Political analyst and journalist
Ekrem Eddy Guzeldere discusses the results of the 2014 local elections in
Turkey with Elena Spilioti for TA YP OPSIN ( Consider These) podcast. ( March
Mr. Guzeldere welcome back to our podcast.
Ekrem Eddy Guzeldere:
you for having me. A pleasure again.
So, Erdogan won the elections despite restricting
the freedom of expression and despite leaked tapes and allegations. Does this
mean that religious values have won over democratic ones, or is it that the
opposition has not presented an alternative, a convincing alternative solution?
It's a mixture of everything you said, but I think
that also important is that the economy in Turkey is still relatively okay and
that one of the main indicators for the elections is the economic situation and
they had the AKP performing relatively well. Another important factor is that
... in now 12 years in government the AKP controls a large part of the media
and therefore many voters, especially outside of the big cities, they either do
not hear about the corruption scandals and the fight with the Gülen movement or
they only hear it filtered by the opposition. That, for them, is a part of an
election campaign and not that real and that bad as for those that hear it
directly. And therefore they say it's a campaign and all parties are more or
less the same but the AKP at least does also something for us.
There is, however, evidence of real development
especially in remote provinces of Turkey such as in Konya for example.
Yeah, of course. This was a regional election, a
municipal elections where about 1,400 mayors were elected. The overall result
for the AKP is quite comfortable with 15% ahead of the main opposition party
with still almost 45%. But there are some cities where also surprises were
possible and the AKP did not win or did even lose cities, such as Mardin for
example that was won by the Kurdish party or that the AKP could not gain cities
like Izmir that they wanted to win very much at the Aegean and at the coast at
the Aegean and the Riviera is still in the hands of the opposition.
Were the results expected to a certain extent?
are two most credible polling and survey institutes, Konda and A&G, and
they more or less predicted this result so it is not a great surprise. The
result means that the AKP won from the latest regional elections about 6%, that
was in 2009, and lost about 4, 5% from the last national election that was in
2011. And this might have to do with this ongoing controversy and fight with
and against the Gülen network. There were supporters of the AKP who also
supported the Gulen movement. They
switched to the nationalist movement party, MHP, which could win 2, 3, 4% and
could win cities like Manisa and Mersin and Adana. But overall this did not
have a huge effect. Not as much as many expected.
Going back to what you said just before. If economy
is a key, we saw that the Lira just went up just 48 hours after the beginning
of the elections, maybe sooner. So, if the re-election of the Erdoğan party is
a sign of stability, maybe the investors will return too. Does this mean that
the international community needs the specific party or do they need Erdoğan's
personality? And would the party still be there if someone else was heading it
such as Gul, a personality that may be dynamic but also less controversial as a
Yes, it's definitely very important for the
economic community that there is political, economic and legal stability in
Turkey and this was not the case over the last months. […]Already many
investors left Turkey because of interference in the judiciary and no longer
being a credible and stable partner. With the election results it won't change
a lot. The Lira has gained a little bit but it is expected that there will be a
kind of a witch hunt against the Gülen movement and also against their
holdings. And this will even more frighten the economic community and it's
rather expected that the situation concerning foreign direct investment will
get worse over the next weeks and not better.
If Erdoğan moves on to become the president of the
country, that would mean eventually lack of leadership in the party. If he
doesn't win the elections, does this mean that the party will fall apart?
There is, of course, still a lot of speculation concerning
this issue. But Erdoğan can interpret these election results as also positive
for his own candidacy for the presidency in August of this year. If he becomes
the candidate of the AKP then, of course, there will be another candidate for
the national elections to become prime minister. This might be Abdullah Gül or this might be another AKP
politician. Everybody else than Erdoğan
has more difficulty of holding the different branches of the party together and
the AKP will certainly not become more powerful with another leader. But how
much influence this will have on the forthcoming elections and the future of
the party, that is difficult to say right now.
