Looking Out: Snap

All of a sudden, the rug is pulled out from underneath us.

Turkey is once again headed to the ballot box in exactly two months.

Erdoğan made the decision to call snap elections to get ahead of the strengthening center-right and worsening economy.

What is Turkey facing?

The usual numbers: Erdoğan’s party in the mid-40s, the center-left at 23, the new and old nationalists struggling to split 20, and the pro-Kurdish left with ten percent of the vote.

The opposition is once again in disarray. Without a vision or a presidential candidate, let alone a coherent strategy. Nothing has changed since the elections of 2014, 2015 and the 2017 referendum.

Will the nationalist Akşener get enough Kurds to go out and vote for her, granted she qualifies for the second round? Unlikely.

Will any center-left candidate, likely to qualify for the second round, beat Erdoğan in the second round? Even more unlikely.

Will Erdoğan lose the parliamentary majority? One can only hope without raising expectations.

Even if anyone were to win against him in earnest, will it be big enough to beat the rigging that will doubtlessly happen? Unfortunately, that is not in the realm of possibility.

Even if Erdoğan loses, he will win. The excitement of snap elections and campaign speeches obscures the truth of the June 24 election: it’s already been decided. We live in a sham democracy, certified “not free” by Freedom House.

Yet we vote anyway, only for our ballot to be shredded or go uncounted.

We must continue, while knowing the game is rigged, to vigorously contest every election. Push forward in the face of ‘electoral irregularities.’ To say that we have not given up on democracy in Turkey, regardless of the state it is in today.

Because Turkey is not Russia or Egypt: Popular will can still manifest itself, however muffled by rigging. As a recent Washington Post article explained, “The ultimate outcome of the election is no less predetermined, but the costs of obvious, large-scale ballot rigging are much higher and a fabricated outcome like that in Egypt would be counterproductive in Turkey.” This seems especially clear as 86 percent of voters in Turkey support “democratic values” to some extent.

Despite this, Eissenstat’s conclusion that the rigged election is simply a tool for Erdoğan’s continued rule is misplaced. If all opposition parties were organized and willing to call a general boycott of the election, that would be a powerful message. However, as the large parties commanding loyal electorates would never abandon electoral politics and take such a risk, the elections still matter.

Every citizen of Turkey should still vote. To attempt to deny Erdoğan the parliamentary majority, if not the presidency. Or simply to be counted as having said no to continued autocracy under the façade of democracy.


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