ISTANBUL BLOG: And it starts. Erdogan regime testing water for using earthquakes as excuse to postpone elections

ISTANBUL BLOG: And it starts. Erdogan regime testing water for using earthquakes as excuse to postpone elections
By hook or by crook, Erdogan must find a way of staying in power. / screengrab
By Akin Nazli in Belgrade February 9, 2023

Turkey’s Erdogan administration may postpone the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections given the fallout from the two deadly earthquakes that hit the country at the start of this week, Reuters on February 9 quoted unnamed Turkish officials as saying.

“We will watch developments. But at the moment there are very serious difficulties in holding elections on May 14,” one official was quoted as saying.

With 15% of the country’s 85mn-strong population living in the earthquake region and emergency rule declared for three months in that region, it was too early to decide on whether to go ahead with the election date, he added.

Prior to the earthquakes, Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was planning to make the official election call on February 14 for polls on May 14. A call on that date would comply with the 90-day period required prior to election day. The calendar of scheduled elections originally showed that polling day would be on June 18 at the latest, with the election call due on March 18.

Turkey’s laws are flexible when it comes to strongman Erdogan.

Earthquake consequences provide the excuse of force majeure (“superior force”). Using the excuse, Erdogan could even stretch the rules and delay the elections beyond the June 18 deadline.

bne IntelliNews’ assessment is that in fair elections, Erdogan, deeply unpopular for gross economic mismanagement, would have no chance of victory. However, staying in power is a vital necessity for him. Either he stays at the helm, or he will end up in prison together with members of his family such are the crimes of office that would be levied by his opponents.

That being the case, Erdogan has three options:

1-) Delay the elections.

A war would be one legal path to securing a postponement, but the twin earthquakes disaster in the southeast of Turkey has now emerged as a new excuse. Turkey is already essentially at war in northern Iraq and Syria. So, triggering the war option could be easily arranged.

It should also be noted that dealing with the consequences of delayed elections might not be so easy for Erdogan, who stands accused by the opposition of doing next to nothing to prepare Turkey for major earthquakes that any expert worth their salt was sure would happen withink the forseeable future. Amid the postponed polls, the autocrat would be exposed to coups, uprisings and such threats.

2-) Declare an election “victory” beyond any possible objective verification.

Prior to the earthquakes, moves made pointed to this option. In the months prior to the elections, Erdogan would pull out all the stops to increase his genuine vote and keep opponents at bay.

His latest poll “victory”, with a crude lack of transparency making it unchallengeable, would be declared on the evening of election day.

External recognition from major capitals would be vital to exercising this option. Erdogan has prepared his foreign policy to secure it, including the repairing of relations with powers across the Middle East that became his adversaries.

Local neoliberals, referred to as “the liboshes” in Turkey, have lately bemoaned how the personnel at the key foreign embassies as well as the IR crowd across major Western capitals appear certain another Erdogan term is on the way.

The problem is that the smartest kids do not study politics or IR. They prefer the hard sciences. Also, the best embassy staff are not allocated to Turkey. There are more important countries to prioritise such as China, the US and so on. So, there’s a pretty poor outcome when it comes to the quality of personnel manning the Turkey desks.

Once upon a time, such as during the Cold War era or the time of the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, there were properly talented Turkey experts such as Ruzi Nazar or Graham E. Fuller, among many others. However, the focus right now is on China. The Western countries’ present non-policies on Turkey even fall short of convincing the liboshes.

The libosh is an interesting prototype, but they are not the concern right now. However, note that being in touch with the personnel of the Western governments is among the main characteristics of a libosh.

Under normal conditions, the information flow goes from a source such as a military or governmental source through the personnel of a foreign government. In the case of the liboshes, these personnel push their perspectives and the liboshes spread them around Turkey.

For instance, during the 2000s, all the liboshes were talking about how the Islamists would democratise Turkey in parallel with open support from Western governments for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Thus, the liboshes are currently in a state of revolt as Turkey will become an even more uninhabitable place under one more Erdogan term.

In the bigger picture, the consequences of imprudent decision-makers are a global phenomenon at the moment.

For instance, Angela Merkel was a real visionary. She consigned Europe’s energy security to Vladimir Putin. It worked really well for Berlin for a while. Germany boosted its exports thanks to cheap Russian gas.

Merkel also consigned Europe’s border security to Erdogan. The idea is to rely upon Erdogan to not allow great numbers of migrants who have reached Turkey to flee into Europe.

Turkey’s dictatorship is testing the limits as a ‘pressure cooker’. Who will have some questions for the politicians in Europe when Turkey, currently hosting more than 90mn people (taking into account unregistered inhabitants) at the door of Europe, explodes?

Merkel, a citizen of the former East Germany, currently warns that Europe should take Putin’s nuclear threats seriously. If asked, she would also warn that Europe should take Erdogan’s threats seriously.

3-) Flee abroad.

Erdogan, as we know, faces many unresolved lawsuits in the US. If he fled, he would likely not be able to stay out of jail despite self-exile. The new Turkish government would also be on his tail.