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Turkey gives the West a lesson in democracy

As the dust settles over Turkey’s 25th parliamentary elections, Western powers are busy scrambling to work out if the results will work in their favour. Since the collapse of the Arab Spring and the military coup in Egypt, it has become increasingly clear that some countries in Europe and their allies across the Atlantic may advocate democracy at home but don’t always support it overseas, especially in the Middle East and Asia.

Yvonne Ridley

Yvonne Ridley


It appears that the US, Britain and other EU countries prefer to deal with dictators and brutal regimes because such rulers rarely leave anything to chance. In a finance-driven climate, where billion-dollar oil and arms deals speak louder than the uncertainty of the ballot box, the West prefers the sort of control that can be guaranteed through fear and intimidation and the barrel of a gun. If this wasn’t the case and human rights dictated ethical foreign policies then the West would long ago have reconsidered its close relationships with countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Turkey does not fall into any of these categories and has, for more than a decade, presented the West with a problem; the Justice and Development Party (AKP) under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan cannot, in their eyes, be relied upon to be compliant and toe the Western line, even though it is a member of NATO. More annoyingly, under his leadership — first as prime minister and latterly as president — Turkey has emerged as a regional powerbroker because of the strategic and political influence it wields in a volatile region where few Arab leaders are prepared to challenge Western hegemony and opinion.

For example, the vocal support that Erdogan has given to Palestine is extremely irritating to the West and his war of words with various Israeli leaders has been unrestrained. That he has exactly the same views as them — we know this thanks to the infamous microphone malfunction between US President Barak Obama and former French President Nicholas Sarkozy — matters not. Officially, criticism of Israel by Western leaders is strictly forbidden under a bizarre form of self-censorship more akin to those inside the Supreme Peoples’ Assembly in Pyongyang.

Erdogan is thus Israel’s worst nightmare. He kowtows neither to East nor West and is democratically elected. His unprecedented successes in previous elections have been exactly that, although “unprecedented” does not mean fixed, otherwise he would have enjoyed another landslide this time around. This was not a 99.9-per-cent-of-the-votes-for-the-Great-Leader type election, by any means.

The Palestinian issue is not only key to the Arab world, it is also central to Turkey’s popularity and has ensured an almost rock star status for Erdogan in the region, especially since his performance on a world stage in 2008. That’s when he did something that most Arab leaders could only dream of doing; showing his outrage over Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, he stormed off the stage at a debate in Davos, telling fellow panellist and Israel’s then President Shimon Peres, “You know how to kill people.”

While the Hosni Mubarak regime in Egypt continued to enforce the Israeli siege on Gaza, Erdogan fired off more of his sharp criticism of the blockade and Israel’s subsequent storming of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in which nine Turkish aid volunteers were murdered by Israeli commandos. If Western leaders think Erdogan has now been muzzled after the AKP failed to gain the majority needed to form a government on its own (it was 18 seats short of that target) they will be mistaken; there could be some more embarrassments in store for those who tread the international stage.

Turkish Election Results 

The main Turkish opposition leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, might be poles apart from Erdogan on some issues but the two share the same view over the death sentence on Egypt’s first democratically elected President, Mohamed Morsi. He was ousted in July 2013 by a military coup led by the latest Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdogan have both denounced “political execution decisions” and criticised international meddling in the internal affairs of countries after Morsi and more than 100 Muslim Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death by a Cairo court last month. Al-Sisi’s Western backers were, at the time, predictably silent that the only freely-elected president in the history of Egypt had been sentenced to death. Their continued silence today speaks volumes about their true position on democracy in the Middle East.

Erdogan now has 45 days in which to form a government after losing his majority for the first time in 13 years. However, securing 41 per cent of the Turkish peoples’ mandate is no mean feat when you consider that the newly-elected British Prime Minister David Cameron got only 0.8 per cent more from the British people.

It is also worth noting that just over 66 per cent of British voters bothered to vote last month in the General Election while only 58.2 per cent of Americans went to the ballot boxes for the 2012 US presidential election. When you consider that more than 86 per cent of those eligible to vote in Turkey went out and voted, you can see why the biggest winner of the day was the ballot box. Western leaders, please take note.
Source: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/europe/19115-turkey-gives-west-a-lesson-in-democracy

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