Talking Turkey

Turkey’s electoral commission has reportedly bowed to pressure from Recep Erdogan and ordered a re-run of the Mayoral election in Istanbul annulling the victory of Ekrem Imamoglu last March 31st.

Imamoglu ran under the banner of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) which is the strongest part of the opposition to the President’s party Justice and Development (AK). Together with its allies from the far right, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Erdogan has a slim but sufficient majority in the 600 member Parliament.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the head of the CHP party denounced the decision but declared that his party will win the new election on June 23rd. Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu was actually attacked by a mob at the funeral of a soldier killed in combat in Syria a couple of weeks ago. He said that the mob was instigated, not by the family of the killed soldier or their neighbours but, by people from the outside who went their deliberately to disrupt his show of support to the “martyrs”.

My guess is that the election is of personal importance to President Erdogan because he started his political career after becoming Mayor of the city in 1994. At that time, Erdogan was a young football player and was recruited to run by the Welfare Party, Turkey’s first openly islamist Party. His election was a watershed moment in Turkish politics and, according to an essay by Deborah Sontag in the New York Times Magazine, he was an excellent Mayor.

Turkish politics are, however, very complicated and there are a number of conspiracy theories about Erdogan and what the deeper game might be. I was told for example, that he met with George W. Bush 7 times in his first year of office giving proof to the idea that he is really an agent of the United States.

According to this theory, Erdogan and the party he founded in 2002 was created as part of an American plan to re-make the Middle East and gain control of its natural resources. Part of the plan was to create an Independent Kurdistan which would then be connected to Turkey and the West through pipelines for oil and gas.

I actually checked records of the U.S. Department of State and found that Erdogan actually met with Bush 8 times between January 2004 and December 2009 either in face to face meetings or in the context of a larger gathering such as the meetings of the G20 in 2008 and 2009. Perhaps there were other secret meetings but the theory sounds far fetched in any case.

Abdullah Öcalan

Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of the Kurdish political organization in Turkey has been in jail for 20 years and Turkey has sent its army across the border into Syria to fight the Rojave (Kurdish for West) as the Syrian Kurds call their region.

I understand relations are better with Iraqi Kurdistan and Genel Energy, an Anglo-Turkish venture, has been instrumental in developing the regions oil and gas.

The reason the political situation in Turkey is so important is that the Ottoman Empire effectively governed the entire Middle East for approximately 600 years until its collapse after the first World War. Erdogan, it appears, aspires to re-assert Turkish leadership or at least its influence in the region.

If there ever was a dream of bringing real representative government and regular elections to the region, what happens in Turkey is very significant.