Betting on Erdogan may turn out to be really, really stupid

Foreign policy is never really feminist or dictated by love of human rights (no, Löfven, that´s just rubbish.)
It is dictated by an unfiltered and mostly shortsighted national interest.
Sometimes the result becomes openly cynical.

In the case of Turkey, foreign policy has led several EU governments to see Sundays´ parliamentary elections as a choice between Erdogan or chaos.
They choose… not chaos.

A parliamentary chaos is believed to result in even bigger volumes of refugees passing through to Europe this winter.
They don´t see this being in their national interest.
Erdogan on the other hand, is believed to at least offer a small hope of the Turkish government puitting a brake on the fleeing masses.

Therefore, in spite of it being election time, he was received with the highest honours by the EU top brass  recently (private dinner and royalties as well).
Chancellor Angela Merkel accorded him a much sought after state visit – something few European heads of governments have been willing to do during these last few years (it´s that embarassing being seen with him).
Also, helpfully the EU Commission kindly withheld this year´s report on the situation in Turkey until after the election.

Erdogan has been on the road of becoming an autocrat for some years and it is getting worse by the day.
The mere fact that he organises repeat elections just because he didnt like the outcome of June´s election sums it up pretty well.

That´s not even mentioning the corruption, the constant denying of press freedom, the right to speak, attacking the Kurds with military support he got for going after Isis…. European heads of states have lots of reasons not to court him.

So why do it?
The political situation in Turkey is complicated. Erdogans´party AKP lost its majority in June, after comfortably ruling the counrty for 13 years.
Unexpected challenger was HDP ((Kurdish/Left) led by charismatic Mr Selahattin Demirtas but their 13 % doesn´t make them into the horse that EU governments care to bet on.
The (sort of Social Democratic) opposition CHP got 25 %, nationalistic MHP 16 %.

Shorthand: The more atractive parties HDP and CHP do not have a majority together,
Nobody wants to see the Grey Wolves, MHP, in power.
Hence the calculation: Erdogan or chaos.

Better a stable Turkish government for now – even led by authocrat Erdogan – that may stick to the agreement made in Brussels and hold back a large number of refugees, maybe even take back the Afghans, Pakistanis and Palestinians many EU countries would prefer not to keep.

Foreign policy dictated by a short term national interest can become cynical, sometimes  shamefully so.

It may also turn out to be stupid.
The choice of Turkish horse to bet on in this race may turn out to be the wrong one.

What if Erdogans´AKP looses even bigger this time around?
The bltatant disrespect for law when closing down to TV channels last week has upset many ”ordinary” Turkish voters, the ones that usually vote Erdogan.

What if the election does end in parliamentary chaos, can the EU governments be certain that the Turkish military does not choose this moment to reappear in Turkish politics?
They are still seen by many as a guarantee for stability, odd as it sounds to European ears.

Or what if Erdogan does win a majority, continues down the road towards authocracy and does not keep the agreement with Brussels at all?
What if he uses the sheer volume of refugees as a bargaining chip to obtain all sorts of desirable things?

Turkey is an enormously important neighbour to the EU, simply beacuase of its strategic place in the middle of streams not only of refugees and ISIS warriors but gas and oil, water supply for the Middle East in the shape of rivers Euphrat and Tigris as well as roads between the East and the West.

It is tragic that the attitude of EU governments towards Turkey is so short sighted. Their handling of Turkey may turn out to not only be cyncial but also very, very stupid.

(Don´t miss the seminar on the Turkish situation by Paul Levin, ”Turkey at the polls again?” Institut for Turkish Studies, Stockholm University)

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One Response to Betting on Erdogan may turn out to be really, really stupid

  1. Stefan Höjelid says:

    Välkommen också till Linnéuniversitetet, Växjö, nu på onsdag kl 15.00 då Ingmar Karlsson, tidigare generalkonsul i Istanbul, talar på temat Turkiet.


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