Transcript of interview with political analyst Guzeldere on the Turkish elections of March 30 2014
Apospamata kai sxolia apo to podcast TA YP' OPSIN
Transcript of interview with political analyst Guzeldere on the Turkish elections of March 30 2014
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Political analyst and journalist Ekrem Eddy Guzeldere discusses the results of the 2014 local elections in Turkey with Elena Spilioti for TA YP OPSIN ( Consider These) podcast. ( March 31 2014)

Elena Spilioti:  Mr. Guzeldere welcome back to our podcast.

Ekrem Eddy Guzeldere: Thank you for having me. A pleasure again.

E.S :                 So, Erdogan won the elections despite restricting the freedom of expression and despite leaked tapes and allegations. Does this mean that religious values have won over democratic ones, or is it that the opposition has not presented an alternative, a convincing alternative solution?

E.K:                  It's a mixture of everything you said, but I think that also important is that the economy in Turkey is still relatively okay and that one of the main indicators for the elections is the economic situation and they had the AKP performing relatively well. Another important factor is that ... in now 12 years in government the AKP controls a large part of the media and therefore many voters, especially outside of the big cities, they either do not hear about the corruption scandals and the fight with the Gülen movement or they only hear it filtered by the opposition. That, for them, is a part of an election campaign and not that real and that bad as for those that hear it directly. And therefore they say it's a campaign and all parties are more or less the same but the AKP at least does also something for us.

E.S :                 There is, however, evidence of real development especially in remote provinces of Turkey such as in Konya for example.

E.K:                  Yeah, of course. This was a regional election, a municipal elections where about 1,400 mayors were elected. The overall result for the AKP is quite comfortable with 15% ahead of the main opposition party with still almost 45%. But there are some cities where also surprises were possible and the AKP did not win or did even lose cities, such as Mardin for example that was won by the Kurdish party or that the AKP could not gain cities like Izmir that they wanted to win very much at the Aegean and at the coast at the Aegean and the Riviera is still in the hands of the opposition.

E.S :                 Were the results expected to a certain extent?

E.K:                  Yes,  there are two most credible polling and survey institutes, Konda and A&G, and they more or less predicted this result so it is not a great surprise. The result means that the AKP won from the latest regional elections about 6%, that was in 2009, and lost about 4, 5% from the last national election that was in 2011. And this might have to do with this ongoing controversy and fight with and against the Gülen network. There were supporters of the AKP who also supported the Gulen movement.  They switched to the nationalist movement party, MHP, which could win 2, 3, 4% and could win cities like Manisa and Mersin and Adana. But overall this did not have a huge effect. Not as much as many expected.

E.S :                 Going back to what you said just before. If economy is a key, we saw that the Lira just went up just 48 hours after the beginning of the elections, maybe sooner. So, if the re-election of the Erdoğan party is a sign of stability, maybe the investors will return too. Does this mean that the international community needs the specific party or do they need Erdoğan's personality? And would the party still be there if someone else was heading it such as Gul, a personality that may be dynamic but also less controversial as a leader.

E.K:                  Yes, it's definitely very important for the economic community that there is political, economic and legal stability in Turkey and this was not the case over the last months. […]Already many investors left Turkey because of interference in the judiciary and no longer being a credible and stable partner. With the election results it won't change a lot. The Lira has gained a little bit but it is expected that there will be a kind of a witch hunt against the Gülen movement and also against their holdings. And this will even more frighten the economic community and it's rather expected that the situation concerning foreign direct investment will get worse over the next weeks and not better.

E.S :                 If Erdoğan moves on to become the president of the country, that would mean eventually lack of leadership in the party. If he doesn't win the elections, does this mean that the party will fall apart?

E.K:                  There is, of course, still a lot of speculation concerning this issue. But Erdoğan can interpret these election results as also positive for his own candidacy for the presidency in August of this year. If he becomes the candidate of the AKP then, of course, there will be another candidate for the national elections to become prime minister. This might be  Abdullah Gül or this might be another AKP politician. Everybody  else than Erdoğan has more difficulty of holding the different branches of the party together and the AKP will certainly not become more powerful with another leader. But how much influence this will have on the forthcoming elections and the future of the party, that is difficult to say right now.

E.S :                 Would you say that standards of voting for president would be different than the local elections, meaning that these good results in the local elections could eventually be a trap for Erdoğan instead of a blessing?

E.K:                  The next elections are still, kind of, a question mark because it's the first time in Turkish history that the president will be elected by the people. This will depend a lot on who won, if  it is the AKP candidate but also who will be the other candidate and how many will there be. There are two rounds planned. One is on 10 August and then a second round on the 24th of August with the two strongest candidates. From the current position it looks as if there is an easy victory for any AKP candidate but it will depend on who the opposition will appoint and whether there  is a candidate that can get the votes of the two major opposition parties, plus those that are alienated by the AKP policy of the last months.

E.S :                 What do you think the results of these elections mean for the European plans of Turkey, if there are still any?

E.K:                  Yes, the negotiations with the EU they are on a low scale for quite some time. There was some hope at the end of 2013maybe that there could be a change but with all these corruption allegations and interference on the judiciary ongoing there is not much to be expected. The regional elections, they won’t have a great change in these relations. I would hope that they are not completely stopped and the EU tries to continue the negotiations because this is the only way that they can influence domestic policy, even if it looks that they have very little influence on the AKP and prime minister Erdoğan.

E.S :                 Could it be that the removal of Erdoğan as a leader of the ruling party, could become an opportunity for the European Union to become more flexible and to give a new opportunity to Turkey to show how democratic a country it is ?

E.K:                  Yes, this is, of course, possible. It will depend on who will take over the AKP and which wing of the AKP, a more liberal one, a more open again towards Europe and towards democratization, human rights and respect of the rule of law and maybe also close in cooperation with the opposition. But Erdoğan is so powerful in the AKP that he will have a big say also on his successor and it is not expected that immediately after the removal of Erdoğan from the head of the party that there will be a huge change. There might be a slow change at the beginning and then there could be maybe, the chance that another party from within the AK party with liberals from the opposition's party that they form a new, more liberal version of the AKP and this could then be a real alternative.

E.S :                 What would you like our listeners to know about the reactions in Turkey today?

E.K:                  This is a very tough time and this was a very tense election campaign. There is an ongoing polarization of the population and of the voters and unfortunately it doesn't look as if this changes after the elections. Erdoğan gave a speech yesterday after the elections results were announced. This is a so-called famous “balcony speech” and usually this is approaching the opposition and that he is the prime minister of all and yesterday this was very different. This was even more frightening than what he said in the election campaign. It was saying that he will clamp down on the Gülen movement, that they are traitors, that they tried to weaken Turkey and that he will be fighting against them with all means. So, it doesn't, unfortunately, look positive for the next weeks and this polarization and the tense situation will continue but we expect mass arrests of sympathizers of the Gülen movement and an attack on their economic holdings and this will not create a more peaceful and tolerant and democratic society.

E.S :                 We will certainly be watching the developments. We are neighbors and  we are always a little bit concerned about the eventual exporting of the domestic troubles of Turkey in the nearby region. Would you be concerned, seriously concerned, about this possibility?

E.K:                  This is one of the things that I would not be so much concerned with. Especially concerning the west and north of Turkey. As we have heard from the meeting of the foreign minister with the chief of the secret service there were ongoing plans of provoking a war with Syria but that is, of course, a very different situation from the bilateral relations with Greece. In general, Turkey is very much occupied with itself in these days. It is a lot less active on foreign policy and I think that this situation, by and large, will continue and that an exporting of the troubles is not a major concern.

E.S :                 Do you think that Turkey has moved away from the model of a modern Islamic democracy that could help show the way to the future in the region?

E.K:                  Of course Turkey was closer to that model in 2007, 2008 and it has become ever more authoritarian in the past two, three years. As I have already said, this will most likely continue at least this and next year but there is also reason for hope. as all this movement and development around Gezi Park and of new forms of participation of young people being involved in politics of protests did not stop even despite clamp-down by the police and banning of websites, of arrests of activists and this won't go away, that people will be more concerned with domestic politics, with being involved in NGO's, in political social movements and maybe this will take some years but at the end this will have a result and the result will be more positive than now.

E.S :                 Mr. Guzeldere, thank you very much for this interview.

E.K:                  I thank you.

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