Following Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections Turkey has moved into a dangerous period of one-man rule, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan taking on unprecedented powers as the country shifts from a parliamentary democracy to an executive presidency.
The role of prime minister has been deleted and Erdogan can now appoint ministers, the judiciary and set the budget, removing any checks and balances on his increasingly authoritarian power. More chillingly under the new system Erdoğan can dissolve parliament and rule by decree.
However this was not a fair or democratic election. The campaign was run in a climate of fear and with Turkey under a state of emergency that has been in place since the failed coup attempt of July 2016.
Opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas campaigned from his prison cell where he has been held on trumped-up terrorism charges since November 2016. Thousands of their activists have been jailed and according to the Human Rights Association, 361 were arrested during the campaign.
Meetings were broken up by security forces and at least 17 HDP election rallies were banned. Press freedom is seriously restricted in Turkey. It holds the record for numbers of journalists held in prison and since the sale of the Dogan Media Company, most media outlets are either owned by or support Erdogan. This was reflected by the extensive coverage favourable to Erdogan and the AKP compared to other candidates and parties.
The day of the election saw the arrest of international observers from Germany, France and Italy who were blocked from their work as they were accused of interfering in democratic processes. However there was evidence of fraud with allegations of stuffed ballot boxes in Urfa and Diyarbakir and images were circulated of ballot papers discovered in rubbish bins.
Voters were blocked from polling stations in Van province where soldiers were in the booths watching as people cast their votes under the barrel of a gun. 144,000 votes were affected by the decision to consolidate voting stations, with many people forced to travel for miles to cast their vote.
However despite this the results were poor for Erdoğan and showed a drop in support with the AKP losing more than 2 million votes in the east and west of Turkey. It was only because his ultra-nationalist allies the MHP made an agreement not to stand a candidate in the presidential race and entered a parliamentary coalition that he maintained his grip on power. The HDP achieved a stunning result as they smashed through the 10 percent barrier designed to keep them out of parliament winning 68 MPs and taking the third largest share of the vote.
But Turkey is about to enter a deep economic crisis, largely of Erdogan’s making. The lira remains unstable and with a looming recession Erdogan is likely to push through public spending cuts and go cap in hand to the IMF for a loan.
The election was not won or lost on one day. This was the culmination of a long-planned coup against democracy. Erdogan has been aided and abetted in his coup against the people of Turkey by the European Union, Nato and the west. They have continued to offer Erdogan political and military support while making occasional timid criticism over human rights.
But the last thing they want to see is a free and democratic Turkey which would be counter to imperialist interests in Syria, Iran, Iraq. Turkey also acts as a bulwark against their new foe, Russia, from which it is separated by the Black Sea.
In Britain we can support our brothers and sisters in Turkey by building a strong labour movement in this country, forging links with progressive forces struggling against the Erdogan regime.
We stand on the side of freedom and democracy and call on all those who support our aims to join us.
Solidarity with the People of Turkey