Turkey's 2018 elections are over, now it's Europe's turn

BRUNO SURDEL
Published

Visionary leaders plant the seeds of freedom and greatness, people grow them, and the whole country can harvest and benefit from the fruits. On June 24, Turkish voters made history and started a new era for their country: more stability, security and prosperity for generations to come. New Turkey (Yeni Türkiye) is not just a political slogan, it's a genuine program for development inside and outside of the country.

It's a feasible social, economic and political strategy to lead Turkey forward. It's good news for a region tormented by the horrors of wars and terrorism. It's good news for Europe too – and again this is Turkey that is an avant-garde of creative and positive changes on European soil. The European Union's elites need to learn Turkey anew. It's pretty clear that the Turkish nation is not blindly following either the West or the East, but it has chosen its own way: the middle, independent path toward the future.

Many biased people in the collective West hoped that this time it was finally possible to stop President Erdoğan and pre-empt his victory in the twin elections. They saw their chance in some "new, liberal and pro-Western candidates" who emerged before the elections and supposedly could challenge the incumbent. Those candidates didn't miss any opportunity to blame President Erdoğan for all the woes of the world and slander Turkey in foreign media in hope of gaining some fame and praise from xenophobes and populists.

Last Sunday, however, they lost and media pundits who predicted seismic shifts on the Turkish political scene also lost. But to some extent they were right: There is a tremendous change. Turkey is about to adopt an executive presidential system that will strengthen the country and provide it with an extra impetus to pursue its strategic interests and development. Fighting the plague of terrorism equally requires resolve and political stability; the same plus long-term planning is needed for sustainable economic growth in an uncertain era of world trade wars.

Few authentic and real statesmen can grasp the zeitgeist and build true and solid foundations for tomorrow learning from the near and distant past. Turkey has such a political leader in the very person of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. An iron will, political insight, high personal integrity and love for his people and the country brought him yet another critical victory.

Now the time has come to complete the transformation of Turkey into a powerhouse able not only to contribute to regional peace and security but also to engage much more in global issues. This is Turkey's destiny and the challenge it took up already working to end Syria's immense suffering across the southern border, assisting Somalia and other African nations in rebuilding their state institutions and social fabric as well as extending a helpful hand to the persecuted Rohingya people to stop their plight in Southeast Asia. These are just a few examples.

On the other hand, Turkey can increase its international presence by further expanding the activity of informal cross-regional groupings such as MIKTA (Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, Australia), which has gained remarkable prestige thanks to its multicultural composition, impartiality, standards and initiatives aimed at empowering youth and women, education, sustainable development and much needed reforms in the United Nations. Precisely, the latter issue is long overdue. Countries like Turkey, India, Brazil or Indonesia (to name just a few) deserve a larger voice within the United Nations system. At a time when G7 summits became a pathetic farce, the G20 is still a platform where the world's leading states and civilizations, including Turkey, can meet and work on the common good and try to resolve urgent problems.

Furthermore, there is a question of the European Union whose more or less secular elites should finally come to their senses and cease applying double standards to Europe's reliable, pragmatic and indispensable partner – Turkey. The huge and enviable turnout in the presidential and parliamentary elections has clearly shown that Turkish citizens greatly value their democracy and are responsible voters who truly understood the stakes when they decided to go to polling stations and cast their ballots. The results should serve as the ultimate lesson for those leaders in the EU who still – after 16 years – are not ready to accept the simple fact of life that the Turkish people support Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in their masses because they trust him and respect his achievements both as prime minister and president.

Turkey has its new beginning at the constitutional and state level that – paradoxically – has been achievable only thanks to the continuation. The incredible efforts and stamina necessary to launch and effectuate impressive investments in infrastructure, education and human capital enabled the massive transformation and modernization of Turkey in the last dozen or so years. It's become a completely different country compared to what it used to be before 2002. But – as I wrote here in May – something more was necessary to reach the next stage of development and to get ready for sweeping changes we are witnessing in the world. A choice had to be made by voters on June 24. And the Turkish people delivered. Now it's Europe's turn.

* Warsaw-based political analyst

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