BY MEHMET ÇELIK / DailySabah
"The World’s Most Important Election in 2023 Will Be in Turkey,” was the title of an analysis penned by Bobby Ghosh published in the Washington Post on Jan. 9.
“The outcome will shape geopolitical and economic calculations in Washington and Moscow, as well as capitals across Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa,” the article says, with comments from pundits complementing the argument of the article.
In a very seemingly subtle tone and sophisticated fashion, Ghosh has listed a number of claims to support his argument on why Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish president whose party has been winning the democratic elections in the country for the past 20 years.
“He has undermined NATO’s security by acquiring missile-defense systems from Russia, frustrated the alliance by blocking the membership of Sweden and Finland, repeatedly threatened to flood Europe with refugees and, in recent months, hurled increasingly bellicose rhetoric toward Greece. Ankara’s relations with Washington have grown strained to the point where top Turkish officials routinely accuse the United States of backing a coup against Erdoğan and of complicity with terrorist groups.”
Well, it is true. These are some of the key moments where Erdoğan has been at odds with the West, allies or the European Union.
Türkiye has been fighting the PKK terrorist group for nearly four decades, and the West has left its ally alone. In fact, Türkiye’s "allies" have supported the terrorist groups, namely the PKK, YPG or other acronyms for that matter, politically, militarily and logistically, instead of supporting Ankara’s decadeslong anti-terror fight. No need to go back too far to list examples. The U.S. support for YPG terrorists in Syria is a trivial example now. What about PKK sympathizers’ open and loud presence in Sweden’s public spaces? What about terrorist suspects from PKK or the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) using European capitals as a safe haven for their activities?
Well, it is true. Erdoğan is not OK with that and his stance in favor of Türkiye is not well received by the "allies."
Refugees? Threatening Europe with refugees? If you ask anyone around the world now, they can speak for long moments about Türkiye’s hosting of some 5 million refugees for the past decade when the West closed doors, stretched barbwire and pushed them back to death at the sea. Many rights groups have documented the maltreatment of refugees by European countries within their borders or as the refugees try to cross in to their borders. During his address to the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Erdoğan drew attention to the bleeding wound of refugees: “The refugee crisis cannot be solved by sinking the boats of innocents who set out to seek a better future, thus leaving them to die, and by building walls on borders, and filling concentration camps with people.” Calling on the world leaders to do their parts on finding a solution to the refugee crisis, he added: “While we struggle to prevent other babies, like Aylan, from washing up on the shores, Greece is turning the Aegean Sea into a graveyard for refugees with its unlawful and reckless pushbacks....It is high time for Europe and the institutions of the United Nations to say ‘stop’ to these acts without mercy that constitute crimes against humanity.”
Türkiye fights against terrorist groups that are supported by NATO members along its borders with two “failed states.” The political and economic instability breeds terrorism in the region. Yet, instead of supporting efforts for political stability, the Western allies of Ankara host YPG terrorists in their capitals. Erdoğan is a leader that has elevated to where he is on the world stage for his firm stance when it comes to protecting the interests of every Turkish citizen on the street in the international arena. This is why he has been elected with strong support in democratic elections for the past 20 years. Be it in fight against terror within the country or outside of its borders, be it defending its country’s rights in Libya, Syria or the Eastern Mediterranean, Erdoğan has been changing the dynamics or equations pushed against Türkiye as a fait accompli.
The article also says, “the U.S. and Europe would be better off without Erdoğan’s disruptive influence in world affairs, especially as their confrontation with Vladimir Putin intensifies. His utility as an interlocutor is limited: Although he helped to broker an agreement to ensure continued flows of grain and vegetable oil from Ukraine last summer, Erdoğan has had no restraining influence on his ‘dear friend’ Vladimir.”
Türkiye's mediation efforts
Türkiye’s support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion in all levels and forms has been clear from day one. Meanwhile, Türkiye’s mediation efforts have also been at the forefront of world diplomacy during the conflict. From the successful grain deal, which has eliminated an imminent world food crisis, to the prisoner exchange to the meeting between sides in Antalya and Istanbul, Türkiye’s pragmatic ties with Russia have been at work for sustainable and permanent peace in its region. Both Ukrainians and Russians have made Türkiye a home for themselves. This is precisely a reflection of the diplomatic efforts led by Erdoğan while Ukraine’s Western leaders continue to remain idle in finding a solution to end the war.
No doubt, the article is very timely and the elections will be one of the most important elections in near history for Türkiye, the region and also the world.
In the upcoming elections, the people will vote and democracy will prevail, as it has always been, with the exception of times of West-backed military coups.
It is clear, Erdoğan is not the candidate suitable for the Türkiye the article – or the West – envisions suitable to lead Türkiye or desires to win. Yet, what is also written in between the lines is the messages given to possible opposition candidates. Basically, it says, “look, this is what Erdoğan is doing. Make sure you don’t do that. Do not get ahead of yourself in case you get elected. Make sure you stay in line with our interests, not Türkiye’s, be it in fight against terror, be it in improving your game-changing defense industry, your active diplomacy or moves in regional matters, or in developing your fully electric vehicle, and so on.”
In the end, the Turkish voters will have the last say and election results will be respected as they always have been. And again, the elections will clearly be followed by many around the world. From Palestine to Azerbaijan, from Rohingya to Bosnia-Herzegovina, from Somalia to Ukraine to Kashmir to Afghanistan, it is true, many will follow the upcoming elections, as the support base for the idea Erdoğan represents is not limited to Turkish voters: The world is bigger than five!