Why Erdogan’s win in Turkey is a vote for one-man rule, not democracy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 9:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 July, 2018, 9:53pm

The reelection of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared by some to be free, fair and representative of the will of most of the Turkish population, has dire implications – both domestic and foreign (“Erdogan declared winner in Turkey’s presidential election, extending 15-year grip on power”, June 25).

Supporters of Erdogan suggest that the election only reinforces the democratic nature of the country and that his critics must now accept the public verdict. The fact, however, is that Erdogan stopped at nothing to create an internal social and political atmosphere that stifled his opposition and made it possible for him to win an outright majority.

This raises serious questions about the legitimacy of his victory that has bestowed on him sweeping powers and placed Turkey under a de facto one-man rule. Nothing will stop him now from pursuing his ambition, as he can now exercise absolute power.

Having reached the pinnacle of power with effectively no constraints, Erdogan will pursue his nationalist theme and Islamic agenda even more vigorously. He will further strive to play a substantial economic, social and political role in many countries in the Middle East and the Balkans.

Indeed, Erdogan is bent on restoring much of the influence that was once exercised by the Ottoman Empire. His dream, as he and many of his top aides have often articulated, is to preside over the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 2023 and be recognised as the new Atatürk (“father of the Turks”) of Turkey’s modern era.

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However, while the Turkey of yesteryear embraced democratic values, today’s Turkey under Erdogan has violated every code of human rights and every principle of a democratic form of government. Any election, however free and fair, is only one element and does not in and of itself constitute a free democracy; the election in Turkey is no different. Erdogan may proclaim that he won the election fair and square, but, in reality, he exploited the election to consolidate his power under the guise of democracy.

Although the current global shift toward acceptance of authoritarianism, as seen in Vladimir Putin’s Russia, the Philippines under Rodrigo Duterte and China under Xi Jinping, does not justify Erdogan’s actions, it sadly does serve to explain his victory.

Dr Alon Ben-Meir, Centre for Global Affairs, NYU