round to be able to call out a “farewell” to Erdogan. The mood was particularly tense in the intellectual scene in Istanbul, where people live who have never voted for the autocrat and who are backing the left-wing opposition. People joked, laughed – and were somehow confident because the polls looked so good for Kilicdaroglu and even better for the CHP-led coalition of six. Confidence has evaporated the day after the election, and the election result contradicts the pre-election polls. Worse, behind Türkiye lies a night of wanton damage to the democratic election.
Across the country, counts in counties that vote for the CHP have been delayed by any means necessary. AKP helpers repeatedly complained about the counting at the respective locations, so that it had to be recounted several times. This allowed the results from the AKP strongholds to arrive first – and at the beginning of the election evening the impression of an overwhelming victory for Erdogan was created. In the predominantly Kurdish-populated areas of eastern Türkiye voters were massively intimidated by the police, and hundreds of voters were used as election counters without their knowledge so that they could not vote. But they weren’t allowed to count.
Austrian MP Ewa Dziedzic, who traveled to Türkiye as an election observer, reported that she and her colleagues were prevented by police officers from observing the counting of the ballot papers, and some officers even held their hands to their guns as a threat.
After all the corruption and nepotism, after mass impoverishment and inflation rates of up to 70 percent, the harassed freedom of expression and the dismantling of the rule of law, after the obvious state failure in the devastating earthquake, in the provision and in the rescue of the survivors, Erdogan is now back in the pole position. He is now the favorite in the runoff. His means were enough to carry him into the second round: demonizing the political opponent, without scruples about lies and defamation of all kinds, constantly stirring up fears – of terrorism, the Kurds, homosexuals, the West – and the aggressive identity politics, with which Erdogan turns every election into a vote between “believers” and “infidels”. Add a few alms from funds that have been plundered from the population for years, and the next term of office is already within reach.
For all observers, but also for many liberal voters, today’s Monday is a shock. The discontent, which does exist in the country, has not played into the hands of the opposition, including the more liberal splinter groups set up by former AKP leaders, whose candidates ran on the social-democratic CHP lists. Rather, the dissatisfied have turned to other parties in Erdogan’s alliance: to the right-wing extremist MHP, to the Islamist YRP.
If Erdogan triumphs again, there might not be much left of Turkish democracy.
All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research and Study Center.