The outcome of presidential elections will not simply determine who will rule the country for five years but may irreversibly destroy its democratic life and political future.
Over the last couple of years, particularly after the abortive coup in July 2016, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been annihilating the already weak democratic institutions in the country towards establishing
an extremely authoritarian rule.
There is now no separation of powers and an independent judiciary in Turkey.
President Erdoğan has also managed to secure almost complete control over the media. In addition, the AKP – MHP
coalition has recently passed a bill and amended the electoral law so as to legalize various irregularities and fraud in the elections.
President Erdoğan has been using the abortive coup as a pretext and opportunity to suppress all sectors of the society
who are critical of his policies in the lead up to presidential elections.
Members of parliament, elected Kurdish mayors, academics, students, journalists, NGO and
trade union representatives, and many others have been arrested.
This ongoing crackdown has particularly targeted the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and its main constituent Democratic Regions Party (DBP), whose thousands of administrators and members have been jailed in the last two years.
Despite these dire circumstances, about half of the people of Turkey did dare to stand against president Erdoğan and said “No” in the referendum on 16 April 2017.
Erdoğan won the referendum with a small margin, and yet that “success” was thanks to blatant violations of the
electoral law, extreme pressures on the opposition, and widespread irregularities and fraud, which were also documented by election observation missions of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
With the recent amendments in the electoral law, the AKP has legalize its disputed practices in the referendum such as counting votes in unsealed envelopes as valid.
Nobody is expecting to have fair and free elections under emergency rule.
Hence, many political commentators argue that the AKP – MHP coalition will win in the elections thanks to Erdoğan’s
unlawful use of public resources for electoral purposes, monopoly over the media, and the use of emergency rule powers to further the crackdown on the opposition. The playing field for the elections is extremely uneven, especially in the Kurdish provinces, and the opposition needs to also defeat the referee in order to win.
Obviously president Erdoğan and his allies have many advantages, but their success is not a done deal.
Defeating Erdoğan and his allies may be very difficult, but not impossible.
There is fear and repression in Turkey, but there is also hope and struggle for a democratic future.