IAHIN – Why does ErdoIan keep winning?

Why does ErdoIan keep winning?Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan unsurprisingly won the first presidential election by popular vote in the first round of voting by garnering 52 percent of the votes cast. His Justice and Development Party (AKP) received 20.

5 million votes in the local elections held last March. He personally received 21 million votes on Aug.

10, while the participation rate fell from 89 to 74 percent among over 55 million eligible voters. It must first of all be admitted that this is an impressive achievement.

In no other more or less democratic country has a politician facing such grave corruption allegations managed to win consecutive elections, as ErdoIan has done.His hard-line secularist opponents attempt to attribute his victories to the sheer ignorance, stupidity, irrationality or unquestioning character of the electorate in Turkey, or claim that the countryand#39s mostly Muslim voters do not make individual choices but are mobilized into voting.

These people not only fool themselves and the public at large, but they question the validity of a democratic regime in Turkey.The elitist mentality they share facilitated the legitimization of the military-bureaucratic tutelage over democracy seen throughout the latter half of the 20th century.

Attributing ErdoIanand#39s nine consecutive election victories since 2002 to the ignorance and lack of democratic political culture of the electorate in Turkey is only cold comfort. The country has, since the 1950s, held mostly fair and free elections, and the electorate has made mostly reasonable choices.

Why and how then did ErdoIan win the presidential election? The factors that explain the rise of the AKPand#39s share of the vote from 34 to 47 and to 50 percent in the three consecutive general elections since 2002 are the same as those that explain his most recent victory. In his first two terms in power, ErdoIan, thanks to economic reforms encouraged partly by the accession process to the European Union, nearly doubled the average income and the middle class in the country.

His government succeeded in substantially improving living standards through social welfare measures and investments in infrastructure. It staved off military coup attempts and managed to put the military under civilian control in practice.

It lifted most restrictions on the expression of Kurdish identity and managed through negotiations to silence the guns of the Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK). It also lifted the highly controversial restrictions on the use of the Muslim headscarf by university students and most public employees.

A large part of Turkeyand#39s electorate, even if they are aware of the grave corruption allegations against his government and family as well as the serious violations of the rule of law in his third term in power, has continued to cast its votes in favor of ErdoIan in appreciation of what his government has delivered in its first two terms in power In most middle-income countries like Turkey, the performance of the economy is surely the single most important factor that affects voting behavior Turkeyand#39s economy is not performing as well as before, but with a 3 to 4 percent growth rate it is still doing relatively well.ErdoIanand#39s recent success surely also has to do with the unfair nature of the electoral campaigns.

He entered the competition without resigning from his post as prime minister and extensively used public facilities in his favor The public broadcasting corporation TRT and media outlets owned by his crony capitalists worked as propaganda machines in his favor It also has to be kept in mind that the AKP is Turkeyand#39s only mass party with a well-functioning organization that effectively mobilizes voters. Finally, the joint nominee of the main opposition parties largely failed to inspire the electorate, garnering far fewer votes than their total vote in the local elections.

ErdoIanand#39s election as president signals Turkeyand#39s further slide into autocracy. If this is to be avoided, it is highly necessary for the opposition to make rational analyses of the election results and draw the necessary lessons for the defense of democracy and the rule of law.