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Electoral victory paves way for Erdogan’s demise

Sunday’s elections were a test to see if Erdogan's electorate is discontent with the way he is ruling

Mahir Zeynalov

Published: Updated:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in municipal elections on Sunday, giving a major boost to this bellicose leader to crack down on his opposition and curb freedoms.

Erdogan deserves victory as he had campaigned day and night since the summer protests last year. He could successfully exploit polarization in the country and constructed a political atmosphere in which he played the role of a victim. In short, he fooled the people into believing he is under fire by “foreign powers and their pawns at home.”

Turks celebrate Erdogan’s party victory
Turks celebrate Erdogan’s party victory

For political Islamists like Erdogan, who consider many anti-Islamic practices “halal” if they serve to embolden the power of the Islamists, democracy and free elections are nothing but a tool of seizing authority. Once Islamists hold power, they sideline the opposition and crush critics. This was the major reason why the Islamist government of late Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, who was unfairly ousted by the military, and other Islamist rulers in the region could not effectively run the country for too long.

Erdogan’s strength lay in his political taqiyya (an Islamic legal dispensation whereby a believing individual can deny his faith or commit otherwise illegal or blasphemous acts while they are at risk of significant persecution) for more than a decade, when he quite successfully pretended to be a democratic leader. He is an excellent orator and is skilled in convincing people that he is the right leader by basically making false and completely opposite statements. There is no free media to point out Erdogan’s ailing policies to his largely rural supporters.

Unfair competing ground

The electoral campaign was held on completely unfair grounds. Most newspapers and TV networks had turned into the mouthpiece of Erdogan while the government has endorsed a series of laws that curbed freedoms. Even somehow independent media had to avoid broadcasting critical views due to government presssure, the latest leaked voice recordings showed. From banning access to Twitter and YouTube to purging the judiciary and police, Erdogan created an atmosphere of fear that cast a shadow on legitimacy of the elections.

Despite being described as a “thief-in-chief” and “murderer” by his critics, Erdogan’s government has suspended the rule of law and shut down the independent media

Mahir Zeynalov

The election is not the only voting day. Pre-election campaigning largely benefitted Erdogan’s ruling party. Despite being described as a “thief-in-chief” and “murderer” by his critics, Erdogan’s government has suspended the rule of law and shut down the independent media to survive the biggest corruption scandal to hit the Turkish republic.

Erdogan told his supporters to consider the elections as a referendum and an approval of the government. Those who would not vote for the ruling party in local elections but in general elections (around ten percent) voted for the AKP, increasing its votes to 46 percent. The ruling party also rigged elections in many polling stations. Nearly 2,000 complaints were filed against voting irregularities and the authorities switched off lights in dozens of provinces during the counting process.

More power, more corruption

Erdogan has won three general and three local elections since 2002 and in each of these polls, his party could increase its votes. The increase in votes also made Erdogan more authoritarian, making it clear that the consolidated democracy he promised will no longer function in Turkey.

He showed his authoritarian face over the past few years and Sunday’s elections were a test to see if his electorate is discontent with the way he is ruling. Good at politics and deception, Erdogan successfully described this election as an “Independence War” and convinced people that burying democracy is necessary to save the nation (remember Hitler’s halting of freedoms after the fire in Parliament). In contrast, the language he used for the opposition is very similar to Hitler’s hate speech (“we will root you out, bloodsucking vampires, assassins, traitors, agents, pawns of foreign powers, leeches, terrorists”). The economy is in tatters and foreign investors are fleeing the country. People voted for the ruling party because Erdogan convinced them that it is a fight between Muslims and “infidels,” not because he is a democratic leader. He called protesters atheists and said he doubts the Islamic faith of his critics.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely

A sense of deep disappointment prevailed among critics of Erdogan in Turkey as the results of the polls were announced on Sunday night. But those who want Erdogan out should be happier that Erdogan is feeling stronger. The more powerful he feels, the more mistakes he will make to prepare his own end. Revolutionary leaders, from Napoleon to Hitler, were their own worst enemy and failed as a result of their tremendous power.

On Sunday night, Erdogan greeted his supporters from the balcony of his party’s headquarters after the stunning electoral victory. Instead of delivering a conciliatory speech, he vowed to crush the opposition. As he is bracing to introduce harsher policies to jail critics, curb freedoms and end Turkey’s democracy, his supporters will realize that they voted for a deeply anti-democratic leader, whose actions can not be reconciled with Islamic principles.

I’m happy that Erdogan received a high number of votes. Otherwise his exit from politics would take some more years. With the landslide victory, Erdogan has sealed his own fate.

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Mahir Zeynalov is a journalist with Turkish English-language daily Today's Zaman. He is also the managing editor of the Caucasus International magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @MahirZeynalov

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.