On Aug. 10, the Turkish people directly elected their head of state for the first time. With Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Selahaddin Demirtas also in the race, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s three-term prime minister, won the election for the highest office in politics.
The former secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Ihsanoglu, who ran as the joint candidate of 14 opposition parties came second in the presidential race.
Even though Ihsanoglu was endorsed as the joint candidate of multiple parties and was running as a center-right candidate, there were many reasons why he could not beat Erdogan in the election. Before all else, Ihsanoglu should be applauded for his impeccable manners during the presidential race. He never ceased to appear the perfect gentleman.
However, at some point he also proved to lack a connection with a majority of the Turkish public.
Despite having a background with a conservative education and career, when compared to Erdogan’s fluidity in eloquence, Ihsanoglu couldn’t help but fall short. Ihsanoglu’s ambiguous remarks about Abdullah Ocalan (leader of the PKK terrorist organization, which is responsible for the killing of 60,000 Turkish citizens) made many people uncomfortable about the future, and his criticism of the government’s open-border policy with Syria let down an overwhelming majority, especially in Anatolian cities.
Even though Turkey has already spent more than US$2 billion on Syrian refugees, the Turkish public approaches the Syrian refugees welcomingly and patiently.
We all consider that we might go through the same afflictions one day and having an egotistical stance toward our Syrian guests does not fit the texture of the Turkish public.
Turks consider helping the displaced Syrians as a religious duty; therefore, Ihsanoglu’s criticism about the number of Syrian refugees in Turkey forced many of his supporters to vote for a Turkey without him.
While Ihsanoglu attracted attention to Turkey’s limited resources, what he failed to see was that despite this disadvantage, the Turkish people would always choose to help people in need, regardless of race or faith.
Demirtas, the candidate for the co-leading Peoples’ Democratic Party, received the backing of eight left-wing parties and came third in the race with 9.78 percent of the vote.
Demirtas has been quite an interesting candidate, offering a seemingly perfect discourse in the race. He praised women’s empowerment programs and initiatives; he paid attention to the voice of the young; he was a well-spoken and warm gentleman, and he repeatedly talked about ending the polarization inside Turkey for the sake of greater unity.
If Demirtas was running under the banner of the AK Party or the CHP, it can safely be said that he would have gathered an overwhelming majority of votes.
But there are very important reasons why Demirtas would not match up against his opponents in any of the upcoming elections; namely, he proposed that the presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) should be disbanded, and his party is well-known for accepting Abdullah Öcalan as their opinion leader.
This can be a deathblow to a politician in Turkey, where many people are disturbed by the fear of division.
Erdogan, on the other hand, has always been a man of the people ever since his days as the mayor of Istanbul. He has never been too proud to rest in a random village home with impoverished villagers or kiss the hands of senior citizens. Erdogan has always had a warm relationship with religion and he does not hesitate to recite the lines of well-known poems by conservative poets.
With his success with the economy and in transforming governmental bodies, Erdogan has also proved himself to be a very successful statesman.
One concern about his presidential bid was whether or not it would be possible for him to be as active as the head of state as he was when he was the prime minister; but with talk of only small shifts in the system and his eagerness to run for the presidency, the Turkish public decided he deserved the seat, though it is the general consensus of most Turks that a presidential system is inappropriate for the Turkish Republic for the time being.
Leaving behind another important election season, Turkey took one step forward in a volatile region. In the Middle East, where all our neighbors are going through rough transitions with wars, uprisings and military coups, it is not easy to find stability let alone sustain it.
The Turkish people chose financial and political stability by choosing Erdogan as their head of state.
Adnan Oktar's piece on The Jakarta Post: