Ola Claesson
Last updated: 14 March, 2014

“I would not expect too much of an election-effect from further leaks on YouTube”

With less than a month left to the local elections in Turkey, new sound recordings said to expose the government’s corruption and wrongdoings are released on almost a daily basis. Rumours say that moving images soon will join them. On the other hand, a man holding up a sign saying “There is a thief” at an AKP rally in Osmaniye was almost lynched by angry supporters of Erdogan about one week ago. The country is in other words polarized.

The reason for this tense climate is that the result of the elections heavily is going to influence Turkey’s future. Roughly speaking I see two different scenarios:

1. AK Party gets above 40% of votes

Coming out relatively unharmed from the elections, Erdogan will be seen as a winner and his ministers and party members stay loyal to him. Another consequence of this scenario, is also that Erdogan will have plenty of room to continue restructuring the country’s institutions to his own liking. The biggest loser will be democracy in general, and in specifics, the opposition, individuals, companies, newspapers and institutions that have been critical towards him.

“Erdogan will have plenty of room to continue restructuring the country’s institutions”Without any resistance, and with the full power of the police, the judiciary and the intelligence service etc. behind him, he will start a witch-hunt for everyone he considers as an opponent to his cause to stay in power. Turkey will develop into a one-party-state, and any return from there will be a very long and slow process.

2. AK Party gets below 40% of the votes – Ankara or Istanbul is lost

A result below 40% will instead be interpreted as a blow to Erdogan, especially if Istanbul or Ankara is lost to CHP, the main opposition. Erdogan will initially try to sell the result as a victory, pointing to the fact that the party still has a majority of the total votes in Turkey. But eventually discontent will grow, since he won’t be able to stabilize the country and restructure it to his own liking in the same way as before. Especially he will have a hard time to pursue his goal of a presidential system with himself as president. The struggle between AKP and the opposition parties will at the same time become more even, and together with the economic effect of the interest rate-hike in January and the weakening of the lira kicking in, people will get the impression that Erdogan is losing control. It is then likely that the members of AKP will start thinking of a future without him as their leader. How long this would take, is impossible to predict, since it depends on how much below 40% AKP receives in the election.

So, which one of the two scenarios is the most likely?

Since only 20% of the voters belonging to Erdogan’s core group have access to Internet, I would not expect too much of an election-effect from further leaks on YouTube. On the other hand, looking back at the recent past in Turkey, unexpected developments are exactly what should be expected.