A long shadow over the June 7 elections

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cast a long and dark shadow over Turkey’s chances of having free and fair elections. This is because he operates not like an impartial president, but rather the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

In democratic countries, the office of the president — or head of state — is responsible for acting in harmony with the state, as well as representing a unified society. This is how the office of the president is described in the Turkish Constitution.

Erdogan is obliged to act in accordance with constitutional guidelines. This applies to all citizens in our country, but even more so for Erdogan, as president. The most essential duties of the office he holds are to protect and uphold legal order and the Constitution, and to work in harmony with the rest of government while doing so.

As president, Erdogan may find his duties over or underwhelming in nature similarly, he may personally like or dislike the system in place. He is free to pass on suggestions and advice to political parties across the spectrum. But Erdogan does not possess the right to ignore the laws set forth by the Constitution. Nor does he have the right to brazenly trample these laws.

Following the guidelines given by the Constitution is not some arbitrary choice he can make he is obliged to do so.

Erdogan is busy repeating the same mistakes he made as a politician, the difference being that he is now the president. He is not at all concerned by any criticism or warning he receives. He brushes them off, saying, “I had already said I was going to be a different president.” He doesn’t bother providing excuses he just carries on, business as usual, with his old ways.

Erdogan does do some representing, though not for the whole society, but rather for his own mass of supporters. For him, “unity and togetherness” are only relevant when it comes to the factions of AKP voters. And for as long as his supporters remain in the majority, no level of polarization or tension in society is going to ruffle him.

Being president has done nothing to rein in the political rhetoric we hear from Erdogan almost every day now, we hear him lashing out at the opposition parties. At the same time, he’s been holding a series of “thank you rallies” in the run-up to the elections, using state tools to openly campaign in the name of the AKP. One result of this is that the current political tension is deepening.

Let me repeat it clearly: the long shadow of Erdogan is now cast over the June 7 elections.

We saw the same sort of thing happen in the run-up to last summer’s Aug. 10 presidential election. Holding on tight to his title as prime minister, he campaigned for the president using all the tools lent to him by the state he seemed unable to see any legal or moral problem with this.

And now, rather than using his position as president to ensure that Turkey has free and fair elections, he’s doing everything he can to manipulate the results in favor of the AKP, all the while wielding the powerful tools of the state.

At the same time, he doesn’t hold back from mocking his own stance, noting, “I am objective, when I tell voters to choose 400 MPs, I’m not telling them which party to vote for.” Yes, he criticizes the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and most strongly the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), but he’s objective alright!

Another scandal we’ve now witnessed is Erdogan’s penchant for waving around the Quran at his most recent rallies. Until now, no one in Turkey has had the courage to exploit religion to this level to attain their own political aims and desires. Only Erdogan has been this bold.

What we could debate at this point is whether the root of this recklessness — which leads Erdogan to trample the Constitution so — comes from courage or fear. He may not know it, but many read it as the latter. And you know what? They just might be right.