As the people of Turkiye head for arguably the most important presidential and parliamentary elections in their recent history on 14 May, polarised debate is heating up locally and internationally. Most people in the country think that the elections will change the face of Turkiye.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his supporters believe that Turkiye is repositioning itself as a major industrial and economic power. They want to see him winning a third term as president with this in mind.
Opposition groups, meanwhile, accuse Erdogan of taking Turkiye out of the Western camp which, according to them, is an oasis of democracy and the source of all freedoms. They ignore the fact that Erdogan has taken the country from near full dependence on the West to almost total independence in everything from oil and gas to defence industries.
Neither the US nor Western countries are watching this in silence; they are intent on sticking their noses into Turkiye's domestic affairs. With US President Joe Biden pledging to work towards ousting Erdogan, influential media are engaged in discrediting him and his party. At the same time, they appear to be intent on whitewashing the image of his rivals, especially secular opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
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The Economist, for example, is telling Turks that Erdogan "must go". It has called on them to vote in order to "save democracy" in Turkiye. The magazine accuses Erdogan, who has won democratic elections for 20 years, of ruling in an "increasingly autocratic style".
"Were he [Erdogan] to lose, it would be a stunning political reversal with global consequences," said the British magazine. "The Turkish people would be more free, less fearful and — in time — more prosperous."
It should know that Erdogan has introduced freedoms that modern Turkiye did not have from its establishment in 1924 until his party came to power. Prior to the Erdogan era there were fewer than ten political parties; during the 20 years of his rule, they have mushroomed to more than one hundred.
Pre-Erdogan, the Islamists who won elections and formed governments were fought, banned and sent to prison. Military coups ousted their freely-elected governments and either imprisoned or executed their leaders. Erdogan himself was detained for addressing a popular gathering and banned for years from involvement in politics. He has been insulted, attacked verbally and faced smear campaigns, but has almost never detained a political opponent.
You would think that the Economist is in a good place to know that the Turkish Lira before Erdogan was ranked as the world's least valuable currency in 1995, 1996, 1999 and 2004. Regardless of the ongoing depreciation of the Turkish Lira, which I believe is being orchestrated by the West, this has benefited most economic sectors in Turkiye, which Erdogan is leading into a real economy, not a virtual one as in the capitalist West, where banks go bust with alarming regularity and create economic crashes.
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I have previously explained how the Turkish economy continued to prosper despite increasing inflation and the depreciation of the currency. I wrote this after speaking to economic experts living in Turkiye and interviewing analysts and ordinary people.
Britain's Independent and Guardian, the French Le Point and Le Monde, the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal and many other newspapers appear to have put aside their professional ethics to take part in the unprecedented smear campaign against Erdogan. They promote Kilicdaroglu as the saviour of Turkiye and the Turks, ignoring the fact that he has lost every time that he has stood against Erdogan.
An article published by Associated Press and used across the Western media demonised Erdogan and introduced his secular rival as the one destined to save Turkiye and its people from the "dictator" Erdogan. AP quoted Kilicdaroglu and his supporters, but not Erdogan and his supporters. "These elections are about rebuilding Turkey, ensuring that no child goes to bed hungry," Kilicdaroglu told a Republican People's Party (CHP) rally in Izmir. "They are about ensuring gender equality.". AP neglected to tell its readers that Izmir is no longer a CHP stronghold.
Moreover, AP could have reminded readers that there are no hungry people in Turkiye, which hosts more than four million refugees and hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers, none of whom are locked up in detention centres for months — unlike those in the West — and none go to bed with an empty stomach, unlike many in the West.
Little if any attention has been paid to the fact that Turkiye copes with these millions of refugees, while the US and European countries struggle to deal with relatively few. Nor are Western readers reminded that the refugees often arrive from countries where Western governments have been engaged in wars of aggression.
Amazingly, AP described Kilicdaroglu as, "The social democrat politician who has built a reputation for honesty and integrity." It ignored the history of corruption behind him and his party, and the false promises made in different election campaigns which it failed to fulfil when it won control of a number of major and prosperous municipalities in Turkiye.
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"These elections are about reconciliation and not conflict," claimed AP. "And these elections are about bringing democracy to Turkey."
I would suggest to Associated Press, the Economist and the others, that a leader who has been freely elected repeatedly by his people is anything but a dictator, no matter what his modus operandi is. I would also suggest that Erdogan is being targeted because he has freed his country from external debt and the stranglehold of the international banking system, taking it into the G20, building a stable economy and providing free gas to every household in the country in the process.
Erdogan's achievements are many. And anyone who has almost brought chronic sectarianism to an end and united Turks of all backgrounds and religions is not a dictator.
If, as the Economist shamefully and shamelessly declares, "Most important, in an era when strongman rule is on the rise, from Hungary to India, the peaceful ejection of Mr Erdogan would show democrats everywhere that strongmen can be beaten," can we also expect similar tirades from Western-backed dictatorships in Egypt, the Gulf States, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco? Almost certainly not. The dictators in those countries are obedient proxies who oppress their own people to please Washington, London, Paris, et al.
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Western democracy which sustains warmongers such as Biden and his predecessors, and the poodles in Western capitals which back them, welcomes war criminals such as Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu into the fold. It ensures that the "right" people are elected in order to serve Western interests, not the interests of the people. That is the kind of democracy envisaged by the Economist, Associated Press and other Western media, all of which exist to push the foreign policy of their respective governments. Such is the immorality of the "freedoms" that they espouse.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.