The other, less discussed issues in Turkish presidential elections

Developing Just Leadership

Crescent International

Shawwal 30, 1444 2023-05-20

Daily News Analysis

by Crescent International

Turkish presidential elections are heading into the second-round to be held on May 28.

Even if Recep Tayyip Erdogan loses the presidential election in the second round—a big if—the fact is that AKP won 266 parliamentary seats.

Together with its alliance partners, the AKP’s total comes to 321 seats, giving it a comfortable majority in the 600-member parliament.

The CHP-led opposition alliance won only 166 seats.

What this means in practical terms is that the opposition will not be able to govern Turkiye effectively even if it wins the presidency.

The general opinion, based on the May 14 results, seems to be that Erdogan is likely to be re-elected in the second round because he only has to garner about 1% additional votes to see him over the 50.1% threshold.

His anticipated re-election and lead in the first round, however, are not the most important aspects of the presidential elections.

As the election date approached, many western media outlets openly expressed their hope of seeing Erdogan lose.

Erdogan’s opportunism and unprincipled conduct of politics has created unnecessary headaches for the people of West Asia as well as his NATO allies.

During the election campaign, the west-backed opposition and the AKP attempted, as much as possible, to present an image of inclusivity.

Closer to the election date (May 14), both sides went into overdrive to try and mobilize their core constituency and galvanize the support of their loyalists.

Both sides peddled nationalist narratives.

Nationalism is part of both the left and right political spectrum in Turkish political culture and the debate among various political trends is mostly about whether one is nationalist enough.

The nationalism of Erdogan’s side is wrapped in Islamic garb while that of the opposition is packaged within a secular framework.

Utilizing this factor, Erdogan’s side stimulated the strong affinity of the Turkish masses towards Islam and Islamic institutions during the last days of campaigning.

While it is not surprising that Erdogan’s tactic of resorting to brand himself as leader of the so- called Islamic trend in Turkiye produced the expected results, what was most interesting was that it also mobilized Turkish voters in Europe, especially in Germany.

Turkish diaspora is quite established in Germany but does not feel accepted by the political establishment and the wider society in the host country.

Muslims and Turks in Germany are being pressured to assimilate into non-Muslim culture rather than integrate.

This flawed European policy of assimilation is backfiring.

It is bringing socio-political forces that are opposed by the western political establishment, to power in Turkiye.

This flawed European policy is winning over the votes of disenfranchised diaspora for Islam-leaning parties in the country of their origin.

This reality reflects a much deeper problem.

Turks living in Germany and the rest of Europe are under constant pressure to adopt secularism and move away from their Islamic identity.

For example, reporting on Turkish voters in Germany, the London-based Middle East Eye quoted one Turkish-German citizen saying that “if you support President Erdogan, if you are an AK Party supporter or even remotely sympathise with him, you can be ostracised, condemned and even lose your job.”

This attitude comes as no surprise to those familiar with the assimilation-driven policies of the EU.

Even with massive institutional, political, economic and social support, European regimes have not managed to erode the Islamic political identity of Turks residing in Germany.

This is a sign of the ideological and institutional defeat of anti-Islam forces in Europe that are trying to assimilate Muslims in Germany and the wider EU.

It is also another sign of the resilience of Islam and the Turkish-Muslim diaspora.

Since the world is moving away from the west-centric global order, this phenomenon manifested through the Turkish presidential elections among Turks in Germany will further contribute to the establishment of the multi-polar global order.

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