In Turkey, the active pre-election struggle of opposition and government candidates for the presidency of the country continues. So far, four candidates have been registered. These are the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), representative of the “Republican Alliance” bloc and incumbent President Recep Erdoğan; Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Popular Republican Party (PRP) and a single representative of the six opposition parties, the “Popular Alliance”; Sinan Oğan, leader of the “Ata” (“Father”) party; and Muharrem Ince, leader of the “Memleket” (“Fatherland”) party. Doğu Perinçek, head of Vatan (Motherland) party, also announced his plans to run for president, but so far he has apparently not passed all the procedural requirements.
It should be noted that, according to the Turkish electoral law, candidates for president from parliamentary parties do not need to collect 100,000 votes in support of their candidates because the parties they represent have already confirmed the trust of voters in previous elections. Accordingly, Recep Erdoğan and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu are registered by the fact of applying to the CEC.
Some experts assessing the process of nomination of candidates argue that the ruling regime by allegedly increasing the number of “opposition candidates” (such as Sinan Oğan, Muharrem Ince and Doğu Perinçek) is thereby trying to take away additional opposition votes in favor of a single candidate from the six-member bloc K. Kılıçdaroğlu and improve the position of incumbent President R. Erdoğan.
One cannot deny, of course, that almost all candidates use all kinds of (including “dirty”) political technologies to achieve success in the elections. Turkey is no exception in this regard. Meanwhile, judging by the number of registered candidates, so far we cannot accuse the ruling regime of violating the national legislation and the principle of justice. Naturally, the opposition in Turkey (as in all other countries), despite its criticism of the authorities, remains multidirectional. And if six parties have united in an alliance, it does not mean that there are no other political forces and programs.
When Muharrem Ince, the leader of Memleket, refused to support a single opposition candidate K. Kılıçdaroğlu (although he had previously been a member of the PPR and even ran for the presidential election in 2018), the opponents of the six parties rushed to suggest the alleged complicity of the ruling party in this process. If we follow this logic, why don’t the Turkish authorities increase the total number of “pocket” opposition candidates (including Doğu Perinçek)?
“The People’s Alliance would not spread such rumors if they were confident of their candidate’s success. The upcoming presidential elections in Turkey will be extremely difficult for both the government and opposition candidates for a number of internal and external reasons. In particular, these are: the consequences of the devastating earthquake; grave economic and financial crisis; irremovability of authorities for 20 years; large-scale corruption; mass repressions; the Kurdish question; relations with the United States, the EU and Russia; reduction of foreign investments; Turkey and external conflicts. All of these problems are a set of topics that tomorrow Turkey’s new leader will not just have to face, but to solve them.
Meanwhile, it would be unfair to accuse the candidate of the bloc of six opposition parties of his (their) lack of patriotism, since Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu may be willing to negotiate and cooperate constructively with the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (KDP). Opponents of the KPP leader accuse him of the KDP allegedly cooperating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is banned in Turkey. However, the reality is that the PDP represents 10 to 30 percent of the Kurdish population in Turkey; a serious politician should not totally ignore the opinion of Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin. It is unlikely that such electoral cooperation between the “People’s Alliance” and DPN is a manifestation of incitement to ethnic (in this case Kurdish) separatism and terrorism. Rather, it is a manifestation of the PPR’s political responsibility and wisdom.
Unfortunately, in politics, not everything that candidates promise in elections becomes a reality of life as a result of their success after the election. So in the Kurdish issue, in my opinion, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu can promise a lot to the Kurdish representatives in terms of democratization and liberalization of relations, release of their leaders and illegally repressed political figures by the previous administration, perhaps providing some rights in the field of cultural autonomy. However, a political and comprehensive settlement of the Kurdish question in Turkey on the initiative of the Turkish authorities is unlikely to take place.
With all the assessments and forecasts of experts and sociological research centers, today it is very difficult to predict with certainty who will be the leader at the end of the presidential elections on May 14 or 28 this year. One thing is clear that the gap between Recep Erdoğan and Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu may be quite small. Turkish society is able to decide on its own the choice of a leader for the next five years. However, this “choice” may be greatly influenced by the external interference of the same United States, which is interested in the strengthening of the subordinate bond of Turkey and reduction of the independent impulses of the Turkish diplomacy (especially in relation to Russia).
As for Moscow, in fact the Russian political and expert community has a very positive perception of the partnership between the countries that has taken shape over the past two decades of Recep Erdoğan’s rule. It is no secret that Russia is interested in the preservation of Turkey’s similar course, the implementation of major economic projects that have been launched and declared and the joint strengthening of elements of regional security. In this regard, it is quite logical that Moscow conditionally supports the candidacy and program of Recep Erdogan. However, there is, by definition, no external interference and Russian complicity in the Turkish elections.
The only major manifestation of Russia’s positive attitude to Turkey’s achievements on the eve of the upcoming elections is Russia’s partner reliability in all deals and projects of recent years. It just so happens that the first block of Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, Akkuyu, built by Rosatom using the latest technology, is scheduled for commissioning on April 27 this year. In other words, Turkey will acquire the status of a nuclear country on the eve of the election, the potential capacity of the nuclear power plant is 35 billion kWh per year and will cover 10% of Turkey’s electricity needs. In the long term, three more nuclear power units are planned to be launched by 2025. Undoubtedly, the “red ribbon” start of the first nuclear power plant in Turkey is a serious achievement of the Russian-Turkish business and political partnership during the years of R. Erdoğan’s rule, and its operation will significantly increase the level of energy security and political independence of the Turkish state.
In other words, Russia made a significant gift to Turkey on the eve of the general elections and the 100th anniversary of the Republic and has the right to expect the preservation of such a course of mutually beneficial cooperation from the Turkish authorities, regardless of their party affiliation and attitude towards the rest of the world.
In this sense, the outcome of the presidential election in Turkey is not yet known personally, but for the interests of the Russian-Turkish relations should be known with the index “confirm, preserve and develop”.
Aleksandr SVARANTS, PhD in political science, professor, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.