An authoritarian regime was initiated by referendum in Turkey in 2017, but it did not work. And on May 14, the liquidation of this regime seems certain.
Four reasons make it inevitable.
The first is the international conjuncture. The regime is genetically incompatible with the US/EU axis—that is, with democracies. It is instead doomed to be bound to Eurasianism—to Russian autocracy and Putin. Now it is in the process being eliminated along with the latter.
The second reason is related to governance. The 2017 order replaced a multi-party parliamentary system with a central and provincial bureaucracy. The uncontrolled bureaucracy that emerged has come to neglect the public as it focuses on its own interests.
The regime was unable to change even the head of the Red Crescent in the aftermath of the earthquake. Party organizations and parliamentary representation were disabled. The bureaucratic autocracy called the “presidential system” could not process the demands of society and transform them into public services. In short, the system broke down.
Thirdly, the system destroyed established political traditions and ideological identities. It has consequently united the scattered and opposing opposition into a single front. By placing the MHP and HUDA PAR on the ruling coalition’s side, and the Iyi Parti and the HDP on the opposition’s, Turkey’s upcoming election has resolved political differences and changed traditionally opposed political sides. This “two-front” politics is a product of the 2017 regime, and it will also likely destroy it.
The fourth reason is related to the regime’s waning capacity to produce enemies. The current autocracy is no longer able to wage a credible war with old enemies, or with the new ones it has invented. Within Turkey’s polarized atmosphere, amidst the dust of political competition—or more accurately political warfare—even the word “terrorists” has lost its meaning.
This means the bankruptcy of the “enemy politics” that has dominated the country in the last decade. Autocracies need enemies in order to survive—their interest is less in fighting enemies and more in having an unchecked and uncontrollable power.
(In reality, democracies are better at fighting enemies. Democracies prevailed in World War II, and Turkey fought its nearly impossible war against seven foreign powers to won its independence with a form of democracy established in Ankara in 1923.)
If a nation’s enemies are many, democracy and rule of law will diminish. Furthermore, when a city is surrounded by enemies, freedoms are suspended and the streets are patrolled by police.
For this reason, autocrats constantly produce enemies. Creating imaginary enemies and being in a state of perpetual war with them becomes a routine mechanism of power. While religious preachers—who receive their salaries from the Turkish state—pray from the pulpits, to “strike down our enemies and make our state victorious,” there can no longer be a space for the rule of law, justice, freedom or human dignity.
We can deduce what will happen from what has already happened.
In the run-up to the elections, the government made a major effort to create two enemies outside our borders visible and to wage a war with them. One was Greece and the second was North-Eastern Syria.
There are two weeks left until the elections and neither of them has been willing to play the role assigned to them so far; international actors have not bought into the plot.
In order to predict the outcome of the elections, I suggest you follow the responses to the government’s efforts to create enemies, rather than the polls.
The fact that the opposition’s extraordinarily constructive and conciliatory language has dominated the election atmosphere foretells the outcome with certainty. It is useful to remind ourselves that individuals are mortal, and institutions are permanent.
This election is between a self-proclaimed bureaucratic autocracy and a compromising, constitutional, parliamentary democracy based on rule of law, and open to scrutiny.
Autocracy has lost its enemies, which means it is losing its power.