Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following the extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017 - REUTERS/Osman Orsal Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following the extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Istanbul, Turkey, December 13, 2017 - REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Turkey’s elections show the limits of Erdogan’s nationalism - paper

By: MENA
Wed, Apr. 3, 2019
WASHINGTON, April 3 (MENA) - Ahead of local elections throughout his country last weekend, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan resorted to his usual tactics. He cast some of his ruling party’s opponents as traitors in league with terrorists.

He screened the horrific video of the massacres at two mosques in New Zealand and claimed the mantle of Muslim victimhood. And he stirred angry nationalism from city to city in a bid to distract voters frustrated by the country’s faltering economy, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

But this time it didn’t work. In what’s being viewed as a rebuke to Erdogan, candidates representing his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, were defeated in the major cities throughout Turkey including the capital, Ankara, as well as Izmir, Adana and Antalya.

In Istanbul, the country’s biggest city, a politician from the opposition Republican People’s Party looks to have secured a majority of votes, though the AKP is challenging the result, and there are fears of government foul play afoot, the newspaper said.

Even as AKP officials point out that they and their coalition partners won the most votes across the country, the next days will test Erdogan’s ability to stomach defeat, it said.

The loss of Istanbul “would be an especially harsh blow to the president,” wrote The Washington Post’s Kareem Fahim.

“Erdogan rose to national prominence as the city’s mayor from 1994 to 1998. The city has since served as a source of wealth and prestige for his party and a showcase — with its sprinting construction, megaprojects and multiplying mosques — for his broader ideological vision.”

But amid a grim economic downturn, which has seen the country’s currency, the lira, lose a third of its value against the dollar, Erdogan could no longer hang his hat on the prosperity ushered in during an earlier period of his rule. And his divisive populism failed to secure enough nationalist support among urban voters.

The loss of Turkey’s major cities has also shattered Erdogan’s image as an invincible politician,” wrote Gonul Tol, a Turkey scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. She added that the election delivered “a huge blow to the clientelistic network Erdogan has built over the last 25 years,” which had helped him secure “the loyalty of the business elite and put their resources to work to consolidate his power.”

The deflating outcome for Erdogan adds to his mounting woes, the newspaper pointed out. Abroad, he is engaged in a new squabble with the United States over Turkey’s purchase of a Russian missile defense system, it said. At home, he faces mounting calls to enact deep economic reforms, it added.

It’s a terrible result for Erdogan,” Berk Esen, an assistant professor of international relations at Ankara’s Bilkent University, told the Financial Times. “There’s an economic crisis, there’s an international crisis due to an ongoing standoff with the US. At the same time, there is an electoral defeat that shows his international partners and domestic opponents that he’s quite vulnerable.”
 
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