Another Nail in the Coffin of Turkish Democracy
“Because there are three classes of intellects: one which comprehends by itself; another which appreciates what others comprehend; and a third which neither comprehends by itself nor by the showing of others; the first is the most excellent, the second is good, the third is useless.” -Niccolò Machiavelli
On the 31st of March 2019, local elections were held in Turkey throughout its 81 provinces, electing a total of 30 metropolitan and 1,351 district municipal mayors, alongside 1,251 provincial and 20,500 municipal councillors. When it came to the mayor of Istanbul, the opposition candidate and secular Turkey’s new ray of light Ekrem Imamoglu of Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the race with a solid 48.80% of the votes. Following the results that took the High Election Council a long two weeks to announce, the ruling party AKP claimed that the elections were allegedly rigged and used every seemingly legal right they had for the cancellation of the Istanbul election, taking the extraordinary step of submitting a petition. On the 6th of May, the High Election Council announced with a vague excuse that due to some electoral officials that worked in the election not being civil servants, the Istanbul election will be repeated in June.
Democracy, at the core, is defined as a system of collective decision making where the citizens exercise their power by voting. According to John Locke it is “taking the consent of the majority as the act of the whole and binding every individual”. Therefore in a system where a 48.80% majority elects a candidate as the new mayor, through the same system that was used in all other 80 provinces as well as the 2018 presidential elections, on what democratic basis can the election be cancelled?
With such an undemocratic and autocratic decision that clearly undermines the decisions of millions of citizens, how can Turkey remain a ‘democratic’ and economically stable state? Onursal Adiguzel, a CHP lawmaker said “It’s free to enter an election against the AKP but forbidden to win it” while President Erdogan claims that severe corruption was the main problem with the elections, basing it all on conspiratorial evidence. “Removing this corruption, this fraud will exonerate the High Election Council, and also fill our nation’s heart with peace”, says President Erdogan, however, how could a process that reinforces soaring inflation, high unemployment levels and constant decrease in global image as well as putting another nail in the coffin of Ataturk’s democracy possibly fill the nation’s heart with peace?
As the hours pass by following the neither democratic nor legitimate decision of the High Election Council, Imamoglu begins to gain more and more followers and supporters with hundreds of influencers and artists sharing his motto “Everything will be beautiful“, spreading nation-wide hope that this time he will win with a bigger margin.
As Erdogan drives Turkey into a more miserable state of democracy due to his delusions of grandeur, the re-run will only contribute to the process of weakening his absolute power while the rise of Imamoglu gives Turkey perhaps a final chance in redeeming its secular and democratic values leading up to the 2023 elections.