Turkey just had a Presidential election. Accounts are that it was fair, at least when it comes to issues like ballot box stuffing and similar shenanigans. Voter intimidation was something of an issue but it’s actually more subtle there. The biggest problem with having a free and fair election in that country is that their current leader’s increasingly autocratic rule has systematically arrested reporters who are critical of him/his administration. He’s also been able to throttle much of the dissenting opinion on social media there, so the sixty million or so eligible voters (in a country of eighty five million) who are (and have reason to be) quite unhappy with how things have been going there aren’t getting the information they need to make an informed choice on whether it’s time for new leadership.
While some would say it’s hyperbole some who have credibility in foreign/diplomatic affairs say this could be Turkey’s last election. Or at least the last one where it’s a truly free and fair election. Dictatorships where only the dictator is on the ballot, or any “opposition” candidate is such a blithering idiot loser even their mom wouldn’t vote for them don’t count as free and fair elections!
With everything else going on this is not big news here in the U.S. However, the stakes are actually quite significant. Take a good look at the map that’s the title pic. Then consider the fact that Turkey which has been part of NATO from the beginning is it’s only Muslim country. THEN consider the once fairly friendly to NATO/the west’s Erdogan’s steady slide towards authoritarian rule. Which I should add includes cozying up to Putin and the few countries in the region that are either doing the same if not more than just cozying up.
Also consider that Erdogan was/is one of the folks Trump admires. That should tell you all you need to know about the dude. Suffice it to say the their membership in NATO and Erdogan’s screwing around with things (including holding up new countries from joining – Sweden is ready and so is the rest of NATO) and hinting at a realignment as in leaving NATO and allying with Russia and there’s a delicate diplomatic and military balancing act to contend with.
Again, look at that map. Turkey sits in a strategically hugely important place. Don’t forget the impact they had on Baby Bush’s Iraq invasion. Both in blowing off what should have been routine approval of launching a major attack from Turkey into northern Iraq which would have drastically shortened the initial war. There was also the problem that’s still ongoing – the Kurds just over the border that occupy northern Iraq. But there’s more. If you look at their position on the Black Sea and consider access to the Aegean and ultimately the Mediterranean. Also, if you look at the middle of the northern part of the map you see Ukraine!
So yes, Turkey is a vital ally to NATO, the west and the U.S.
There will be a second round of elections on May 28 because no one got to 50%. Therefore the runoff between the top two. Polling suggested Erdogan might actually lose but he almost got enough to win – 49.5% The country has had a number of opposition Parties but this time they coalesced around a consensus candidate who seemed capable of winning, and did get over forty-five percent. Almost all the remaining five percent went to one person and unless he throws his full support behind the main challenger by all accounts those who voted for him will split their vote between the two in the runoff. Which means Erdogan wins.
An opposition candidate that wants closer ties to the west (and NATO) would be best both for Turkey and almost everyone else. Russia and other dictatorships or fledgling dictatorships not so much. Erdogan winning will mean more difficulty for NATO. And that my friends will make not only finishing the fighting in Ukraine but arriving at a workable peace treaty a lot more difficult. In the worst case scenario Erdogan would leverage winning into making Turkey a full dictatorship – and align openly with Russia which would be devastating for NATO. Not to mention our military capability to take other action in the Middle East.
THAT folks is why we should care. And keep an eye out later this month on what happens. It could matter a great deal and not in a good way for the free world.