There are many important crossroads in world history. Especially when the power of the dominant state of the global system begins to weaken and a new great power begins to rise, it is easier to understand that a crossroads is approaching. The middle powers try to decide which side to take in the new equation when the first signs appear. At first, they are hesitant, but then they begin to take a side with a bolder approach. Small states do not have many options. Faced with existential problems, they desperately turn to the power that poses the greatest threat to them.
During these periods, the declining power begins to become agitated and shows more brutal movements. The rising power, on the other hand, becomes more confident and composed. The declining power gradually becomes less effective in using its soft power, that is, its economic, cultural, and political power. The rising power, on the other hand, begins to use the economic, cultural, and political elements of national power much more effectively toward its goals. The currency of the declining power begins to lose its ability to be the reserve currency, while the currency of the rising power becomes more popular.
The rivalry between the United States and China has come to correspond to these definitions. The phenomenon, the signs of which have been clearly visible for the last ten years, has become more evident, especially with the Russian attempt to invade Ukraine. The United States, whose power peaked immediately after the Cold War, has begun to decline after a brief unipolar moment. China, on the other hand, has become a more assertive great power in every respect.
This is where the attitude of the middle powers becomes important. In particular, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa are of vital importance to both great powers. These regions, which were also important during the Cold War, are particularly important for the great power rivalry between the United States and China. China’s recent successful attempt to mediate between Saudi Arabia and Iran and its desire to be a mediator in the Ukraine crisis have once again reminded us of the importance of these regions.
One of the most important, and perhaps the most significant state in the middle of these regions is Türkiye. Although Türkiye is a NATO member and is negotiating accession to the European Union, the Erdogan government has made great efforts in recent years to establish special relations with Russia and China. After the failed military coup attempt in Türkiye in 2016, Erdogan transformed Türkiye into a full-fledged autocracy. He established a one-man regime in which the rule of law was destroyed, human rights were ignored, and democracy remained only in words. In this situation, it was seen that it was not possible for Türkiye to become a member of the EU. Let alone its membership in the EU, the Western states started to look for ways to remove Türkiye from NATO.
In such an environment, Erdogan, with the influence of his ultranationalist partners, began to reach out to Russia and China. However, for economic and political reasons, he could not completely sever ties with the West. He tried to pursue a so-called balance policy, which tried to keep both blocs happy. At this point, however, it has become very clear that this situation cannot continue. As a result of the outdated and irrational economic policies followed, the ignorance of the rule of law and the destruction of all democratic institutions, a serious uneasiness arose in the Turkish public opinion. Moreover, both the United States and the Russian-Chinese bloc began to put pressure on Türkiye to take sides.
At such a crossroads and at such an important juncture, Türkiye will hold a crucial election. The presidential and parliamentary elections that will take place on May 14 are, so to speak, a decisive milestone for Türkiye. This election may have the potential to shape Türkiye’s next century. If Erdoğan is re-elected as president in this election, it may be possible for Türkiye, whose axis has been shifted for a long time, to turn towards the Russian-Chinese axis and break away from the Western bloc.
Türkiye’s Westernization adventure actually has a history of almost 200 years. Westernization initiatives, which began in the mid-19th century, gained momentum under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk after the creation of the modern Turkish Republic. Although there have been some bumps in the road, Türkiye’s general path has been westward. NATO membership and attempts to join the European Union were clear indicators of this. Türkiye, which has never been perfect in terms of democracy, rule of law and human rights, was a promising country in the early 2000s. This hope was reinforced in the first 10 years after Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in 2003. From 2013, however, this hope began to turn into a nightmare. Having received the support of very large parts of the society with great hopes in the first years, Erdoğan started to gradually destroy all the democratic gains. The failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 was the last nail in the coffin. After that date, Erdogan turned Türkiye into a complete autocracy. Now, the May 14 elections carry the danger of turning it into a total dictatorship.
Erdogan will make every effort to win this election. In fact, the very fact that Erdogan is a candidate in these elections shows the miserable state of law in Türkiye. According to the Turkish constitution, a person can be elected president twice. Erdogan has been elected president twice, in 2014 and 2018. According to the constitution, it was not possible for him to be a candidate in this election. However, the Supreme Election Board did not hesitate to openly violate the constitution by approving Erdoğan’s candidacy. This also clearly shows the state of the rule of law in Türkiye. In fact, this was not the first illegal decision of the Supreme Election Board. In the referendum that changed Türkiye’s administrative system in 2017, this board also made a fiasco decision to validate unsealed ballots.
This election is a matter of life and death not only for Erdogan, but also for the vast majority of the Turkish people who yearn for democracy, the rule of law and human rights. In fact, this election is a matter of life and death not only for the Turkish people, but also for the Middle East, North Africa and Europe. Because if Türkiye is in the bloc where Russia and China are, the states and their peoples in all these regions will undoubtedly be adversely affected beyond estimation.
This election is the last exit before the bridge for Türkiye, for the Turkish people, for the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe.
All publishing rights and copyrights reserved to MENA Research and Study Center.