2017 is going to be a significant year for Europe as far as elections are conferenced and some of them has the potential of becoming important tests for democracy in the EU.
If the radical right tendency, which has gained grounds over the recent years, maintain its success, we might have even to bid farewell to the EU, and our only hope would be the victory of democracy and the EU values.
The radical right-wing parties are not only against the EU, but also contradicts its core values. We have all observed how problematic they can be in terms of human rights and in their policies towards refugees.
The radical right-wing parties and movements have also created a desperate situation surrounding Islamophobia and have inspired radical groups that have problems with Muslims and particularly Turks. This has resulted into an increased number of attacks on mosques, Muslim associations and Muslims themselves. The democrats are rightfully concerned about this grave picture.
Having escaped from the clutches of fascism in 1945, Europe today is bearing witness to its rebirth.
For this very reason, elections to be held this year in some EU countries, particularly in France and Germany, are of critical importance in the name of democracy. They are likely to determine the fate of the EU.
The first significant election will be held in the Netherlands, where Geert Wilders' radical right-wing, Party for Freedom (PVV), was expected to increase its vote share.
Wilders' party, with its policies against Islam, immigration, refugees and Euro-skepticism, poses a great threat to the EU democracy.
It is unfortunate that the Netherlands, which used to be an exemplary country for its democratic practices, has become a radical right stronghold today. The situation also shows what the EU has become. For now, our only hope concerning this election is the possibility of coalitions that would exclude radical right-wing ministers.
In Italy, after socialist Prime Minister Matteo Renzi lost the constitutional referendum in October 2016, early elections were expected to be held in February or early Spring of 2017. Since Italians refused Renzi's EU friendly route and economy policies, this election is also likely to pose some risks to the integrity of the EU.
Meanwhile, France will also hold a series of elections this year where French voters will elect the president and members of the parliament. Between April 23 and May 7, the presidential elections were to be held, while the general elections were scheduled between June 11 and 18. 43 million French voters will determine the fate of France and the entire EU.
Being governed under a state of emergency since November 2014, when the atrocious Paris attacks occurred, France has been focusing on the terrorism risk on its agenda and the presidential race will take place between Marine Le Pen, the leader of radical right National Front Party and François Fillon, the presidential candidate of the center right. Representing the conservative segment, Fillon is known for his dissidence to Turkey's EU membership and harsh stance against foreigners, particularly Muslims.
Both elections will dominate world agenda. If the absolute majority is reached at the first round, there will be no need for the second one. But it is not expected. Le Pen's vote share is increasing after every election. Consequently, the xenophobia and EU-skepticism were also on the rise in France. Even the socialist candidates kicked off an election propaganda by saying that they have problems with Muslims and Turks, too.
Meanwhile, Brussels is concerned about this tendency In France. Some circles started to express their concerns that if France follows Britain's path, it would be the end of the EU. In my opinion, however, France will not have such desperate election results. But it is certain that it would be harshly battled.
The most crucial elections in the EU are to be held in Germany. Over the course of the last two years, radical right Alternative for Germany (AfD) is achieving considerable success at every federal election and is on its way to form a strong group at Bundestag in 2017.
The presidential elections of Germany will be held on Feb. 12. This is the least perturbative elections among the others. It is estimated that Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is to be elected as president. This would favor both Germany and the EU. However, it must be remembered that the German President only holds a symbolic position.
Then the election marathon is to begin in Germany. The elections were to held on March 26 in Saarland, on May 7 in Schleswig-Holstein and on May 14 in North-Rhine Westphalia. The results of federal elections are quite important in terms of the Bundestag elections, which are slated for September. Particularly the results of North-Rhine Westphalia, the most populous state of Germany, will be a significant determinant.
Federal elections plays a crucial role both for Germany and the EU. When the role of Germany in the EU is taken into account, this election can be said to be as crucial as the U.S. presidential elections.
In this election, the candidate of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) will be the current Chancellor Angela Merkel. Merkel will be the Chancellor for the fourth time if elected again. Social Democratic Party (SDP), on the other hand, has not yet named its candidate who will run against Merkel. Their candidate is to be announced at the end of January. But to be frank, social democrats are in a disadvantaged position due to their unsuccessful chart and lack of a charismatic leader. They do not have much of a chance against Merkel since they cannot offer any alternative.
The Left and the Greens are likely to have the same share as previous years. The liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) will endeavor to exceed the 5 percent election threshold after a four-year interval. They have a chance to exceed it. Also, the AfD's entrance into parliament is almost certain now, which is an unprecedented situation. There is even a chance that it might be the third-biggest parliamentary group by enjoying a higher vote share than the Greens. Sad but true.
In this sense, the election race will not be easy for Merkel. She particularly has to tackle with the AfD during the electoral campaign. All the Euro-skeptics and xenophobes that have problems with Merkel's policies fall under the AfD. Besides, most of them are the radical former members of the CDU and CSU. Since they left these parties to found the AfD, Merkel is their main target of criticism.
Unfortunately, Merkel's vote share has declined since she determinedly pursued a humanist refugee policy, unlike some other EU countries including Austria. She will probably have the victory since there is no other strong alternative.
The fact that Germany has been the term president of the G20 will favor both Merkel and CDU/CSU before the elections. Germany took over the G20 term presidency in early December. Merkel pointed out that during her G20 term presidency, providing stability in the world economy would be the primary concern. Merkel also wants to focus on health issues and aid to Africa. In the scope of the G20 presidency, a series of meetings are to be organized between January and May with the participation of finance, foreign affairs, labor, health, agriculture and digital affairs ministers of member countries, which is likely to increase German public support for Merkel. Germany is to finalize its G20 term presidency with the leaders' summit to be held in Hamburg on July 7 and 8. The organization of this summit shortly before the election might favor Merkel, as well. If there is no surprise, we can estimate that the CDU/CSU and SPD coalition with Merkel as chancellor is likely to continue.Interestingly, Turkey is playing a considerable role in the elections of France and Germany. Of course, we are no longer surprised by the anti-Turkey or anti-Erdoğan remarks from the EU in every election year because we are aware of the reasons. But the EU would have been in even worse condition without Turkey.
Turkey's fight against all the terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq is a fight for the EU. In the absence of Turkey, EU countries would have had more serious problems with regard to terrorism. Terrorism has already ravaged Brussels, Paris and Berlin. But if Turkey's fight had not undermined the terrorist groups, then the situation in the EU countries would have been even worse.
The fact that the radical right is consolidated in the EU after every terrorist attack is proof of that. We do not even want to imagine what the vote share of the radical right would be without Turkey.
Parallel to this, Turkey's contribution to the EU in terms of refugees is of vital importance to the EU democracy. If Turkey had not hosted more than 3 million refugees, then Nigel Farage, Geert Wilders, Frauke Petry, and Marie Le Pen would have enjoyed a great deal of success by now.
If democracy is to win in the EU in 2017, it will win thanks to Turkey's contribution to the resolution of terrorism and refugee problems even though the country is subjected to baseless accusations and smear campaigns.
Hopefully, the European democrats will appreciate it and support Turkey after the elections instead of leaving it alone.