Turkish presidential elections.. Does the West hope for Erdogan’s fall?

Turkish presidential elections.. Does the West hope for Erdogan’s fall?
Turkish presidential elections.. Does the West hope for Erdogan’s fall?

Western capitals are watching with interest what will happen to the Turkish elections that took place on Sunday to choose a president for the republic, which is inhabited by about 85 million Turks.

The New York Times says that what the Turks decide will have major repercussions on a number of global issues, whether what is happening in Ukraine and Syria, or immigrants in Europe, and also on the trade and economy files.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was slightly behind his rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, in recent opinion polls, but the actual election numbers indicate intense competition that could push for a second round of elections.

The newspaper says that “European leaders, not to mention the Biden administration, would be happy if Erdogan lost.”

“We all want an easier Turkey,” Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, was quoted as saying Friday.

On the other hand, the newspaper says that Russia depends a lot on the results of the Turkish elections, adding that under Erdogan, Turkey has become an indispensable trading partner for Russia, and sometimes a diplomatic mediator, a relationship that has gained more importance for the Kremlin since the invasion of Ukraine.

She adds that by Erdogan’s refusal to impose Western sanctions on Moscow, the Turkish president has helped undermine efforts to isolate the Kremlin and deprive him of funds needed to finance the war.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s recently ailing economy has been fueled by heavily discounted Russian oil, aiding Erdogan in his bid for a third five-year term.

Erdogan has angered his Western allies by blocking Sweden’s bid for NATO membership, insisting that Stockholm first hand over dozens of Kurdish refugees in the country, especially from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which both Ankara and Washington consider a terrorist organization.

Kaja Kalas, Prime Minister of Estonia, said in an interview that NATO and the European Union view the elections differently.

It is a defensive alliance and “Turkey is one of the allies that have great military capabilities” to help NATO in a key part of the world, she said, adding, “I don’t think anything changes with regard to NATO in this regard, whoever wins the elections.”

In Washington, Erdogan’s drift toward authoritarianism, his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his disagreements with NATO have angered officials and even prompted some members of Congress to suggest Turkey’s expulsion from NATO, according to the newspaper.

While the United States and the European Union, and to a lesser extent NATO, will benefit from the victory of the opposition, it is almost certain that Putin will be seen as losing greatly if Erdogan is overthrown, according to the newspaper.

Russia is building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant and, since the war began, has announced plans to make the country a natural gas trading hub.

But Erdogan stopped short of directly supporting Putin in the war in Ukraine, and his government angered Moscow by allowing the sale of Turkish armed aircraft to Kiev.

In another worrying sign for the Kremlin, Kilicdaroglu, the opposition leader, last week accused Russia of meddling in the country’s elections by spreading “conspiracies, deep falsifications and tapes that were exposed in this country.”

It was a reference to an alleged sex tape on Thursday afternoon that prompted a junior presidential candidate to drop out of the race.

“Hands off the Turkish state,” he wrote in both Turkish and Russian, adding, “We still stand for cooperation and friendship.”

Davutoğlu has promised to maintain economic relations with Russia if he wins the presidency, but it remains unclear whether he will maintain the delicate balancing act that Erdoğan is doing in Ukraine.