2019 Turkish Municipality Elections – Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak, The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, February 12, 2019
2019 Turkish Municipality Elections
Dr. Hay Eytan Cohen Yanarocak
The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security
12th February 2019
On 31st of March, 2019, Turkey is heading to the municipal elections, of course maybe for you municipal elections is not that much important but for the Turkish case it is it is a sort of a rehearsal for the general elections. What I’m trying to say is, in terms of the Turkish decision-makers, whoever is going to get Istanbul and Ankara, is most likely to get the whole Turkey.
So it’s very critical it’s like a public survey and as a result Mr. Erdoğan doesn’t want to miss any chances, and of course he would like to get more public approval at home. For instance last month again we have seen a verbal attack against Israel and this kind of verbal attacks all these kind of statements may come also in the future we should not be surprised. The most important issue here for an ordinary Turk whenever there is a friction between a non-Muslim country and Turkey, it is basically sort of a demonstration of power of the Turkish Republic. That means, from their perspective, Turkey is no longer afraid of the West or the East. I can give you some concrete examples. For instance of course this all diplomatic editorial with Israel is a good example, but not only that. Constantly there is a friction with the United States again since we are speaking about general these municipal elections and recently Mr. Erdoğan made a very important statement, that he would like to give the authorization for the farmers so that they can grow cannabis. The cannabis is not an ordinary plant, if we are looking at the bilateral relations between United States and Turkey we, should remember that in 1974 we had the opium crisis or in the cannabis crisis, the United States wanted Turkey not to plant any cannabis because they thought that it was influencing the US cannabis consumption. In 1971 while the Turks accepted the US demand and in 1974 Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit, who also conducted an extraterritorial military operation against Cyprus. He basically rejected the American demand, and as a result we have witnessed American sanctions against Turkey. Why I am reminding this issue, because from the Turkish perspective replanting or reproducing cannabis means that we are not getting orders anymore from the United States, and it is very crucial because when you’re looking at Turkey’s, map you’re going to see the Western or southern provinces in Turkey which means the Aegean provinces, and Mediterranean provinces are the hub of this cannabis growth.
In other words if we are talking about the municipal elections, and if the people who are living in these provinces are mostly farmers, so it means that with this single decision, Mr. Erdoğan is touching the lives of hundreds of thousands of farmers. So it means that if you’re going to vote for Justice and Development Party you will be rewarded, and by doing so he is also creating new job vacancies and job opportunities for the Turkish farmers which means more money for the Turkish economy. As you know the Turkish economy is suffering from an unprecedented devaluation the Turkish lira. So this is a very wise move because it will also bring more income to the region, new job opportunities and at the same time it will it will give a clear message, not only to Washington DC, but also the Turkish public that the Turkish government is independent, and they are not getting any orders from the West, which means this opium, this cannabis reform, the 2019 reform, might be considered again as a tool in domestic policy but with a theme of Turkish Foreign Policy.
Another important example is the Uyghur case with China, another important example of course is the Russian jet crisis with Russia, another important example is Turkey’s intervention in in German elections where they put it they put some posters why not to vote for Angela Merkel, because from their perspective the Germans wanted to bar the Turks to make election propaganda in Germany for Germany’s Turks, and as a result you may also remember that Holland declared the Turkish family Minister Fatima Kaya as persona non grata. So in last two or three years we witnessed lots of frictions between Turkey and non-Muslim states of course we can also remember how president of Turkey, and the president of Greece had a very extraordinary press conference where they spoke about whether they should we address to the fundamentals of a Treaty of Lausanne or not. So in each these cases Mr. Erdoğan is an expert of politics, and he is turning all these frictions into a public approval at home, and so since it’s a matter of national interest. Also the opposition parties cannot criticize Mr. Erdoğan points of views for the public, and as a result, you know in in political science there is a there is a principle called rallying around the flag, so Mr. Erdoğan is capable of rallying his people around the flag, and that’s how he is also neutralizing the criticism of the Turkish opposition.