I was absolutely thrilled out of my mind when the result of the Turkish election was announced on Sunday night, as was everyone else I know who has the slightest interest in that country. This is the most gratifying election result anywhere in 2½ years. After the série noire of the past several months—US midterms, Israel, French departmental, UK—ça fait du bien. I was confident that the HDP would cross the 10% threshold and the AKP denied the super-majority in the Grand National Assembly to amend the constitution according to RT Erdoğan’s megalomaniacal wishes, but didn’t imagine that the AKP would lose its majority altogether and with its popular vote dropping by almost 10%. I don’t know if anyone did.
As I am not in Turkey, do not know the Turkish language, and am thus not a bona fide specialist of the country—I’m merely very knowledgeable about it—I will link to a few commentaries seen over the past 48 hours. The first off the bat was an instant analysis by Nigar Göksel—Turkey senior analyst for the ICG—and longtime Turkey hand Hugh Pope, who, writing in Politico.eu, offered “Five takeaways from the Turkish election.” The lede: “Erdoğan gets a reality check from a nation sick of autocracy.” As for what their five takeaways are, read the piece.
Writing in Prospect magazine, historian David Barchard, who has been living and working in Turkey for decades, asks “Who are the winners and losers in Turkey’s election?” The lede: “Last night’s vote was the biggest success for the left in 35 years.”
The left here is not the CHP but, of course, the HDP of Selahattin Demirtaş, which Istanbul-based novelist and writer Kaya Genç, writing in Prospect two days before the election, opined “could stop Erdoğan [from] seizing even more power” and possibly change Turkey’s political landscape. That would be good.
Michael J. Koplow, of the excellent blog Ottomans and Zionists, has an analysis on the Foreign Affairs website of what he surprisingly calls “Erdoğan’s victory,” in which—raining on the liberal-left’s parade—he explains “Why the election wasn’t a loss for the president and the AKP.” In short, Erdoğan is by no means down and out; his party is still the largest by far and he will continue to concentrate more power in the presidency, whether he can have the constitution changed or not. However knowledgeable about Turkey Koplow may be, I hope he’s wrong.
On the Charlie Rose show, CFR’s Steven Cook, WINEP’s Soner Cagaptay, and New America Foundation visiting fellow Elmira Bayrasli also threw some cold water on those who think the election signals the end the Erdoğan era, affirming that the latter must not be counted out, that he has boundless ambition and will try by hook or by crook to get what he wants in the political system, no matter how hard it may be. Très certainement.
If anyone needs reminding of Erdoğan’s political style, go back and look at this AWAV post from a year ago (and watch the YouTube).
Soner Çağaptay also had an instant analysis on WINEP’s website on “What Turkey’s election results mean.” The lede: “The outcome has dealt a blow to the AKP’s longstanding dominance and Erdogan’s goal of implementing a presidential system, with potential implications for the economy, Syria policy, and the Kurdish movement.”
On Al Jazeera’s Inside Story, Turkish politics specialists Bilal Sambur , Fadi Hakura, and Galip Dalay weighed in on “What’s behind Turkey’s ruling AK party setback?” The 25-minute debate is worth the watch.
The trendy gauchiste webzine Jadaliyya—which has a smart Turkey page—has a worthwhile roundtable of “First thoughts on the elections in Turkey,” with seven mostly Turkish doctoral candidates in sociology and anthropology.
Ahmet Insel, who teaches economics and politics at Galatasaray University, has an op-ed in Le Monde, “Après le revers électoral d’Erdogan, «la Turquie respire!».”
Insel, who published a book last month entitled La Nouvelle Turquie d’Erdoğan: Du rêve démocratique à la dérive autoritaire, gave a lengthy pre-election interview to LePetitJournal.com.
Claire Sadar has a post in her Atatürk’s Republic blog, in which she argues that “Turkish democracy [is] still alive, but still flawed.” In the post, she links to an instant analysis by KIng’s College London Ph.D. candidate Aaron Stein, which she calls “masterful.”
UNC-Chapel Hill prof Zeynep Tufekci has a nice op-ed in today’s NYT on “How hope returned to Turkey,” in which, entre autres, she mentions the importance of the legions of activists who monitored the polling stations on Sunday and oversaw the vote count. À propos, at a conference last year I asked Ahmet Insel about stories of election irregularities in Turkey and the possibility of Erdoğan’s minions trying to rig or fiddle around with future votes. He assured me that such was nigh impossible and then held up his mobile phone; to wit, poll watchers—himself included—would be monitoring vote counts like hawks and then take photos of the procès-verbal in each polling station. Having supervised vote counts in some two dozen elections in France—and these likely unfold in the same manner in Turkey—I knew what he was talking about. It would be impossible to rig an election in France and, in view of Turkey’s history of clean votes—despite the occasional suspicious electrical outage—I am pretty sure it would be most difficult there. And voilà, we have the demonstration in Sunday’s result.
Not that it merits mentioning, but right-wing commentator Daniel Pipes—a main go-to person for Americans of his ideological persuasion seeking to know what to think on the Middle East—had an op-ed in last Friday’s Washington Times on “Turkey’s unimportant election,” which, he asserted, would be “among the least important of Turkey’s elections,” partly because the AKP had “used ballot-box shenanigans and other dirty tricks in the past [and] many indications point[ed] to its preparing to do so again, especially in Kurdish-majority districts.” Since his op-ed, radio silence from Monsieur Pipes (BTW, this is the same Daniel Pipes who went on for some eight years about jihadist “no-go zones” in French cities before understanding that such was a figment of his ideologically-addled imagination).
In her op-ed, Zeynep Tufekci also noted the very high 85% turnout rate in Sunday’s vote. Without that turnout, the HDP would have certainly not crossed the 10% threshold. Note to US Democrats, the UK Labour Party et al: If you want to win elections, you have to turn out your voters (which means, among other things, giving them a reason to vote for you). If voter participation is high, the result will very likely be good for progressives.