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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, 2015. (Photo: Public Domain)

Special to the Globe: Turkey’s Crucial Election Sunday

The outcome of the May 14 election is of great importance to the United States and our allies

By Richard Grenell, May 11, 2023 2:39 pm

On Sunday, our Turkish friends go to the polls to elect a President and Parliament. Voters will select 600 members of the Grand National Assembly and a President for a five-year term. Current President Recep Erdogan the leader of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), has been in power for 20 years. Erdogan is being challenged by opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu (KK as he is called).

Erdogan, 69, may be in trouble. The economy is suffering and the Turkish people are frustrated – especially after the massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake that hit Turkey in February earlier this year. Despite this, Erdogan still has good will with certain segments of the population because he spent decades giving Turkey economic development programs that improved the lives of millions of people. But rumors of corruption, religious politics and a divisive autocratic style has given the opposition an opening. 

Kemal Kilicdaroglu. (Photo: Public Domain)

KK, 74, is an economist and retired civil servant who has been the leader of the struggling opposition since 2010. KK is a soft-spoken technocrat who has been both complimented and criticized by the Turkish political class. However, the Erdogan controlled media see KK as too weak to lead a country as powerful as Turkey. The questions most Turks are asking themselves: Is KK strong enough? Is he worth the risk of dumping Erdogan?

Turkey has been a member of NATO since 1952. And while Turkey has proven to be a traditionally good U.S. ally, Erdogan believes he can be a member of NATO in good-standing as well as a close friend to Russia. Turkish military leaders disagree strongly, and the clash is playing out on the campaign trail.  The outcome of the May 14 election is of great importance to the United States and our allies. (If one of the candidates does not get 50% of the vote, then a run-off is triggered with the top two candidates on May 28). While many in the West have grown tired of Erdogan’s inconsistent friendship, they have become delusional about his chances for re-election. Westerners’ wishful thinking has created more tensions for both Erdogan and KK. Erdogan, after all, is fully in control of Turkey’s government and largely controls the media.

The winner will need to unite Turkey and quickly deal with a currency in trouble. Erdogan supporters say he will not lose on Sunday while KK supporters say voters are ready for change.

The Biden team has been trying to quietly push out Erdogan. U.S. Ambassador to Turkey Jeff Flake met with KK last month and received a stern warning from Erdogan that he will be locked out for his meddling. Erdogan made it clear that the Ambassador’s role is to work with the government – his government.  

But elections are about getting people to the polls and having a safe and secure vote counting process. And Erdogan is much more experienced at voter turnout than the opposition.

Unfortunately, the Biden Administration is in no position to lecture Erdogan about conducting safe and secure elections. It was revealed this month that Joe Biden’s campaign used Anthony Blinken in October of 2020 to interfere in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. Blinken, now Secretary of State, helped motivate 51 political operatives who used to work for U.S. intelligence agencies to sign a letter suggesting that Hunter Biden’s laptop was a Russian disinformation campaign. The laptop, however, wasn’t from Russia – it is a verified computer of Hunter’s showing proof that the Biden family received tens of millions of dollars in foreign influence campaigns. 

The implosion of America’s moral authority on election integrity issues could be on full display Sunday if Turkish officials use Joe Biden’s own tactics against him to justify their strategy. 

Erdoğan in a meeting with US President Joe Biden, Turkish Foreign Minister Çavusoğlu and US Secretary of State Blinken, October 2021. (Photo: Public Domain)
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2 thoughts on “Special to the Globe: Turkey’s Crucial Election Sunday

  1. Hopefully elections in Turkey are honest and fair unlike elections in the U.S. where Democrats steal elections with voter fraud and rigged voting machines while RINOs not only allow them to steal elections, but they often assist them?

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