Elections in Turkey: Europe and the United States silently await the defeat of Recep Erdogan

The defeat of Recep Erdogan in the elections next Sunday in Turkey is expected by some Western governments

In Washington, Brussels, Paris, London or Berlin there is caution and discretion so as not to unleash the fury of the President who has been in power in Turkey for 20 years. For these governments, a defeat of Recep Tayyip Erdogan it would promote improvements in the complex relations between Ankara and the West.

The possibility of an alternation in Türkiye, something unimaginable for a long time, now becomes feasible. The inflationary crisis and devastating earthquakes in the country will see Turks head to the polls on Sunday for a close presidential and legislative election. The outgoing president will have to compete with Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a rival with chances to seize power from him.

The opponent, leader of the “Kemalist” CHP party, is the candidate of a coalition of six parties ranging from the nationalist right to the democratic left, and which has received strong support from the party pro kurdish HDPsomething that becomes new and increases the chances of the opponent.

Despite Erdogan’s efforts to blow up the path of this alliance, his candidacy is eroded by a serious economic crisis with inflation of 44% per year in April. In power for two decades, first as prime minister and then as president, the Turkish leader defends his unorthodox economic policy, based on the lowest possible interest rates to stimulate activity.

Added to the discontent over the rise in prices, after three months since the earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey alone, the consequences of the earthquake that displaced 2.7 million people will also attenuate sympathy for their performance. in the face of this catastrophe.

Surveys indicate that, in the area of ​​the earthquake, Erdogan will see his support reduced between 4 and 10 points, although he would also be the candidate with the most votes. Meanwhile, in the same regions devastated by the forces of nature, Kiliçdaroglu has promised not only to rebuild homes, but to deliver new ones free of charge to the victims. It is estimated that this would require public investment of around 5% of GDP.

Antakya earthquake Türkiye
President Erdogan would lose between 4 and 10 voting points, although he would still win in the areas hit by the last earthquake (Salwan Georges/)

It is under these internal tensions that Europe and the United States are discreetly observing future scenarios. Bilateral relations with various states have been complicated with Erdogan in the presidency. With some members of the European Union, such as Greece, Cyprus or Sweden, the 74-year-old leader maintains disturbing relations.

according to the newspaper the worldfor Marc Pieriniresearch associate of Carnegie Europe and former ambassador of the European Union (EU) in Ankara, “a victory for Erdogan would be a victory for Putin.” On the contrary, his defeat would resume a normal agenda with Western countries, starting with the Europeans.

Publicly, the opposition coalition that wants to take over the government has already announced that it will promote the reopening of negotiations to enter the European Union, opened in 2005 and officially frozen since 2018. “Full membership of the European Union is our goal,” it is confirmed among his purposes if he comes to power.

In addition, fed up is measured among the Turks who fear that Erdogan will become increasingly authoritarian, imitating the behavior of his “friend” Vladimir Putin. The leaders of Russia and Turkey rehearsed their last sympathy, in Akkuyu, in southern Turkey on the shores of the Mediterranean, on the occasion of the presentation of the first Turkish nuclear power plant built with Russian financial support and technology.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine exposes Erdogan’s double standard. Although it is aligned with the NATO countries, condemning Russian violence, supplying drones to the Ukrainian government or interceding to restore the grain supply through the Black Sea, Ankara did not adhere to the sanctions adopted against Moscow by Western countries. This game, even for many, would allow Erdogan to establish dubious negotiations to overcome the barriers imposed on Moscow.

However, a virtual victory for the opposition coalition does not immediately mean that Europe will change its priorities towards Turkey. “For Europe, Turkey’s membership of the European Union is not officially buried but it is not on the agenda,” a diplomatic source told the French press.

But Kilicdaroglu has said he will call for an amicable renegotiation of his country’s customs union with the EU, in force since 1996. Something possible if Ankara eases tensions with the Europeans on several fronts.

At the same time, Washington hopes that the renewal of the government will allow measures to be taken for the restoration full democraticresume a normal exercise of the rule of law after excesses on the part of Erdogan.

One way to do this would be for the United States and Europe to intensify dialogue with a new government to help the authorities solve the country’s economic problems. In addition to new guidelines for the customs union, a relaxation of the guidelines for visas for Turkish citizens, or even the participation of Turkey in gas projects in the eastern Mediterranean could be good tools for rapprochement and dissolution of differences.

But defeat will not make any process easy. Turkey, after two decades under Erdogan, has become a powerful country militarily and a diplomatic powerhouse. A less dominant West on the international scene could make Turkey want to continue showing itself with zigzagging relations.

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