In the wake of Turkey’s June 24 elections, POMED nonresident Senior Fellow Howard Eissenstat talked with Arlene Getz of Reuters about the implications of Erdogan’s victory for the article, “Commentary Five Question: ‘Turkey is no longer a democracy.’
Turkey’s polarizing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won a decisive victory in the June 24 elections. He will serve his latest term as a more powerful head of state, wielding extensive executive powers approved in a controversial referendum last year. Howard Eissenstat, an associate professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University and a non-resident senior fellow at the Project on Middle East Democracy, spoke to Reuters editor Arlene Getz about the implications of the poll outcome.
GETZ: Given the curbs on opposition access to the media, changes to some electoral rule and allegations of intimidation, can this be described as a free election?
EISSENSTAT: On the day of voting there were reports of violence, intimidation by security services, and irregularities in voting procedures. These issues were serious, but do not seem to have been on a large enough scale to fundamentally alter the outcome of the elections.
However, it is important to understand that free and fair elections are not just determined at the ballot booth, but throughout the campaign. And here the problems were much more acute: campaigning was undertaken under a state of emergency, opposition media have largely been shut down and much of the leadership of one major opposition party, the HDP, is in prison.
Meanwhile, the ruling AK Party used state resources and its control of the press to ensure that its message was the one people heard. The election was contested. But the ruling AKP played with loaded dice.
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