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  • Nurmash Tok

Turkish elections: Another defeat for global democracy


Turkey, a major economic, political, and military power, has once again cast its vote in favour of the incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Winning with 52.1% of the votes against Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Erdogan's victory underscores the persistent allure of populist politics, a phenomenon increasingly affecting the global political order.

Erdogan's victory represents more than just the triumph of one politician over another. It signifies the triumph of populist rhetoric over substantive democratic deliberation, particularly when Turkey faces severe economic turmoil, out-of-control prices, and stark inequality.

A crucial aspect of Erdogan's appeal lies in his ability to position himself as the embodiment of the 'real' Turkish people. This narrative, however plausible it may seem to some, is inherently flawed. Turkey has a diverse society with a multiplicity of identities, beliefs, and values; no single person or party can claim to represent everyone. This is the inherent issue with populism, as simplifying the country's complex demographic realities to a binary of 'us' versus 'them' ignores the diversity of Turkish society and undermines the pluralistic essence of democracy, making consensus hard to achieve. From this, inevitably, the ordinary Turkish citizen suffers. President Erdogan claiming to be their voice allows him to concentrate more power, undermining the democratic roots of the modern Turkish state

Erdogan's campaign was characterized by a staunch commitment to traditional family values, opposition to LGBTQ+ rights, and a hard stance against Kurdish militants. While these issues resonate with a segment of Turkish society, they do little to face up to the more pressing matters that Turkey currently faces.

With an economic crisis, high inflation, and severe income inequality, the country's primary focus should be on economic reform and social justice. Yet, due to media bias and effective populist campaigning, these issues were driven further away from the public sphere. They were eclipsed by a populist agenda intended to rouse emotions and polarize society.

This election outcome does not bode well for Turkey's role on the global stage. Being amongst the world's top economies and a crucial member of many major international organizations, Turkey is a significant global player, having long influenced global politics. Ultimately, Turkey has control over international matters from NATO expansion and refugees to the security of the Middle East and our economic approach to Russia. Erdogan's victory, fueled by his populist rhetoric and authoritarian tendencies, adds to the mounting challenges for the liberal global order. As we have seen in other countries, populist leaders prioritize nationalistic agendas over international cooperation. This pattern, if continued by Erdogan, could further strain Turkey's relationships with other countries and international institutions.

Clearly, the latest Turkish election is more than a domestic event. It's a signal of the persistent appeal of populist politics, in Turkey and around the world. It's a reminder that the fight for a more inclusive, democratic, and equitable society is far from over. And most importantly, it's a wake-up call to those who value democratic principles and a liberal world order.

Moving forward, it is vital that Turkish society and the global community continue to champion the principles of democracy: inclusivity, respect for human rights, economic justice, and political pluralism. Only by doing so can we hope to counter the appeal of populist rhetoric and build societies on collective decision-making and fair representation.

Image Flickr/ Turkey Erdogan President



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