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New Mayor, Same Regime

The result of the elections, which was repeated illicitly, for the mayorship of Istanbul metropolitan municipality is announced and Ekrem Imamoglu won (for the second time) by receiving more than 54% of the votes. I will analyze what this victory means and does not mean in due course. But first, let me take the plunge of being characterized as negative and a pessimist, and carry out a pre-assessment.

First of all, I see that the regime gained important advantages after the results. First of these advantages is that they successfully managed to put CHP (Republican People’s Party) and IYI (Good) Party at ease together with all their trivial partners and made Turkey look like a country where democracy is functioning. Their second gain was being able to provide this corresponding data to the world and create a perception that electoral democracy still exists in Turkey. These two gains are so important that it can be even paid off by losing the elections in Istanbul. Hence, it happened just like that. Let me explain.

The main estimate of my hypothesis is the fact that the regime is not only made up of Erdogan and AKP (Justice and Development Party). In other words, Erdogan is a partner of the regime but he is not the owner. Everybody writes about and knows that Erdogan has been taking damages and wearing down gradually throughout the recent period.

The problems about the economic collapse (tens of problems such as high inflation, increasing depletion and unemployment, devastating costs of foreign exchange assets of the private sector, increasing dead loans for the public sector where even the interests are impossible to pay, suspension and regression of the main sectors, the matters of foreign trade and budget deficits becoming chronic) literally melts Erdogan away.

On top of that, there are problems with security and foreign policies, and especially the crisis about the matter concerning the S-400s. All of these makes it even more possible for a new remodeling on the regime. After the elections in Istanbul, Imamoglu has been promoted to the position of a player who has the highest chance to be substituted in for the regime. In other words, he might be the leading figure after the Erdogan period. Although this might seem pleasant at first, when profoundly considered, Imamoglu will scratch the surface compared to Erdogan. This is not related to the characteristics of Imamoglu. This is a reality with the realpolitik parameters of the regime. Both Imamoglu and CHP, the party he is a member of, accept the discourse of the regime just like Erdogan and AKP.

The regime of Turkey after 15 July is a political tutelage without a constitution. The effective power of this regime after 15 July is Eurasianist supporting deep state. This power took possession of the army, which basically owned Turkey, after it carried out the extensive purge in TSK (Turkish Armed Forces). Albeit being a monotonous structure, the common ground of this power is the fact that it comprises of figures who disapprove the US, NATO, and West, and choose to gravitate towards the Russia-Eurasia axis. Erdogan and AKP had accepted this faction to steer the foreign and security policies after 17 December, 2013. Furthermore, they also accepted to terminate the “Solution Process” which was being carried out with the Kurds inside the country. This was the bargain.

Thus, Erdogan embraced being on top, took pride of place, and dodged Supreme Court. Meanwhile, CHP swallowed the destruction of a democratic law of state. Because the majority in CHP had already supported similar views compared to the deep state. The “social democrat lions”, who had perceived the EU democratization process as “compromises made”, accepted the dissolution gladly and willingly in a state of law since 15 July. Thus, the new political tutelage approved that “they can come to power”.

Imamoglu is the candidate of this CHP! In other words, when the reign of Erdogan is over, he is the substitute who has the most potential to join the game. If this change happens and we wake up in the morning one day to see Erdogan is stepping aside and Imamoglu takes the chair at the end of this process, the credibility of the regime will increase. It will be possible to turn over a new leaf and enter a new Kemal Dervis era together with the IMF, and then the game will restart. Just like it had been at the beginning of the 2000s; a process of democratization again, and just like it was after 1982; a process of normalization for over 10 years!

I think this is not bad at all for the regime today! What do you think? By the way, if the deep structure would make a compromise on not breaking away from NATO with give-and-take relationships and start moving towards the West again for foreign and security policies, the West might turn a blind eye to the human rights violations of Middle Eastern Turkey for quite some time.

Just like it was during the Cold War; since it is going to be a more proper order in form than today, even the millions who have been prosecuted and suffered might give a standing ovation to me today. Making somebody choose the lesser of two evils is one of the oldest tricks of politics. The Imamoglu period after Erdogan will let everybody’s hair down. In fact, this already happened from day one. Garo Paylan, deputy and a member of HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party), tweeted “the one-man regime collapsed”! I am not joking, do not laugh! This is the perception in the country. We are emotional people who like to dance. Thus, the simple and thin analyses cause you to be accused of being a pessimist.

Nevertheless, I do not take any notice of them. Because I am not a life coach who provides motivation. This is not my job! As a matter of fact, there are tons of people who actually do that. However, don’t you think that people also need to hear lucid political analyses? Hundreds of thousands of people, whose children, spouses, and even parents had been entrenched upon, need to hear the fact that a person, who has been selected as the mayor of Istanbul for the second time and uses the discourse of the regime, cannot bring back the state of law in Turkey!

“Long live the Turkish democracy” chants chase the rainbows and this is a perception operation! The regime gave “There is democracy in Turkey!” message to the world. By this means, the regime grabbed a great propaganda chance. While the dictatorship continues, they managed to put the people at ease in a great way over a mayorship. Thus, the cooperation between CHP and HDP was terminated in the short term. A genius tactic! By the way, they had more than enough time to cover up all the “fancy” things they had done while they governed Istanbul. In other words, they acquitted themselves and removed their traces beautifully! This “here is the democracy” type of promotion will be great fuel for the regime.

The regime also clarified which cards they will be calling for the period after Erdogan. The regime consolidated itself even more by putting up a potential presidential candidate from CHP, which accepts the regime beyond dispute. Imamoglu is the new mayor but it is the same regime! I think the ones, who still think democracy returned, are the ones who cannot learn the fire is hot without touching it!

Turkish version of this article appeared at TR7/24.COM.

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Dr. Mehmet Efe Caman is a Scholar of Politics at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN). Dr. Caman’s main research focuses on Democracy, democratization and human rights, Turkish politics, the Middle East, Eurasian politics and post-Soviet regions, the European Union. He has published a monograph on Turkish foreign policy, numerous book chapters and scholarly articles in English, German and Turkish about topics related to his research areas.


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