Election puzzle: Turkey’s descent into the complete unknown

The complex puzzle called Turkey is now entering a phase of fear, rage and loathing - and, among the Turkish elite, one of wishful thinking.

With the elections seemingly fixed for late spring next year (unless unexpected, extraordinary circumstances force snap polls) the country, whose bumpy adventures leave its neighbours -- and allies afar -- short of breath, shows all sorts of signs of a systemic crisis. It is bound to become unbearable at some point, inevitably leading to a domestic confrontation. Whether or not that clash is a peaceful one is anyone’s guess. Nobody has any idea what awaits Turkey in the course of some 10 months -- and beyond.

The main reason for this immense set of uncertainties is, primarily, the success of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in creating a country in his own image. His mind has always been chaotic, labyrinthine. Extremely volatile and slippery” in his acts, Erdoğan has projected a sense of unpredictability to the entire society, and a mindset that thrives on it. The deeper the crisis he may have caused, the more determined his drive for survival appears.

During the past three years, Turkey has experienced a steady descent into a dark abyss. The absence of the rule of law and the collapse of checks and balances, accompanied by the de-institutionalisation of the state and a massive transformation of the bureaucracy by the appointment of partisan -- and unqualified -- cadres, has pumped up a tsunami of corruption and missteps -- at the central and local level.

This pattern has been accompanied by the act of turning Turkey into a country ruled by the strategic notions of security and militarism”. For some time, the critics of the Erdoğan administration have been airing the term police state”, but lately, after a series of revelations by fugitive mob boss, Sedat Peker, and reports dripping” from some tiny, discontented parts of the bureaucracy, the term mafia state” has taken root in describing this latest phase. Perhaps, one could argue, it is a combination of the two.

The upcoming elections are part of a complex puzzle. One certainty is that, as always, the country inevitably will be swept into it under very turbulent circumstances. Having been extremely obstinate (in his quasi economic theories”), relentless (in targeting the opposition and dissidents), and surrounded by greedy business circles (from all sides of the societal spectrum, not only Islamists), flunkey bureaucrats and the mob, Erdoğan is fully aware of the stakes as the elections approach: The sheer scale of his abuse of power makes the vote a lethal game of survival: He simply cannot afford to lose.

On the other hand, as contradictory as it seems, he has a vision for 2023. He is resolved to crown his rule as an ultimate victor, as Turkey will celebrate its centennial. Having come this far, Erdoğan will do his utmost to turn the pages written by the nation’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. If he wins the elections, one should take it for granted that Turkey will have passed an historic threshold, a point of no return.

With its Western vocation terminated, we shall all see the emergence of a Central Asian type of Turkish republic, with more ingredients of political Islam than those in existence, but otherwise identical in its structure: A dynasty taking shape with a dead-loyal administration, and a paralysed society, driven by fear -- pushed to a uniform identity.

The opposition seem either unaware or indifferent. The current political tendency is to adopt the conformist notion that the economic crisis will hit rock bottom so badly that Erdoğan and his men will fall by themselves”. The most worrisome part, as seen from a distance, is that this idle, fatalistic approach embodies the policies of the main opposition bloc, led by the republican-secular party, the CHP.

Thus far, the election preparations of the six-party opposition alliance resemble a loosely connected discussion club”. After months of deliberations”, the bloc is still to come up with a candidate to challenge Erdoğan at the presidential elections. Instead, their leaders are busy designing what they call an empowered parliamentary system”, about which dismayed voters seem to have neither interest nor understanding.

Credible pollsters (there are not many of them) keep insisting that, given the patriarchal culture of Turkey, the opposition should hurry to present a powerful contender. But to no avail. The clock ticks as Erdoğan, who is aware of the gravity of the stakes this time, escalates his preparations for yet another victory. On his side is the state apparatus: Both the ministers of justice and interior are his men”, and they will be key figures in the conduct and result of the elections. So is the Supreme Electoral Board, and its vote counting algorithms. And, needless to say, there are his supporters, many of them men armed to the teeth, ready to act whenever the boss” says so.

The opposition bloc is even more comforted” by a massive flood of so-called polls, almost all of which lack transparency and credibility. The growing number of these surveys are now used as cheap tools to manipulate the public. The polluted atmosphere creates a disputable picture that all is set for a massive opposition victory”, all is taken for granted.

But the reality is far from clear. The undecided still total nearly 20 percent of eligible voters. The opposition bloc is keeping a distance from the pro-Kurdish HDP, the second largest opposition party at the 2018 election, and seems to comfort itself that at the end of the day the party’s voters will vote for us anyhow” in the presidential poll. The HDP, however, seems determined to withhold its endorsement until it receives guarantees on Kurdish rights.

The political stance of the opposition bloc means no lucid future either. It supports Erdoğans offensive foreign policy. Not only on the Kurdish issue, but also on the economy and the explosive Syrian refugee issue, there does not seem to be unity. The CHP staunchly supports returning refugees to Syria and starting a dialogue with Assad, while Ahmet Davutoğlu, leader of the Future Party (GP), who was once Erdoğan’s foreign minister and the chief architect of his regime change with the help of jihadists” Syria policy, defends the opposite view.

Against this backdrop, some hopefuls nowadays claim that Turkish voters will, by way of the ballot box, set an example to the world that it is possible to oust an autocrat”. This may prove to be a case of wishful thinking. Hoping for democratic change is one thing, underestimating the skills of a political animal is another.

Yes, Turkey is heading for an extremely delicate period.

This block is broken or missing. You may be missing content or you might need to enable the original module.