In both case, mark 14 May in your calendar. The Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections are shaping as much as be a important juncture in a rustic that has develop into central to geopolitical developments throughout Europe and the Middle East. Turkey has develop into a check case for democracy’s resilience in opposition to elected authoritarianism. It may additionally even flip right into a uncommon brilliant spot for Western traders on the lookout for a optimistic story because the US and Europe edge nearer to recession.
The precarious circumstances of the elections imply that the actions and statements that US and European policymakers make within the run-up to, and speedy aftermath of, the election might properly outline their relationship with Turkey for the following decade. In some circumstances, they could must act rapidly, with comparatively little data; in others, warning is important to protect long-term pursuits.
To assist them navigate this potential thicket, we provide some guides for the way they may reply in varied circumstances.
Don’t attempt to affect the result of the elections. “The West” has develop into the bogeyman in Turkish elections after years of unopposed anti-Americanism that has permeated the general public discourse. The authorities is already accusing the opposition of being an instrument of the West as a way to weaken Turkey, divide it if they’ll, and at minimal unfold homosexual marriage to weaken Turkish household values. With a lot at stake, some Western governments would possibly wish to wade into Turkish politics in varied delicate methods. That could be a mistake. The US and most EU member states have deeply problematic profiles in Turkey, a rustic which is distrustful of outsiders and dangerously vulnerable to conspiracy theories. Any intervention, regardless of how delicate or skilful, dangers a backlash. Don’t even strive.
Emphasise persistently earlier than, throughout, and after the elections the necessity for a free and truthful course of. The crucial to not affect the elections doesn’t preclude saying from the loftiest heights of the US and European governments that Turkey’s allies anticipate to see a free and truthful vote. These proclamations ought to at all times stay on the extent of rules, make references to Turkey’s personal structure and a long time of success with multi-party elections, and keep away from weighing in on particular controversial points beneath debate in Turkey. In the occasion of a contested election within the days following 14 May, the US and the European Union ought to merely and persistently reiterate the necessity for an orderly course of and deplore any violence, however in any other case not weigh in.
If the opposition wins, transfer rapidly to recognise this as quickly because the Turkish Supreme Election Council declares the outcomes. Turkey’s Supreme Election Council will announce “short-term outcomes” at midnight on 14 May and ultimate outcomes on 19 May. If the opposition wins with a snug lead, there’s not a lot threat of contestation. But if the outcomes are slim, there’s a threat that the Erdogan authorities might repeat what it tried within the 2019 native elections and take measures to overturn the outcomes or ask for a recount. So if the outcomes present a lead for opposition, the US and the EU ought to transfer rapidly to recognise the opposition win and have interaction in presidential-level diplomacy.
Keep quiet if there’s a second spherical. In all probability, neither candidate will get the 51 per cent wanted to be elected president within the first spherical, thus requiring a runoff two weeks later. The candidates will throw something they discover at one another and this era has the potential to be unstable, as was the case in the summertime of 2015 when Erdogan misplaced the bulk to type a authorities. It is especially vital for Europe and the US to chorus from high-level engagement, to proceed to precise assist for the democratic course of, and to stave off any potential provocations in Iraq or Syria that might be used to feed the narrative that the opposition bloc is supported by exterior powers to divide Turkey.
Nudge Europeans to rethink Turkey. A authorities shaped of the present opposition can have a number of diplomatic and financial challenges, and each the opposition coalition (the so-called “Table of 6” opposition events which have come collectively for this election) and Turkey’s Western companions appear unprepared for a post-Erdogan world. The restoration of Turkey’s damaged ties with its Western companions must begin in Europe, within the type of resuscitating the nation’s moribund membership talks with the EU. Both the US and EU member states ought to encourage Turkey’s new leaders to go to Brussels swiftly to jumpstart the EU course of. Brussels ought to put together a considerable bundle for Ankara’s new management, which ought to embrace opening at the least one of many frozen chapters within the accession course of, beginning the much-needed modernisation of the Turkey-EU free commerce deal, and resuming talks for visa-free journey for Turkish residents within the Schengen space. It is the method reasonably than the end result that issues. In return, Turkey’s new leaders may reassure their European counterparts that they’re prepared to honour the 2016 Turkish-EU settlement on migration and haven’t any plans to forcefully ship refugees in Turkey again to Syria.
Send optimistic indicators on US-Turkish relations. In the case of an opposition win, the US authorities ought to publicly sign its willingness to debate and resolve among the excellent points it has with Turkey, together with the sale and modernisation of F-16s to Turkey, Turkish-US divergence relating to the Kurds in Syria, the Turkish possession of a Russian S-400 anti-aircraft system, and the potential for US and EU financial assist for the Turkish monetary system. An opposition win would end in a market rally and entice worldwide traders, however finally Turkey will face financial headwinds. Washington’s assist early on would sign to the Turkish public and worldwide traders that the West stands behind the outcomes and that the brand new authorities can have a contemporary capability to handle Turkey’s issues. It would additionally make it simpler to enter negotiations with Turkey’s subsequent authorities on the tougher points, resembling defence gross sales and Syria.
Pursue incremental normalisation if the Supreme Election Council declares the AKP the winner. Elections happen beneath a multi-party monitoring system in Turkey and the outcomes have usually had legitimacy within the eyes of voters. If the AKP prevails within the first or second spherical of the presidential election, Washington ought to roll out an incremental normalisation plan with the Erdogan authorities, with which relations have been turbulent for too lengthy. In the occasion of contested elections, with opposition voters considering there was fraud, the US and the EU states ought to slow-walk recognition and look ahead to the outcomes to be finalised. But finally they must begin engagement with the Erdogan authorities to handle among the knotty points in bilateral ties. They ought to take into consideration methods to have interaction on Sweden’s NATO membership utility and think about agreeing to Turkey’s bid to purchase modernisation kits for its F-16 fleet.
Overall, whereas we have now emphasised the significance of humility and infrequently masterful inactivity, the position of the US and the EU is vital within the Turkish elections. If they play their playing cards properly, the West can function a backstop of Turkish stability and, within the occasion of an opposition win, may also help guarantee an orderly switch of energy. But doing so would require recognising the bounds and pitfalls of Western energy and realizing simply when to talk up and simply when to close up.
The European Council on Foreign Relations doesn’t take collective positions. ECFR publications solely signify the views of their particular person authors.