The day after

It is sometimes important to assume a distance from daily events and look at the bigger picture in terms of long-term trends. This is what a Washington Post editorial did a day before the elections in Turkey.
In a way that combined good writing with original and objective analysis, the Washington Post underlined that two major stories have dominated Turkey since the turn of the century: andquotThe steady consolidation of power by Islamist leader [President] Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the emergence of the countryand’s Kurdish minority from decades of violent insurgency and repression to become a peaceful and accepted political force. On Sunday, those movements will collide in what may be the most important Turkish election since the countryand’s adoption of democracy 65 years ago.andquot
As I have previously noted in this column, the Kurds and Islamists share the common denominator of being anti-systemic movements in the eyes of Kemalists. Their ascent indicates that maybe only anti-systemic movements have a chance of truly changing the system. The ascent of Islamists and Kurds has indeed been the most important story of this century and it would certainly be an irony of history if the Kurds come to play a major role in the democratization of Turkey, given that the Islamists seem to have accomplished their historic mission of laying out the foundations of a post-Kemalist Turkey. During the election campaign, the political prospects of the Peoplesand’ Democratic Party (HDP) seemed to be constantly improving in terms of the partyand’s chances of crossing the 10 percent electoral threshold. If the HDP, whose support currently hovers around 10 percent, manages to pass the threshold, it is likely to secure around 60 seats in Parliament, making the Kurds the kingmaker in Turkeyand’s faltering democracy. This would certainly be the most positive outcome of the elections because the Kurds deserve their party in Parliament and they represent the best chance of stopping the Justice and Development Partyand’s (AKP) autocratic drive. For two reasons, the dangerous part of the andquotday afterandquot scenario would be if the HDP fails to pass the threshold. The obvious reason would be about potential foul play. For the first time in the history of Turkish democracy, there are serious doubts about the sanctity of the ballot box. One does not even want to contemplate such a scenario but there could even be violence in the streets in the absence of total transparency about the election.
As the Washington Post editorial puts is: andquotPolls suggest the HDP is at the threshold, which has so raised Turksand’ fears of vote tampering that more than 50,000 have volunteered to serve as monitors. There is reason for concern: In recent years Mr. Erdogan has become increasingly reckless in his efforts to gain control of institutions, including the army and judiciary, and eliminate critics, especially in the media. The presidentand’s excesses were on display in the past two weeks in attacks on two leading newspapers. He accused one, Cumhuriyet, of espionage and said its editor should be jailed for life. Meanwhile, a prosecutor called for the arrest of the editor of the Handurriyet paper on ludicrous terrorism charges. Handurriyetand’s supposed offense was publishing a headline about the death sentence for former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi Mr. Erdogan claimed the paper meant to imply he deserves the same.andquot The second reason why the HDPand’s failure to pass the threshold would be disastrous is because the AKP and Erdogan may receive a parliamentary majority large enough to rewrite the Constitution and present it to a referendum. Once again, as the Washington Post rightly points out, if Erdogan wins big andquothe will concentrate power in the presidency and, most likely, complete the transformation of his government into an autocracy. With its opposition still weak, the AK Party is considered likely to gain another majority in parliament the question is whether it will gain the three-fifths necessary to introduce a new constitution with a referendum, or even the two-thirds needed to dispense with a popular vote.andquot In short, we have to wait and see the day after the elections. But this electoral season has clearly proved that the future of Turkish democracy is in Kurdish hands.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman