BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Let’s dispense with the easy one, first. Azerbaijan held an “election” on November first. Who noticed? Who cared? The result was so predetermined, the election such a farce, the persecution of Aliev’s opponents so extensive, that the “results,” to the extent they’re not completely concocted, could have been published days or weeks before the actual “election” was held. This artificial country’s elections are a far grander charade than even Armenia’s tainted elections. The country’s pre-election period (I hesitate to call it a campaign), was so fraught with violations that real opposition parties pulled out and even refused to recognize the results. The OSCE even refused to send monitors because it would have been pointless. No surprises attended this (s)election with Aliev continuing to tighten his hold on the country and take it down the path of autocracy.
In contrast, though on the same day, Azerbaijan’s “big brother” to the west had a very interesting election with a somewhat surprising outcome. Turkey’s campaign period was also marred, but with bloodshed and dangerous games being played by its current president, on his way to creating an autocracy, too. Ironically, it was under the same person’s watch that Turkey experienced a period of some democratization.
The parallels between the two elections are intriguing. Opposition figures in Turkey were targeted for arrest, too, but under different pretenses. Here, it was mostly Kurds affiliated with the HD Party who were arrested, for allegedly cooperating with the PKK (Kurdish armed liberation movement).
The media was abused, too. Reporters were harassed and media outlets targeted for legal action. But more importantly, since much of the media is indirectly controlled by the AK Party which has been in power since 2002, it was used as a conduit to vilify candiddates of the opposition parties since much of it is indirectly controlled by the AK Party.
shortly after the June 7 election ended his AK Party’s 13-year run as the majority party in parliament, Turkey’s Erdoğan reignited the war with the Kurds. It is analogous to Aliev’s escalation of tension on the “line of contact” through more frequent ceasefire violations as we saw since Summer. This stratagem, like the others mentioned above, served to create an environment of fear. Once that fear was insinuated into peoples’ hearts and minds, then Erdogan, as he abused the office of President he holds, paraded himself at countless public events to convey that his party could reestablish tranquility.
The bombings that occurred during the last few months also put a damper on campaigning. The HDP cancelled its rallies lest more people be killed. Also, many of the party’s offices were attacked by AKP supporters. Naturally, this hurt the HDP’s vote tally. The MH Party lost ground because many of its right wing voters turned to the AKP under the circumstances described, plus, the party leader was seen as ineffective because he refused to even consider forming a coalition government when no party had won an outright majority in the June 7 election. The CH Party (which was Ataturk’s) seems to have escaped largely unscathed with it’s tallies being similar to what it got in June.
Perhaps the most interesting twist in the sad story of Turkey’s election is that pre-election polling predicted the outcome would be roughly the same as the June election, with no one party garnering a majority of the seats in parliament. Yet, the AKP did magnificently, falling only a little short of the 60% of the seats it needs to be able to move forward with changes to the constitution (intended to turn Erdoğan into a virtual king rather than president) without needing support from other parties.
Despite the success of Erdoğan’s electoral games, by all accounts, Turkey now faces major challenges because of the costs his games incurred. The war is back on with the PKK. Turkey is embroiled in the Syrian quagmire, largely in a counterproductive way as a consequence of Erdoğan’s policies. He has destroyed the traditional, non-partisan, largely ceremonial, nature of the country’s presidency. His arrogance and power-hunger are always and everywhere evident, therefore it is not hard to imagine that those who oppose him will have trouble working with him.
But, the good news is that the three Armenians who had been elected to parliament in the June election, were returned to office this time. They should be expected to play a very visible role in putting matters of importance to Armenians in Turkey on the agenda of parliament.
We, in other parts of the Diaspora, should now work closely with our compatriots in Bolis to support their efforts and provide cover, since they are likely to engender much hate from the Turkish chauvinists who have once again been whipped into a potentially murderous frenzy.