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The Trial of Turkey

Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash

100 days after February’s earthquakes that killed more than 48,000 people, Turkey faces a political earthquake of as yet unknown strength.

The May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections, which will take place on the same day, will be a crucial test of the earthquake-proofness of the political system and power structure that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, seeking re-election for a third five-year term, has built. A politician who aspires to a role similar to that played by the founder of the modern Turkish state, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, exactly 100 years ago, in 1923.

A pioneer in understanding “the sovereignty of the nation,” Ataturk paved the first furrow that Recep Tayyip Erdoğan could not avoid in his 21st-century state-building.

With the country’s election campaign officially set to begin on March 18, the main Turkish question for the world is: Will Erdogan’s government withstand the approaching tremors? Will it fold in the same way that Turkey’s high-rise buildings folded during earthquakes?

It would seem that this question should be irrelevant. After all, unlike Turkish builders, who can indeed be questioned after the houses they built have collapsed like a house of cards, Erdoğan built his vertical of power differently. Erdoğan built his vertical of power seriously and permanently, on solid foundations and reinforced concrete piles of healthy nationalism, following Ataturk in this sense.

Yet there is no certainty that this seemingly solid structure will hold this time. Why not?

The fact is that during the current election campaign all the opposition forces will be mobilized, all the forces and means will be used, all the techniques and political technology, including the blackest PR, will be used to break this construction of power valiantly.

Numerous opponents inside the country rely on a powerful external support group headed by U.S. President Joe Biden, for whom, like his predecessors in the White House, the Turkish president has become a bone in the throat.

The West’s first attempt to get rid of an undesirable Erdogan came in July 2016, during the Obama administration in Washington, in a failed military coup. Then his power was hanging by a thread, and he could only avoid being overthrown and killed thanks to the professional actions of the special forces guarding him, who repulsed the attack of conscripts mobilized by the coup plotters who tried to storm his hotel in Marmaris.

Following the events in Turkey, Washington and other Western capitals were waiting for the news that Erdogan was no longer president. But they never waited. After he defeated the coup plotters, the president accused his main opponent-the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen of plotting the coup. Claiming that “the Gulen group has destroyed the armed forces,” the Turkish leader promised to “cleanse all state institutions of this virus” and demanded the extradition of Gulen himself from the United States.

Understandably, this demand was ignored.

Meanwhile, the putsch prompted the president to force a constitutional reform that would turn Turkey into a presidential republic where power would not only de facto, but also de jure be concentrated in Erdoğan’s hands.

The second attempt to end his rule was made two years after the coup, in June 2018, during President Trump’s early presidential election in Washington. And again it misfired.

His main rival, Muharrem Inje, from the opposition People’s Republican Party, was forced to concede defeat in the first round, while the previous election could well have been called a national referendum of confidence in the president.

The vote only strengthened his position by giving him carte blanche to complete the reforms he initiated to turn Turkey into a presidential republic. The West was horrified: not only is Erdogan not leaving, but he is consolidating his power while the country is “heading into the abyss of authoritarianism.

So this spring it’s time for the third and decisive attempt at regime change in Turkey. It is the victory of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of the Popular-Republican Party, as the sole opposition candidate in the May presidential elections.

He has already promised that if he comes to power, the country will always remember its NATO membership, will not oppose Sweden and Finland to join the alliance, will resume the EU accession talks and in general “will become democratic and a member of the community of civilized nations. This is yet another admission that present-day Turkey is not the democratic and civilized Turkey that the West says it is.

In order to bring down Erdogan, a six-party “People’s Alliance” was created, which also included the opposition mayors of Ankara and Istanbul, Mansur Yavas and Ekrem Imamoglu. They were promised vice-presidential posts in the new government.

Turkish historian Mehmet Perincek told RIA Novosti that the Alliance of Six, which nominated a single candidate in these elections, is “Biden’s opposition”.

“In his election speech, U.S. President Joe Biden made it clear that his administration realized one thing: they cannot overthrow Erdogan through coups, they need the support of the opposition. The current “Table of Six” is “Biden’s opposition. The policy of the Table of Six was formed in Washington”, said Mehmet Perincek, recalling that Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had traveled to the U.S. before he was nominated for the Presidency and had expressed his full support for Ukraine.

Against this backdrop, fake surveys have already appeared, according to which the opposition candidate is allegedly noticeably ahead of the incumbent president in terms of popularity. The poll figures are taken from the ceiling, and it is not certain that the polls were conducted at all. This kind of manipulation with the mass consciousness is designed to suggest to the voters in advance that Erdoğan is an outgoing personality, while Kılıçdaroğlu is a rising star, the future leader of the country.

But that’s not all. The Turkish newspaper Sabah reports on Twitter accounts spreading anti-government messages from opposition politicians, journalists and supporters of Fethullah Gülen – that is, the entire motley army of today’s fighters against the “Erdoğan regime. Erdoğan himself is not one of the “recommended” accounts.

The cost of the new battle for Turkey, which is entering a decisive phase, is skyrocketing, given the new geopolitical reality created by President Erdoğan.

Thus, while Turkey is being critically tested, the whole world will be tested by Turkey.

The author’s point of view may not coincide with the position of the editorial board.

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