“For the Turkish opposition, the electoral defeat against Erdogan is above all a moral and ethical defeat”
Ihe democracy in Türkiye has spoken. With a turnout of 87% in the first round and 85% in the second, the Turks demonstrated exemplary good citizenship, but for what result? The motley coalition of several opposition political parties led by Kemal Kiliçdaroglu failed to depose the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The disappointment of the social democratic camp is great as to the future of democracy in Turkey.
Through the ballot box, the Turks have clearly chosen an authoritarian status quo rather than betting on the promise, not guaranteed, of a saving democratic alternation. The defeat is all the more painful for the opposition that it is tainted with dishonor. Focused between the two rounds on a nationalist and anti-immigration discourse, aimed above all at Syrian refugees, it found itself at odds with the deep aspirations of a large fringe of the coalition.
Against all expectations, by sowing doubt and confusion about the identity and cohesive strength of this coalition, this tension on xenophobic nationalism has eclipsed all the other subjects that are much more urgent and relevant for the country: the deep economic crisis, painful inflation, the trauma of the earthquake, which one might think would be enough to punish the power in place. Quite the reverse happened. The fear of an even more uncontrollable destabilization narrowly missed giving victory in the first round to President Erdogan. At the same time, his alliance is also approaching 50% in the legislative elections. The second round of the presidential election has just ensured him a total victory, up to 52%.
Beyond the disappointment and disavowal of the democratic model, what do these presidential and legislative elections teach us?
Despite the flaws in his record, Erdogan’s electoral tactical skill remains intact. He knew how to divert attention from economic difficulties, from the dizzying and worrying drop in purchasing power, to give priority and strike the chords of the Turks: border security, regional stability, Turkey’s status on the the international scene and the country’s performance in terms of the national defense industry. A tactical advantage all the more judicious as the opposition, new to its coalition and inexperienced on this international terrain, could only respond to it with theoretical, clumsy and insufficiently credible promises.
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