Erdogan's antisemitism has done great harm to Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
(AP via the Turkish Presidential Press Service)
By Dean Shmuel Elmas

Despite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's attempts to quash Turkish democracy since entering office, some brave Turkish politicians are willing to speak out and criticize him for the damage they feel he has done to Turkey, including to Turkish-Israeli relations.

Dr. Aykan Erdemir was a member of the Turkish parliament from 2011-2015 for the CHP party, a political entity that was established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

In an interview with Israel Hayom, Erdemir did not hold back when it comes to Erdogan.

"Erdogan's state-sanctioned anti-Semitic propaganda will continue to haunt Turkey long after he is gone from office," Erdemir said, adding that "the hate and prejudice inculcated in the Turkish people for almost two decades will have lasting effects in hindering Turkish-Israeli relations and will take time and effort to reverse."

However, Erdemir, who currently serves as Senior Director of the Turkey Program at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, sees some cause for optimism.

"The growing realization that Turkey needs to break from its isolation in the eastern Mediterranean will push Turkish politicians in post-Erdogan Turkey to invest in rebuilding cordial relations with Israel as well with Turkey's western allies," he said.

Erdemir notes that for Turkey to detach itself from Erdogan's Islamism, it will need to tackle not only "his religious and social engineering attempts at home, but also undoing his ill-advised foreign and security policy that undermined Turkey's diplomatic, military, and intelligence partnerships in the region."

When asked if Erdogan will face stiff competition in the 2023 election, Erdemir said that "If the opposition can once again join forces behind a catch-all presidential candidate, Erdogan will have a difficult time securing re-election, even with Turkey's uneven political playing field."

One of the Turkish opposition's biggest hopes is that Turks who voted for Erdogan in 2018 will transfer their support to parties established by former members of the president's Justice and Development Party (AKP).

"Both splinter parties have the potential to steal voters away from the AKP. So far, their support appears to be in the lower single digits. Although this might not yet be enough to make them major players in Turkish politics, it may be enough to tip the balance toward the opposition in the 2023 elections," he said.

Israel Hayom asked Erdemir what the Republican People's Party (CHP) should do in the next presidential election.

"The CHP succeeded in leading an umbrella coalition that brought together almost the entire opposition in the 2019 local elections. It would be wise to expand this umbrella coalition to include newly-established parties that share the mission to defeat Erdogan at the ballot box and reinstate a parliamentary democratic system and the rule of law. If [former prime minister] Ahmet Davutoğlu and [former foreign minister] Ali Babacan share this mission, they will have an interest in joining Turkey's growing pro-democracy alliance and confront Erdogan's authoritarianism," he explained.

In addition, Erdemir observed that the results of last year's local elections indicate that Erdogan can be defeated in a nationwide election: "The opposition's local election victory also strengthened the electorate's belief in the efficacy of umbrella coalitions, which will likely facilitate the building of a similar pro-democracy bloc in the upcoming elections."

Finally, he pointed to the importance of the Kurdish vote in the next election.

"It will be particularly important to ensure that the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) voters, who constitute around 12% of the electorate, also feel included in this catch-all alliance for the pro-democracy coalition to succeed not only in Turkey's Kurdish-majority provinces, but all around the country, he said. 

Source: Israel Hayom