The end of authoritarian rule by Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not make Turkey an easier partner for the West, experts have warned.
Polls show opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu is likely to win tomorrow’s presidential election in a “decisive” vote to end 69-year-old Erdogan’s “modern quasi-authoritarian” 20-year rule.
While this will herald major domestic changes, such as improved human rights and economic and political reforms, it will not make Turkey more “western-leaning” as some experts hope, Dr Ziya Meral, a senior fellow at the RUSI think tank, said tonight.
“If Erdogan loses, which is very likely, it will be a defining moment, because it will show that even after 20 years of modern quasi-authoritarianism, things can change. civil society can maintain flexibility, and all these strong weighted policies. tricks don’t work anymore,” he said.
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“However, Kılıçdaroğlu is weak on foreign policy and, although people assume he is completely pro-NATO, his coalition includes many left and center-right groups that are staunchly anti-Western.”
With hopes of EU membership now dead, another source of tension could be migration, with Kılıçdaroğlu vowing to end Turkey’s policy of accepting Syrian refugees unless the EU pays for housing and infrastructure.
“Some European capitals may find it difficult to work with Kılıçdaroğlu because he may allow Syrians to reach Europe through irregular routes if his conditions are not met. It’s a promise he has to keep,” Dr. Meral said.
He added: “Erdogan has been difficult, but foreign governments know how to conduct transactional diplomacy with him.
“It will be more chaotic if Kılıçdaroğlu wins, who will not be the president of foreign policy.”