This weekend Recep Tayyip Erdogan is widely expected to win a third term as Turkey’s Prime Minister in the country’s Parliamentary elections.While the fate of the election seems certain, other questions remain.
First, the constitution issue. Soli Ozel, an academic and commentator in Istanbul, told The Economist that “this election is not about who is going to win. It is about getting a big enough majority to change the constitution.”
Erdogan will need a 2/3 majority in Parliament to change the constitution without a referendum. Many argue the 1982 constitution is indeed in dire need of an update. The Economist argues that if done correctly, a new constitution might add life to Turkey’s dead-in-the-water EU bid.
However, there are worries that Erdogan might change the Constitution’s term limits — perhaps becoming a vastly more autocratic leader.
Erdogan has been heavily criticised by Western media outlets, such as WSJ and The Economist in the run-up to the election. Turkey’s harsh press restrictions have been a particular source of controversy.
The International Press Institute says that Turkey has the most journalists jailed out of any nation, edging out Iran and China.
Alison Bethel McKenzie, director of the IPI, said, “Turkey, at the crossroads between east and west, is a major regional power with an ancient cultural heritage. The country is also often held up as an example of a healthy Muslim democracy. For Turkey to step away from this history and to jail more journalists than any other country in the world is damaging.”
The Economist mentions these press freedom abuses, and argued in an editorial that while Turkey’s economy has improved during Erdogan’s tenture, he had also eliminated many checks and balances in the government, freeing him to “indulge his natural intolerance of criticism” and feeding his “autocratic instincts”.
The Economist felt Erdogan’s abuses were so bad it recently lent its support to CHP. Erdogan retaliated, saying the critique came about because The Economist is part of the “Israel-supported international media”.
There are also further worries that Erdogan may be turning away from the West.
A recent editorial in Hurriyet, an English language newspaper in Turkey, warned that “those who are worrying now that Turkey will shift axis away from the West even more after the elections seem to be justified. It is clear the West will certainly have a very abrasive Erdoğan to deal with if the election results return his party with a landslide, as some polls indicated it might.”
Erdogan’s possible turn away from the West may have been a response to Turkey’s stalled bid for the EU. Turkey became an EU member candidate in 2004, but little progress has been made in the past seven years. The Telegraph reports that while nearly 70 per cent of Turks want to be part of the European Union, only 36 per cent of them believe it will happen during the next decade.
Erdogan’s party has blasted the “unfair and unfounded opposition” of certain EU countries (namely, France and Germany) to Turkey’s bid, and Erdogan himself spoke of what he saw as European racism in the EU’s treatment of the Arab Spring.
It remains to be seen where Erdogan and Turkey are headed in the future, but it is clear that the results of this election are vital for Turkey’s future. If Erdogan wins a large majority, the West may be forced to tread carefully around a potential autocrat.
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.