By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
Those having great concern of the rise of Turkish President Recep Erdogan as a threat to free speech and his pursuit of an increasingly autocratic government can breathe, at least in the short term, a collective sigh of relief. With ninety-nine percent of the polling counted, Erdogan’s AK Party lost its parliamentary majority, preventing it from successfully pursuing constitutional changes that could solidify his power and what likely would lead further erosion of the traditionally secular state. This is the most significant setback to the AKP in the thirteen years it has governed over Turkey.
The announcement of the loss of majority came as a surprise as many feared manipulation of the voting process and witnessed numerous attempts at voter suppression and the jailing of media officials and those critical of the president.
A two-thirds majority sought by President Erdogan would mean his party could unilaterally amend Turkey’s constitution to extend his powers and establish a favorable presidential republic. The AKP garnered forty one percent of the vote; the Republican People’s Party (CHP) 25 percent, and the largely Kurdish HDP ten. The HDP’s breaking of the ten percent threshold is significant because it permits the party to be seated in parliament. This also mandates that the AKP form either a minority government or enter into a coalition with another party.
HDP was bolstered by a formation of a unified party in its attempt to achieve the ten percent standing. It also found support from the young, gay rights advocates, leftists and staunch reactionaries to President Erdogan and the AKP.
In the months prior to this election we have among others reported the increasing erosion of the democratic process and tolerance of opposition in Turkey. Several articles may be read in the links HERE, HERE and HERE.)
Turkey engaged in political intrigue in an attempt to provide distraction and influence over elections.
To add additional historical perspectives, in the early spring of 2014, on the pretext of a leaked audiotape where allegedly several top security officers of the nation discussed an attack on the Tomb of Tomb of Suleiman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire–which is located in Syria and the subject of much worry about an attack staged by ISIS–lead to the government declaring a ban on Internet users accessing Twitter. This occurred one day following a ruling by a Turkish court overturning a previous ban on the social medium. Several days later, a new court hearing provided another media ban on the release of the recording.
Several opposition figures, including Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP, feared President Erdogan would cause military action to be taken in Syria to bolster nationalism behind his party. Earlier an F-16 of the Turkish Air Force shot down a Syrian jet, spawning speculation the president would seize this as an opportunity. In an interview Mr. Kilicdaroglu stated:
“Erdogan recognizes that he is in trouble. That is why he wants to go to war with Syria. We raised the issue of the Tomb of Suleiman Shah [the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman dynasty whose tomb is protected by Turkish troops]. They instantly shot down the Syrian plane. They are doing their best to go to war against Syria, to drag us into that quagmire. To this end, they are playing good cop, bad cop with al-Qaeda. They tell al-Qaeda, ‘Go attack and tear down our [Turkish flag raised over Suleiman Shah’s tomb] so we have an excuse to go in.’ Syria is no threat to Turkey. The whole world knows this. The Syrian plane was a reconnaissance plane that was seeking al-Qaeda targets. By shooting it down, they helped al-Qaeda.”
Probably the most troubling and certainly outrageous events leading up to the June seven election show a concerted and lethal aspect of the worry the HDP party conjured.
According the Diken news service various social media reported one hundred twenty two attacks were executed against HDP headquarters and events within the country. These reportedly occurred in sixty of Turkey’s eighty one provinces.
The violence and harassment of the pro-Kurdish population culminated in the simultaneous bombings of the HDP bureaus in Adana and Mersin. Adana is Turkey’s fourth largest city. The Adana attack nearly killed the highly revered and popular party chairman Selahattin Demirtas who was late in arriving at the later devastated headquarters. It is believed he was a high-value target in the attack.
Returning to the elections, it is welcome news that this could signal a derailment of President Ergodan’s terminal journey into authoritarianism in Turkey. Yet given past events it is unlikely that the censorship and intimidation will cease immediately. If it is to be that President Erdogan and his government can be controlled or defanged, despite his winning of his presidential election, it would be welcome if this is to occur by popular and legitimate vote. This will establish legitimacy to government and the direction of Turkey without the taint of the several coups d’état prosecuted by the military during previous leaders’ divergences.
It is with much hope to many this will enable the start of a new beginning for the Turkish People.
By Darren Smith
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