Turkey entered into a critical threshold as of yesterday (April 16 2017). President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was not able to obtain the results he desired. Even though Erdogan – founder of AKP who has been ruling the country for the last 15 years seems as he won a victory, he suffered the most serious defeat of his political career. For the first time in his career, he lost the election in the 8 large capital cities amongst Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Mersin, Diyarbakir which determines the outcome of the elections. Witch hunt which started following the corruption operations initiated on December 17, 2013 and continued full speed after the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 has played a big role in this outcome. As a matter of fact, these large cities are the ones where bureaucrats and highly educated people live.
Following July 15, approximately 150 thousand public servants living in these cities were fired from their professions by the statutory laws published. The impact of these events surfaced as the result of the referendum held yesterday. On the other hand, the effect of arresting co-chairs, and mayors of HDP which represent 6 million people, reflected to the election results in many cities beginning with Diyarbakir.
Referendum period was conducted with pr-government media, justice system, bureaucracy, intelligence agency and Turkish Armed Forces. All of the state’s resources were mobilized to declare victory out of the referendum. Nevertheless, all the unlawful incidents happened at the polls, the High Council of Judges (YSK) declared the ballots which weren’t stamped as voted YES, resulted in a rigged referendum.
On the other hand, Erdogan had entered the referendum with the support of the nationalists and radical Islamic groups. However, the desired outcome could not be achieved by YES campaign. Because, on its own AKP’s vote results in the elections has been between 45 percent and 51 percent so far. The ratio did not change. In other words, the results showed not all radical Islamic groups and nationalists gave their support. The indication of Erdogan’s loss was clearly visible by the photo taken while he was giving his speech even before the polls closed.
The photo taken while Erdogan was giving his speech even before the polls closed regarding the questionable and rigged referendum, was a clear indicator of Erdogan’s loss.
On the other hand, Erdogan was not the only one defeated. Opposition who has been only watching all the unlawful incidents going on in Turkey, arresting of pregnant women or women giving birth on their own in prison cells, silencing of opposition media outlets including the ones that belong to Gülen Movement, and Kurds, along with arresting thousands of people, journalists, judges, prosecutors, academics, police officers – they too lost yesterday. They finally realized that they do not have a place within the new system. They lost every election they entered with the AKP government. This last loss showed that despite the obstruction of objective justice, opposition, free media, public is not happy with the state of affairs. Yesterday Erdogan lost, so did the opposition.
Despite the outcome which was ‘yes’, those who believed that this was obtained illegally and unfairly and said ‘No’ were the winners.
International reflection of the election results: it wasn’t a fair election
After the unofficial results were announced, traditionalized congratulatory calls weren’t received last night. Spokesperson of the US Secretary State stated they will do an evaluation after the official results and OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) report. Again in the United States, result of the election was commented as “Referendum took place in a fearful atmosphere”. These reports also showed that the world is not convinced the election was held fairly. On the European front, the results were interpreted as “Declaration of Sultanate”. Moreover, Germany’s Martin Schulz proclaimed Erdogan’s loss by stating ‘results showed that Turkey is much bigger than Erdogan’.
He had announced that neither Europe nor USA was planning a future with Erdogan following these events and after seeing this transition into a dictatorship, they began to look for an alternative. The first statement to come from the Council of Europe was not congratulatory, but a warning. In an article regarding the statement given by General Secretary of the Council of Europe, Thorjon Jangland stated, “ Turkish government must be very careful about its next steps,” and emphasized the importance of rule of law. The statement was not specifically towards Erdogan, but rather gave a clear message regarding fundamental rights and freedoms that are violated by the Turkish decrees.
What is going to happen from here on
Following the election, Erdogan did not talk about brotherhood, peace, and a message during his speech that embraces all of the nation. He stated that he might push for a referendum on death penalty. Indeed, this sentence foreshadowed what is yet to come. The regime will not be the only thing to change in Turkey. The current witch hunt that is taking place against all dissidents will increase drastically. This time, it will not be only members of Gülen Movement, Kurdish or Liberals. It will spread onto the parties that have been defeated during the elections, the Kemalists, the politicians establishing the reformists movement within the nationalists, and even the individuals within AKP itself.
Breaking off from Europe – Shifting towards becoming a Middle Eastern country
On the other hand, Erdogan’s statement ‘we will bring back the death penalty’ undermines Turkey’s longstanding goal to become a member of European Union. If death penalty comes into force, Turkey’s EU accession process will come to an end. Turkey will completely separate itself from the West and maybe shifts into becoming a country similar to Pakistan or a typical middle eastern country. The consequences of the election will include secular struggle in Turkey to the front line of Radical Islam, and the pressure by the radical Islamists will be much more felt. On the other hand, those consisting of the other 50% who voted no and were declared as ‘terrorist’, ‘traitors’ before the referendum will not accept the outcome of the election. Chaos and maybe even civil war will be the consequence as these people express their objections and go out on the streets, raise their voice and fight their way to try to make sure that justice prevails. Meanwhile in the Kurdish region, millions voted ‘no’ and this will not only raise objections but will also usher the ending of the resolution process. Turkey will plumb the depths, but the need for democracy and judicial independence will be felt more than ever.
These complications will reflect on the economy as well, and it will cause a great economic crisis. Following this crisis, the supporters of Erdogan will detract their support after finally seeing all of the problems. These results will act as a turning point in order to rise up from the bottom. When we can grasp the importance of the division of powers and the independence of the institution, maybe it will be a step towards the establishment of a new democratic Turkey following in the post-Erdogan’s rule. Which is why, just as a well-known author Cetin Altan stated, regardless of everything ‘we shouldn’t let our necks get burned under this hot sun, keep the chin up’. As Martin Schulz stated, ‘Turkey is much bigger than Erdogan’.