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What is Erdogan’s poll ‘tensile’ strength?

Hardly four weeks to the Turkey presidential and parliamentary elections day, my mind swung to a number of questions ranging from the exercise itself to the role of players embodying the electorate, contestants and the country as a whole, in the event of incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failing or succeeding to come back and the ruling pseudonym Justice and Development (AKP) losing or retaining the parliamentary majority.

Muharrem Ince turned out to be my question Number One running as follows:

Q.1: Can Muharrem Ince, this time around, be nice to his country and people?

Judging from the very tight poll trend picture, this tricky, calculative Homeland Party presidential candidate, reads like the kingmaker. Presented simply as a physics teacher, school principal turned politician, Ince could be seen as the contestant, who all along in contemporary Turkey politics, has known who butters his bread with a relatively low margin of error. His career posts someone who goes beyond to calculate even which side of his ‘politics bread’ is buttered. Call him a ‘politics mathematician, if you like.

Representing the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the 2018 polls, he contested for the presidency and managed to garner 36.6% of the vote against Erdogan’s 52.6.  What went interesting in the exercise is that during the election night he disappeared sending a short message saying “the man (meaning Erdogan) has won.” Of course this had a bearing on Erdogan’s final ballot numbers. He is the man of “quits”.  Wasn’t this a calculated move? When he failed to head the CHP, his mission was not only unaccomplished, but also over. He quit and formed the Homeland Party, which he planned to lead in the 2023 polls, something that has happened.

Come the politics of the 2023 polls alliances, calculative Ince remained out of the Nation, Public and Ancestral formats. He stands as a Homeland Party candidate. The calculative message he sends across to the Nation Alliance is that he will reduce Erdogan’s ballot count. Isn’t this a lie? The sum total of his decision is pro-Erdogan because his share will come from CHP supporters. Even then, could he have forgotten his earlier promises that he will never stand as a candidate against Kemal Kilictaroglu? What has he now done?

There is a popular saying in politics that “if you can’t win join them”. Erdogan has put in place a variation. He divides the opposition, gives them support (money) for this to happen and if the need be he takes over their leaders, the likes of current interior minister, Suleyman Soylu who was a DP leader. Erdogan has made sure that Turkey remains the land of the legendary Trojan Horse, in respect of which situation Africa indigenous knowledge says: “Ekyalema amahela, engata otule” — meaning never try to do anything that money cannot achieve. Money (corruption) is the key.

Ince knows the story of Turkey just like the Christians’ “Our Father, Who Art in Heaven” prayer. Can he this time at least pretend to love his country? Are the Homeland Party and ruling Justice and Development Party birds of a feather?  Is ‘homeland’ just a name as ‘justice’ is to AKP? He knows that the ills of Turkey need a replacement of Erdogan which can only be assured by the upcoming polls not going to the re-run stage. Ince’s move flickers in the direction of re-run elections which could be dangerous for a country (homeland) that is already in deep social, economic, governance and human rights troubles. Can Muharrem Ince, this time around, be nice to his country and people and be true to the ‘homeland’ name of his party?

Q.2. What are the Russians, or rather Vladimir Putin, doing in Turkish polls?

The whole world knows the game believed to have been played by the Russian Federation’s Vladimir Putin regime in the U.S. polls, leading to former President Donald Trump, first U.S head of state with no prior military or government service, becoming one of the country’s rare one-term presidents.  In Erdogan, Putin has a representative in the NATO and allies’ alliance. He has a contact person in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Erdogan’s continued life in Ankara is beneficial for Putin’s multi-facetted economic, warfare, geo-politics policies. He needs a weak (sick?) highly malleable Turkey leader to deal with the West. Turkey is also gaining influence in Africa, which is good for Putin. If there are reports that Putin also had a hand in the orchestrated false flag 2016 coup, how can he avoid the polls? Will Russian arms sales to a NATO member continue after Erdogan? That is the question.   

 Q.3. Is ‘the heart is willing but the body is week’

bible story evolving symbolically true

with incumbent Erdogan’s crave for power?

Could Erdogan still be hopeful of

pulling steak from the bone toothless?

Hopefully, in recognition of his health status, Erdogan had previously stated that he would not hold election rallies. In a sudden change of heart, just 25 days to the polls, he decided to embark on a campaign tour, which many opined would put his health at bigger risk. And it has happened. He is reported to have appeared one-and-half hours later and his stay cut short. He returned after ten minutes with an apology. Could history repeat itself? Erdogan had chance to advise then Democratic Left Party (DSP) prime minister Bulent Ecevit to resign over health problems. Ecevit didn’t and went on to lose in an election. Doesn’t Erdogan remember this? Can’t he see himself in the same situation?  Could history repeat itself?

Columnist Steven A. Cook twitted: “Being a world leader is tough, campaigning is grueling, people get sick. George H. W. Bush threw up on the Japanese prime minister. Hilary Clinton wobbled, but they were fine. It may be nothing, but Erdogan’s health has been an issue for some time. Foreignpolicy.com with 21.9K views suggests: “Erdogan might be too sick to keep leading Turkey.”

Another aspect of the incident is that when Erdogan cancelled polls campaign rallies due to what he called a “stomach bug”, did he also remember innumerable and more serious ‘bugs’ beleaguering his rule? The presidential candidate is actually suffering from other ‘bugs’ related to human rights and rule of law – ‘bugs’ that are enough to disqualify from seeking another term.  

Power is indeed so sweet that many leaders cling to it until the last minute when it is no longer possible. Come May 14, 2023, what will be the Turkey people’s decision on the poll ‘tensile’ strength of Erdogan? 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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