General elections appear to be on the agenda in 2023. That is what statements from President Erdoğan and his alliance partner, the MHP leader Bahçeli, suggest. Yet, the prospect of snap elections also looms. Many politicians, economists and journalists claim snap elections will be held in 2020. While snap elections may not seem logical, logics don’t apply to Turkish politics.
Why would Erdoğan opt for an election in 2020? Especially since his party is losing support in the polls and former AKP policymakers Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu make moves to found new parties.
Why would Erdoğan risk calling for elections, when opposition forces won major cities in the last local elections?
And would this make sense as Turkey’s economy is shrinking, unemployment is reaching a record high (14%), the official inflation rate is 11% (independent studies point to a rate of 16%), the budget for 2020 implies heavier taxes for ordinary citizens and AKP-friendly conglomerates boast a net worth of 18.9 billion Turkish lira?
That is not to mention the human rights violations that have become commonplace even after the state of emergency was ended. In short, calling for elections would appear like a risk for Erdoğan.
But risk-taking is part of Erdoğan’s strategy. For the past five years, Turks have been called at the ballot box every year, whether it be general elections, referendums or local elections. This year, residents of Istanbul had to vote twice, as Erdoğan refused to accept the result of local elections. No one actually believed he would cancel the Istanbul elections, but he did. As one could predict, such a move resulted in a major defeat.
President Erdoğan made clear he will not let oppositional mayors govern as they wish and will hinder them financially. Along with Bahçeli, he also vowed to take back Kurdish cities from “terrorists” and municipalities held by the pro-Kurdish HDP have been taken over by force. So far, trustees have been appointed in 28 HDP municipalities (including in the 3 cities of Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin), co-mayors have been jailed one after the one.
While the government is bold in undertaking such anti-democratic steps, it is clear that Turkey’s new presidential system is jammed. The only way for the AKP-MHP alliance and especially for Erdoğan to gain some legitimacy seems to plot another election and refresh confidence in his leadership across the world. Prior to the last local elections, Bahçeli himself said that a loss in major cities would cast a shadow on the presidential system.
Respectable economists such as Ümit Akçay and Ali Rıza Güngen, who have examined the government’s “New Economy Program” and other economic trends, contend a snap election might be on the way. (Here is a wonderful article on authoritarianism and crisis management by A.R.Güngen)
Pro-Kurdish HDP held a conference on the economic crisis last weekend. Alp Altınörs, a member of the HDP Economy Commission, told me the government spending is as much as it did before the local elections. The credit tap has been opened. “These are economic signs that point to an early election”, he said. Famous journalists like Kadri Gürsel and Murat Sabuncu have also raised the likelihood of an early election.
In the meantime, President Erdoğan tries to deter Babacan and Davutoğlu from establishing new parties. If these two new center-right parties can be formed by the end of the year, they might play a critical role to persuade “undecided voters”, that could reach up to 30%. Erdoğan foresees it might be best to crush them before such parties gain ground. One wonders what else he can do in that regard, given he seized Davutoğlu’s Şehir University, accusing his former foe of being a swindler.
Finally, a poll conducted by Konda showed that during military operations, like the “Peace Spring” operation to Northern Syria, Erdoğan’s support went up by 1.5 points.
The latest agreement with Libya and the escalation of tensions in the Mediterranean Sea and Europe in general might be no more than an endeavour at bolstering his base at home.
It’s hard to voice opposition to war when the coffins of slain soldiers are being sent back from Syria and when the nationalist mood is in full swing. However HDP deputy and former journalist Ahmet Şık, who has been jailed twice and is still tried on the Cumhuriyet case, says that they have the responsibility to question why so many young people are dying for.
The watchmen will not operate under a specific law or the constitution but under the government’s direct orders. Opposition parties thus warn of a “parallel police force” that enjoys unprecedented powers. At night, the watchmen could well turn into the state’s moral police.
Although the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled for his immediate release on Dec. 10, 2019, Osman Kavala remains as the only defendant under detention at the Gezi trial. So the question is whether the Council of Europe (CoE) and member states will stand up. If they will not do that, what is the function of the ECHR and why should other states bother to follow its rules?
Well-known economists have questioned how Kanal Istanbul will be financed, but they haven’t yet received any answers. Prof. Dr. Haluk Levent from Bilgi University believes that Kanal Istanbul is a Ponzi scheme, but with a difference: in a Ponzi Scheme, everything must be on the record, but this is not the case for Kanal Istanbul. The scheme is changing the town planning and zoning.
The media almost totally neglects or misinterprets cases related to July 15 in fear of being targeted themselves. On the other hand, high-ranking Gülenists, who have long fled the country, are in fact using the cases and prison sentences for their own PR.
Despite the government's pledge to combat femicide and domestic abuse, 474 women were murdered by men in 2019 in Turkey. Women’s rights advocates have repeatedly said the system is too weak to protect women.
Data from the last two years in Turkey points to a steady decrease in almost every aspect of a functioning, healthy democracy, such as freedom of speech, quality of education, gender and income equality, and the rule of law. It’s no surprise that society has become unhappier compared to 2017. Surely the AKP-MHP alliance is responsible for this great social, economic and political collapse.
Two days ago I went to the forth hearing of the Gezi trial in Silivri, where Kavala is the only imprisoned suspect among 16 civil society activists accused with ‘organizing and financing Gezi protests to overthrow the AKP government’ back in 2013. These trials are top examples of how rule of law is undermined and how human rights abuses are executed.
Kanal Istanbul is not only critical for Erdoğan financially. It also represents a political battlefield in which he wishes to beat his opponents, in this case the new opposition Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.
The severe violations of sick prisoners rights are against the law and contradict with international agreements Turkey partakes in. Human right advocates accuse the government of being unwilling to address these problems and point to the The European Council, which remains silent.
Just a few hours before police teargassed women in the streets of Istanbul, Emine Erdoğan, wife of President Tayyip Erdoğan, was giving a speech that denounced violence against women on the occasion of the International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women. However, Mrs. Erdoğan has also stated that the rise in violence against women is just a perception and that today, thanks to the AKP, women can ask for their rights.
As a journalist, I find it to be embarrassing and paradoxical that President Trump, not known to be a supporter of the free press, mocked the Turkish press.
Yet his words, “You sure you’re a reporter? You don’t work for Turkey with that question?” reflect the truth regarding the group of people Erdoğan took along with him to Washington. These words sum up the status of the Turkish mainstream media.
Turkey generally does not rank high in suicide rates. One reason is religion; in Islam suicide is a sin. Culture and family ties also are among strong reasons why people refrain from taking their lives according to experts. However figures show that there is a rise in suicide rates in Turkey. The society does not only suffer from economical crisis and neo-liberalism, but also a harsh transformation from a hybrid democracy to a more authoritarian state.
Last week, another bunch of journalists were sacked from daily Hürriyet newspaper, which is still considered as the “flagship” of the mainstream media. In fact, Hürriyet lost its prestige long while ago. It doesn’t really matter who the editor in chief is now. Or why and how journalists were sacked. It is the final nail in the coffin. The mainstream media resembles the living death.
By looking at mainstream media, military salutes of popular figures or twitter trending topics, one might assume that Turkish people were heavily supporting the military operation in Northern Syria -officially called “Operation Peace Spring” ending in 8 days- no matter what the rest of the world says. When there is any military action in Turkey or outside its borders, it becomes even harder for critical voices to be heard.
Associate Professor Şık was the deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University. Then, due to his scientific research, he became an enemy of the state.