The Turkish voters have spoken and out of the blue the political panorama on Europe’s southeastern border may be very completely different. Beforehand, opinion polls attributed opposition chief Kemal Kiliçdaroglu nearly victory, if not already within the first spherical, then no less than within the closing sport on Might 28. However it’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who gained 49.5 % of the vote on Sunday (towards 44.9 for his rival). Partly in view of the excessive turnout, he subsequently has the bulk and subsequently a brand new time period up for grabs. The parliamentary majority gained his AKP social gathering on Sunday.
Erdogan’s seemingly victory may be very dangerous information for press freedom, human rights and the Kurdish minority in Turkey. With this end result, Turkey’s strongman perpetuates his private energy – exercised in varied constitutional roles since 2003 – for 5 years till in precept 2028. A tough blow to the democratic opposition, which united efficiently however underestimated the assist for the opponent.
Washington can also be sad with the result. The People make no secret of the truth that they’d somewhat lose the fickle Erdogan, a difficult NATO ally, than get wealthy. As a presidential candidate, Joe Biden advocated in 2019 that america assist the Turkish opposition “to sort out and defeat Erdogan”: he ought to “pay a value” for his authoritarianism.
Nonetheless, there are additionally some caveats to notice. To start with, this end result saves Turkey from the dangerous state of affairs of post-election turbulence. The sort that the US skilled on January 6, 2021, when the incumbent president, out of loser’s rancor, incited his supporters to a coup – however in a rustic with weaker democratic establishments. The large query of whether or not there may be nonetheless room for a non-violent switch of energy in Turkey after 20 years of Erdogan stays open in the meanwhile. The democratic opposition, which confirmed nice energy and resilience on this marketing campaign, can have a brand new likelihood in 5 years’ time. Quite a bit can occur between at times.
On one other stage, a established order in Ankara saves the European Union a whole lot of complications. Turning the web page to a brand new chapter within the relationship takes nice willpower, maybe greater than is out there. Rejoicing over an opposition victory would shortly give method in Brussels and EU capitals to troublesome questions on two themes: EU enlargement and migration.
As for the primary, it’s handy for everybody that the accession negotiations with Turkey have come to an entire standstill (as Member States noticed with out remorse in 2018). The deep discomfort about Turkish membership in international locations reminiscent of France, the Netherlands, Austria or Greece dates again effectively earlier than the autocratic flip that Erdogan began in 2013. On the idea of affordable democratic objections, nonetheless, you’re extra firmly able to say no than with solely ‘Muslim nation’, ‘too massive’ or ‘no sense anymore’.
Conversely, a brand new, democratic, pro-EU authorities in Ankara would immediate constructive indicators from the Union, reminiscent of reopening accession talks or visa liberalisation. Particularly unpopular within the context of the Russian struggle, during which she already has her palms full with the guarantees made to Ukraine, Moldova and the international locations of the Western Balkans. Therefore an analyst Politico stated: “A democratic Turkey is a way more basic drawback for the EU.”
Secondly, so far as migration is anxious, there can be a sigh of reduction right here and there. In March 2016, the EU member states concluded the well-known settlement with Erdogan on the reception of greater than 3.5 million Syrian refugees. It eased tensions at Europe’s exterior borders at a time of closed inner borders and issues in regards to the far proper. However in Turkey itself, the deal has misplaced assist in recent times. The social effort is subsequently nice. In a nasty financial state of affairs, the Syrians grew to become scapegoats. The opposition campaigned to ship them again, which might jeopardize the EU deal. Erdogan, alternatively, saved to the agreements (in contrast to EU member states such because the Netherlands, which accepted fewer asylum seekers for voluntary resettlement than promised).
Lastly, Turkey has been balancing between Europe and Russia since Ottoman occasions. The nation could also be a troublesome NATO ally, however that’s exactly the way it can – as a robust Black Sea neighbor of each combatants – mediate within the struggle. Each Zelensky and Putin worth their private connection to the Turkish president. If he did a miracle on the finish of Might, Kiliçdaroglu would additionally construct it. Right here geostrategic continuity trumps heads or tails of the poll field.
Luke of Mediator is a political thinker and historian.
A model of this text additionally appeared within the Might 17, 2023 newspaper.