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U.S. Democrat-Turkish opposition equation for Erdogan

Democrat Joe Biden wins U.S. 2020 Presidential Elections. From the Turkish political stage, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, becomes the first to send a congratulatory message. “I look forward to strengthening Turkish-American relations and our strategic alliance,” he says.

The equation sends a clear message to the ruling Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its current leader, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The cross multiplication of U.S. Democrat and Turkish ‘Republican’ elements is equal to a very possible AKP explosion threat.

In an earlier interview, Joe Biden is on record for having called President Erdogan an “autocrat” and saying that the United States could “support those elements in the Turkish leadership that still exist and get more from them, embolden them to be able to take on and defeat Erdogan.”

This is a far-reaching statement in terms of foreign policy and practice. It implies some level of suppression of different opinion holders in Turkey and Joe Biden’s readiness to support whatever remains to face and unseat the “autocratic” Erdogan regime. This simply boils down to strained Washington-Ankara relations. Exit Donald Trump, enter Joe Biden; the Pentagon and the Palace no longer tally.

After the U.S. (Donald Trump) withdrew forces from northern Syria, Biden was quoted as charging that Turkey was ”the real problem”  and   further making it very clear that if he were the U.S. President, he would make Erdogan “pay a heavy price for what he has done.”  Now he is one.

Turkey’s President Erdogan should see it coming. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden has promised to lead the nation as commander in chief with a steady hand, challenging increasing competition from China and Russia and reforging ties with European and other allies. In fact Erdogan and his allies have indeed seen it coming.

On a serious note, in the very last moments of Biden being declared winner, Erdogan found it more rewarding to connect with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin. There wasn’t much time remaining for him to sit comfortably on the West-East fence. The worthiest alloy of his West strength was weathering away.

In a way, when looked at critically, Trump and Erdogan were birds of a feather. They liked to combine authority with business profits.

Despite heading a country taken for a leading democracy under the sun, Trump, through U.S. Attorney General William Barr, managed to secure self-protection and his associates from consequences of their wrong doing. To call a spade a spade, legal calculations were always at hand to ensure that in any development, Trump technically remained above the law. Erdogan did not take that round-about mode to secure this. He went straight head-on and put the Judiciary under the armpit.

On a light note, Joe Biden’s victory was clinched, sealed and well secured at 273 electoral votes from Pennsylvania – the exile home U.S. State of Erdogan’s regime perceived enemy Number One, Fethullah Gulen. It was a sad coincidence for Erdogan.

As I wrote this article Joe Biden had bagged 290 electoral votes – twenty clear of the threshold. And this was yet strong enough to pull a congratulatory sign from the Turkish Government. Instead, on the heels of the CHP message came that of pro-Kurdish Democratic Party (HDP) congratulating Biden “for the election of the President of the United States as a result of a competitive election campaign held under severe pandemic conditions. We see the election of Kamala Harris as Vice (-) President as an important success and a turning point in the history of democracy in America.”

Waking up on the wrong side of the U.S. polls bed, Turkish Vice-President Fuat Oktay said they would not have an impact on bilateral relations but Ankara would continue following its own interests. “Any election in any country does not change anything for us. Turkey has its own interests and diplomacy”, the VP was quoted as saying. In testimony of this, Ankara went ahead and congratulated Republic of Guinea President Alpha Conde for winning a controversial third term in office.

Commenting on the main opposition CHP message, ruling AKP Group Deputy Chair, Bulent Turan Tweeted:“Look at the one who has not congratulated Erdogan after any of his fifteen election victories.”

The fall of Trump leaves Ankara to a greater extent without sufficient body cover. Imagine what is likely to happen to Trump’s efforts to dissuade the Justice Department from prosecuting Turkish state HalkBank on charges of helping Iran to evade U.S. Sanctions?  Joe Biden’s victory amounts to lots of sour grapes for Turkish authorities.  

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden and President Erdogan personalities, on the ground, likewise, seem to be somehow wide apart. Former Defense Secretary William Cohen, a Republican serving under the Bill Clinton Administration, has been quoted as calling Biden a “steady, stable, responsible leader who has steered our country through difficult storms in the past. At the very core of Joe’s being is a visible decency, a genuine humility and a deep-seated empathy for the pain of others.”

This does not compare favourably, in the least, with the Erdogan’s regime ruling style currently constituting the highest number of cases before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and in the bad books of the United Nations Human Rights Council Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances in its latest report.

Empathy aside, the Erdogan regime practices do not even qualify for being referred to as sympathetic. Babies are imprisoned along with their mothers for perceived political wrong doings of their fathers. What is the value of a government that denies a nine-year-old child cancer treatment because his father belongs to the Hizmet Movement?

Could the entry of Joe Biden signify the beginning of an end to autocratic regimes in the world? That is the question.

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Felix Kaiza is a Tanzanian journalist with more than 50 years of experience currently working as an independent media consultant. Learned in agriculture, journalism, political science and international relations, his main fields of consultancy, besides the media, are good governance, nature conservation, tourism and investment. He was the first Tanzanian Chief Sub-Editor of an English daily newspaper in 1970, he has been behind the establishment and growth of the national independent media since the early 1990s. He is UNFAO Fellow Journalist since 1975 and has wide experience on regional integration. He worked on the Information Directorate of the original East African Community on whose ashes survive the current one. His ambition is to brand Tanzania in the inbound market with made-in-Tanzania brands, including information, almost all of which is currently foreign brewed.

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