If you were to ever care about an election in a far away country, care about Turkey’s. This is a country that is part of NATO and bound through diplomatic agreements to the US. It borders a chaotic war zone to the south. Across a sea to the north, a country is forced into civil war coerced by its neighbor. And to the west, refugees from war-torn nations are flooding cities and forcing the EU to come to grips with its attractive image.
And this election can and will change the decisions it makes for years to come. The US and its citizens can’t afford to ignore this quasi-ally in a region of interest.
The elections happened on two days before our own election day. They were called again in Turkey because relative majority parties could not form a coalition from the June 7 vote. June’s election was itself historical; a prominent minority party finally acquired seats in the parliament, and the party of the prime minister lost its majority with a decrease of 10 percent to about 41 percent. The four main parties all seemed to be represented in parliament with enough say for healthy debate. But when a coalition can’t be formed, the ruling party has the right to call snap elections.
What the results of the snap elections from Sunday show is that the ruling gained back almost all of its support. Still not quite a majority (0.6 percent away), the ruling party (AKP) seemed to recover votes from the more nationalistic party and a minority-friendly party.
There is of course a lot of speculation about the integrity of the voting system in the election, but if the AKP had complete control over voting, they could have given them a majority – perhaps they did but couldn’t do it perfect (hence the 0.6 percent). Regardless about views on the election, one thing that cannot be denied is that a country with an already atrocious media freedom record cracked down much more heavily in the lead up to these elections.
The current president and former head of the AKP has said on multiple occasions that he is “increasingly against the internet every day.” He has prosecuted everyone from journalists to teenagers to world famous pianists for what they published on social media or in print. And after countrywide physical attacks on prominent newspapers and journalists in September and Turkey’s worst terrorist attack in history killed almost 100 people at a peaceful rally in October, things only got worse.
Suffice it to say that it is very difficult to get a hold of reliable information, especially related to politics. So how can anyone say that a liberal democracy – that depends on informed decision-making – occurs in an environment where people are scared to publish information? There’s a robust underground Internet scene that informs and can motivate swathes of people. But it gets shut down often, and the majority of the AKP’s support comes from a socio-economic demographic that does not typically have access.
As soon as the AKP regained almost all of its votes, its most outrageous plan came back on the table – changing the constitution to consolidate power in the position of president, a role currently occupied by a man against free information, against minorities and against women’s rights, to name a few. Turkey may be on the cusp of a two-sided war – from within and without.