The presidential candidate of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, came out victorious in Sunday's election. Receiving a total of 21 million votes, Erdoğan was followed by Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, who took 15 million votes with the support of 13 opposition parties. The People's Democratic Party's (HDP) candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, who was predominantly upheld by the Kurds, came third with around 4 million votes. Even though the turnout was lower than the previous local elections (74 percent), it was much above the average of Europe and world. For example, in the last election in France, the turnout was 62 percent, while this figure was 58, 36, 51, 73 and 71 percent in the U.S., the U.K., Italy, Germany and Russia, respectively. In brief, none of these countries outnumbered Turkey in terms of the electoral turnout.
This is the ninth victory for Erdoğan, who also won the local election with a landslide victory just three months ago. Throughout his 12 years in power Erdoğan enacted a number of laws on a wide range of topics that allowed elections to be held in a fairer way. In addition to lifting the ban on conducting politics in other languages, he provided a fairer distribution of treasury funds among the political parties, and terminated the closure of political parties. As it is known, the involvement of the pro-Kurdish HDP in Parliament is a result of the liberal reforms of the Erdoğan administration.
The opposition block, which encountered a major defeat in the presence of Erdoğan, is preoccupied with making excuses instead of pondering the reasons for their failure. The first of these is that they raised the issue of "a presidential race on equal footing" during talks with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on the electoral process. The opposition claimed that Erdoğan took advantage of the facilities of the state in his election campaign. However, Erdoğan strictly abided by the law, and financed his election campaign transparently with donations under judicial control, just like the two other candidates. Several days ago, the AK Party authorities announced that the remainder of these funds would be transferred back to the treasury. The Supreme Election Board (YSK), well-known for its decisions to the detriment of the ruling party, also closely monitored this process.
Erdoğan's participation in some inauguration ceremonies before electoral prohibitions were imposed can be regarded as among the actual legitimacies of politics. I think that nowhere in the world is such a situation considered as a major violation. Moreover, İhsanoğlu, the most powerful challenger to Erdoğan, had enormous political and media support behind him. In response to 900 provincial organizations of the AK Party, İhsanoğlu was backed by thousands of provincial organizations of 13 opposition parties. Some 70 percent of the Turkish media supported İhsanoğlu even by often ignoring journalistic principles. Despite all this support, the opposition did not hold any election rallies. Erdoğan, however, displayed respect to his electorate by holding rallies in two different provinces a day.
When it comes to election safety, representatives from all parties were present at each ballot box. In this case, those who should have been concerned about the safety of ballots was the AK Party and Erdoğan who participated in the election with his own against the coalition of 14 parties. Furthermore, tens of thousands of pro-opposition nongovernmental organizations also closely followed the elections. Apart from these topics that were presented to the American and European media through manipulations, Erdoğan's election victory has different meanings for Turkey. First and foremost, Turkish electorate preferred a candidate who promised peace, demilitarization and democracy, rather than the representative of the Republican elites. The military, which shaped the regime and constitutions through coups, designed the presidency as an office that would limit the freewill of Parliament. People, by casting their votes, removed the last obstacle to the demilitarization of politics, and opened the way for civilian representatives.
Henceforth, the Presidential Palace will see a civilian politician who promises to end the 30-year-long war between the Kurdish separatist movement and the Turkish state, and to eliminate illegal and antidemocratic groups in the state. This demilitarization step in the democratic transformation of Turkey is not a promising development for Turkey alone. The EU and the U.S. should also appreciate the success of their strongest ally in a region tyrannized by dictatorships.
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