We will soon see the true colors of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. His party lost the election for Mayor of Istanbul for the second time and by a much larger margin than the original “contested” election that was voided over “irregularities.” Now, there is no ambiguity about the will of the people, sending a message to the authoritarian leader who once said, “whoever wins Istanbul, wins Turkey”.
According to the BBC:
President Erdogan – the most powerful leader Turkey has seen in modern times – has just been dealt the biggest blow of his career.
This result shows that he made an incredible miscalculation by calling for the election to be re-run.
It will likely hasten splits in his ruling AK party and amplify talk of the post-Erdogan era. He will stress that he’s in power for the foreseeable future – elections are not scheduled until 2023 – but many will expect them earlier.
The result in Istanbul feels like it could be a precursor to them.
All things being equal, I don’t think Erdogan is going to accept this defeat. He’s not going to subvert the will of the people again by calling for a third election, but we should expect turmoil of some sort. Scandals may pop up surrounding mayor-elect Ekrem Imamoglu. Threats will be made behind the scenes. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Erdogan, it’s that nobody is allowed to oppose him without repercussions.
It will be harder to quell opposition now that the people have dealt him such a blow. He would have been much better off accepting the narrow loss initially instead of turning this into a mandate against him and his party. He faces an uphill challenge saving face and keeping his iron grip on control of the nation indefinitely, as he plans.
Just a year ago, Turkey was breaking away from western influence and starting the process of reviving the Ottoman Empire. Now, we’ll see if Democracy will be allowed to change things or if Erdogan will find some way to retain power indefinitely.
“In reality, he’ll still be president, his coalition will still control parliament – although many will perceive his defeat as the beginning of the end for him.” – Murat Yetkin
Turkey’s future may no longer include Erdogan, a prospect that hasn’t been seen as possible by many in the west for some time. If he can survive until the 2023 elections, we’ll get to see if he can hold on to power or if he’ll let it go willingly.
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