On Sunday, Turkish voters will elect 600 parliamentary members and a president.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is favored to remain Turkish leader, Muharrem Ince his main challenger, promising to reverse hardline rule if elected, telling supporters at a massive Saturday rally:
“If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to…Fear will continue to reign…If Ince wins, the courts will be independent,” oppressive state of emergency conditions will be lifted.
Some polls show Erdogan short of a first round victory, a July 8 runoff to follow if he fails to win outright on Sunday.
Six candidates are vying for Turkey’s highest office: Erdogan, Ince, Merel Aksener, Temel Karamollaoglu, Dogu Perincek, and pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Dermirtas – imprisoned on phony terrorism charges, running from behind bars.
If his party exceeds the 10% threshold required to win Grand National Assembly seats, Erdogan’s AKP will likely fall short of a parliamentary majority.
In a message to supporters, Demirtas said if his party “fails to get into parliament, all Turkey will lose. Backing the HDP means supporting democracy.”
Turkey under Erdogan is a fascist police state. Criticizing him risks arrest, prosecution and imprisonment.
Article 299 of Turkey’s Penal Code (TCK) defines insulting the president as a crime punishable by one to four years in prison. If committed on social media like Facebook and Twitter, sentences can be sixfold higher.
The law is mainly used to intimidate independent journalists, academics and other intellectuals, trade unionists, human rights activists, and others critical of his hardline rule.
Anyone criticizing regime policies can be charged with terrorism, espionage or treason, risking imprisonment or assassination – since 2000, a dozen or more individuals eliminated this way.
Erdogan once cited Hitler’s Germany as an ideal way to govern, streamlining decision-making, solidifying iron-fisted rule, eliminating challengers and critics.
Exposing regime wrongdoing risks longterm incarceration following near-rubber-stamp convictions. Rare exceptions prove the rule.
Press freedom is forbidden. Turkey imprisons more journalists than any other country.
Since August 2014 elections elevated Erdogan from prime minister to president (formerly a ceremonial role), reign of terror governance followed.
He’s been systematically solidifying his grip on power, despotic rule by any standard.
He’s waging terror war against Turkish, Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, falsely claiming a campaign against terrorism.
He seeks annexation of Northern Syrian and Iraqi territory. He’s long coveted northern Iraqi oil fields.
In August 2016, he invaded northern Syria, his aggression code-named Operation Euphrates Shield – aiding anti-government forces, combating Kurdish YPG fighters.
In January 2018, Operation Olive Branch followed in Syria’s Afrin district, launched with no opposition from Washington or Russia, Erdogan continuing naked aggression on Kurds cross-border.
Like the US and Israel, he supports the scourge of ISIS and likeminded jihadists he claims to oppose. His illegal military operations in northern Syria continue.
In April 2017, Turkish voters approved replacing the country’s parliamentary system with a presidential one by national referendum, empowering the head of state to rule by decree, short of circumventing existing laws.
The referendum was held under state of emergency conditions, following the failed July 2016 military coup attempt – tens of thousands imprisoned in its aftermath, over 130,000 purged from regime, academic and other public positions.
Critics cried foul about the referendum process they called unfair, observers barred, election law breached. Many Kurds displaced by fighting couldn’t vote.
Opposition members were intimidated, bullied, and publicly beaten, several shot by unknown assailants.
EU rapporteur on Turkey Kati Piri minced no words, saying “(t)his is a sad day for all democrats in Turkey. It is clear that the country cannot join the EU with a constitution that doesn’t respect the separation of powers and has no checks and balances.”
Erdogan was accused of manufacturing the result he wanted. Under state of emergency conditions post-coup attempt, his reign of terror continues.
In April, he announced June 24 snap presidential and parliamentary elections, saying it’s to transition to presidential rule more quickly following April 2017 referendum results – elections originally scheduled for November 3, 2019.
Under Turkey’s presidential system, greater executive powers come at the expense of parliament and the judiciary. Dissolution of the parliamentary system abolished the office of prime minister.
Vice presidents replace it, the president empowered to appoint and sack them. Parliament no longer has power to monitor the executive branch, just cabinet members and ministers.
As president, Erdogan or another head of state is greatly empowered to declare and indefinitely maintain a state of emergency, restrict or eliminate fundamental freedoms, bypass parliament with presidential decrees, and largely control the judiciary.
If he triumphs on Sunday or in a July 8 runoff, he’ll solidify his iron-grip on power, ruling as a tinpot despot more than already.