Fair elections in jeopardy in a post-Erdoğan Turkey - Steven Cook

Turkey’s crisis of democracy may not end with the departure of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as there is ample reason to question whether fair elections would occur in a post-Erdoğan Turkey, said Steven Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relation.

Turkey may struggle to emerge as a healthy democracy due to the transformation of the country’s institutions under two decades of Erdoğan’s rule, Cook told Ahval editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar in the media outlet’s Hot Pursuit podcast series.

Cook was speaking about an article he penned for Foreign Policy magazine this month, entitled “Erdogan might be too sick to keep leading Turkey”, which examined political scenarios in the country should the president be too ill to run for re-election in 2023.

The article covers oft-repeated rumours in recent years about the ailing health of Turkey’s strongman, bolstered by a number of incidents in which Erdoğan appeared visibly unwell.

“The germination of this piece goes back to July, when president Erdogan appeared on CNN Türk television for an Eid (al-Adha) greeting and he faded out and slurred his words,’’ Cook said.

“There are times when he looks gaunt and other times, he looks good,’’ he said, noting that sources had informed him that there may be a concerted efforts to hide Erdoğan’s deteriorating health.

In the case of Erdoğan’s death, Article 106 of the Constitution would be enacted, whereby the vice president would take over and a new president would be elected in 45 days, Cook said.

Some of the names emerging as possible future leaders of Turkey include İstanbul opposition mayor Ekrem İmamoglu, Ankara opposition mayor Mansur Yavaş,  and opposition centre-right nationalist Good Party (İYİP) leader Meral Akşener, Cook said.

“But I am skeptical,’’ he said. Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been in power for almost 20 years, during which time they have “hollowed out and bent institutions while creating new institutions all to serve the institutionalisation of the ruling party, as well as power of now-president Erdoğan,’’ he added.

The current system created by the AKP has led to people amassing great wealth, power and influence, Cook said.

According to Cook, if an opposition figure comes to power, there will be “hell to pay’’ for what has happened in Turkey over the course of the past 20 years - including the desire to prosecute perceived law-breakers.

“Would the AKP, which could come down like a house of cards, allow for fair elections to take place?” Cook said, adding that he was quite sceptical on the matter.

“As they bent institutions, they can fix elections that look legal,’’ he said.





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