Would you say that standards of voting for president
would be different than the local elections, meaning that these good results in
the local elections could eventually be a trap for Erdoğan instead of a
The next elections are still, kind of, a question
mark because it's the first time in Turkish history that the president will be
elected by the people. This will depend a lot on who won, if it is the AKP candidate but also who will be
the other candidate and how many will there be. There are two rounds planned.
One is on 10 August and then a second round on the 24th of August with the two
strongest candidates. From the current position it looks as if there is an easy
victory for any AKP candidate but it will depend on who the opposition will
appoint and whether there is a candidate
that can get the votes of the two major opposition parties, plus those that are
alienated by the AKP policy of the last months.
What do you think the results of these elections
mean for the European plans of Turkey, if there are still any?
Yes, the negotiations with the EU they are on a low
scale for quite some time. There was some hope at the end of 2013maybe that
there could be a change but with all these corruption allegations and
interference on the judiciary ongoing there is not much to be expected. The
regional elections, they won’t have a great change in these relations. I would
hope that they are not completely stopped and the EU tries to continue the
negotiations because this is the only way that they can influence domestic
policy, even if it looks that they have very little influence on the AKP and
prime minister Erdoğan.
Could it be that the removal of Erdoğan as a leader
of the ruling party, could become an opportunity for the European Union to
become more flexible and to give a new opportunity to Turkey to show how
democratic a country it is ?
Yes, this is, of course, possible. It will depend
on who will take over the AKP and which wing of the AKP, a more liberal one, a
more open again towards Europe and towards democratization, human rights and
respect of the rule of law and maybe also close in cooperation with the
opposition. But Erdoğan is so powerful in the AKP that he will have a big say
also on his successor and it is not expected that immediately after the removal
of Erdoğan from the head of the party that there will be a huge change. There
might be a slow change at the beginning and then there could be maybe, the
chance that another party from within the AK party with liberals from the
opposition's party that they form a new, more liberal version of the AKP and
this could then be a real alternative.
What would you like our listeners to know about the reactions
in Turkey today?
This is a very tough time and this was a very tense
election campaign. There is an ongoing polarization of the population and of
the voters and unfortunately it doesn't look as if this changes after the
elections. Erdoğan gave a speech yesterday after the elections results were
announced. This is a so-called famous “balcony speech” and usually this is
approaching the opposition and that he is the prime minister of all and
yesterday this was very different. This was even more frightening than what he
said in the election campaign. It was saying that he will clamp down on the
Gülen movement, that they are traitors, that they tried to weaken Turkey and
that he will be fighting against them with all means. So, it doesn't,
unfortunately, look positive for the next weeks and this polarization and the
tense situation will continue but we expect mass arrests of sympathizers of the
Gülen movement and an attack on their economic holdings and this will not create
a more peaceful and tolerant and democratic society.
We will certainly be watching the developments. We
are neighbors and we are always a little
bit concerned about the eventual exporting of the domestic troubles of Turkey
in the nearby region. Would you be concerned, seriously concerned, about this
This is one of the things that I would not be so
much concerned with. Especially concerning the west and north of Turkey. As we
have heard from the meeting of the foreign minister with the chief of the
secret service there were ongoing plans of provoking a war with Syria but that
is, of course, a very different situation from the bilateral relations with
Greece. In general, Turkey is very much occupied with itself in these days. It
is a lot less active on foreign policy and I think that this situation, by and
large, will continue and that an exporting of the troubles is not a major
Do you think that Turkey has moved away from the
model of a modern Islamic democracy that could help show the way to the future
in the region?
Of course Turkey was closer to that model in 2007,
2008 and it has become ever more authoritarian in the past two, three years. As
I have already said, this will most likely continue at least this and next year
but there is also reason for hope. as all this movement and development around
Gezi Park and of new forms of participation of young people being involved in
politics of protests did not stop even despite clamp-down by the police and
banning of websites, of arrests of activists and this won't go away, that
people will be more concerned with domestic politics, with being involved in
NGO's, in political social movements and maybe this will take some years but at
the end this will have a result and the result will be more positive than now.
Mr. Guzeldere, thank you very much for this
I thank you.
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