Straturka’s columnist Ibrahim Karatas has been interviewed by Russia Today television.
Below are questions and his anwers;
The turnout for the first round was extremely high, but some Western media outlets claimed this was not merely the will of the Turkish people, has have tried to explain the high turnout with alleged finhes for non-attendance. What can you tell us about that?
The turnout has nothing to do with fines for non-attendance. Yes there is a fine in law for not voting but it is not implemented. Turnout was high because Turkish people are well aware that elections are the only chance to participate decision-making and they know that they will have to wait for five more years if they miss this chance. Besides that, the society has been polarized as well as provoked by political parties quite much this time. Particularly, opposition parties worked hard to convince their electorate to cast their votes to take power from president Erdoğan and his party. They are thirsty of ruling the country and victory in mayoral elections in 2019 encouraged them that they can win general elections, too. On the government side, people got worried about a defeat which could overturn Erdoğan’s legacy. During Erdoğan’s ruling, majority of Turkish people, particularly those disadvantaged and discriminated could become equal citizens, have equal opportunities and obtained their basic rights like dressing according to their beliefs. For instance, before Erdoğan, a woman with headscarf couldn’t go to university nor could she work at public institutions. So, they rushed to ballot boxes to preserve their late-gained rights. That’s why turnout was high.
Finally, it also shows how Turkish people trust in democracy and how the democratic system is effective in Türkiye. You can hardly see such a high turnout in other countries excluding some exceptions.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu has proclaimed a more western-oriented approach, while Recep Erdogan tends to stick to a more balanced foreign policy. How do you expect the results of the upcoming run-off to define Turkiye’s international agenda?
Beginning with president Erdoğan’s foreign policy, if he wins elections, there will be no change in Turkish foreign policy. It will still be balanced and independent, meaning the government will avoid aligning with any camp. Erdoğan himself stated that his foreign policy will remain the same a few days ago. But Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu, as he openly declared, will follow a pro-western foreign policy. He also says his government will be anti-Russia and probably anti-China. So, he may join the US and European countries to sanction Russia for Ukraine. Kılıçdaroğlu will also turn his back to the Middle East, which is a general policy of Turkish secular parties. The only exception may be to restore relations with Syria as Kılıçdaroğlu has always been warm to Bashar Assad. However, Assad is an ally of Russia, so how he can handle opposing Russia while mending relations with Syria is a matter of question.
Some critics, especially from the West, accuse the Turkish government of limiting the freedom of speech in the country – what’s your response to that, taking into consideration the fact that Western countries themselves have been shutting down media outlets they don’t like?
When western countries are hostile to a country, they accuse it of preventing freedom of speech. Before blaming Türkiye, they should look at freedom of speech in their countries. In the US, former president Trump is not allowed to use his twitter acccount. So, even the president is not free to speak. Regarding media, you can not write an article which opposes their views. I myself could not achieve to write an article in western media, which supports Turkish government. As for Türkiye, here, unfortunately members of political parties which have affiliations with terrorist groups freely say they will release the leader of the terrorist organization, establish their own country on Turkish territories, and judge state officials. It is like ISIS have a party in the US and it propagates ISIS. Americans certainly doesn’t allow terrorist organizations and their political extensions to operate on their territories but when it comes to Türkiye, they want terrorism supporters to support the terrorist organization, collect money and find new recruits. This is an absolute hypocisy I can say.
Let’s listen in to this piece from the Member of Ak Party Central Decision Making Board’s interview with CNN…
What do you make of the way the anchor was interrupting Harun Armagan?
We are used to such interruptions. When they hear opinions that they don’t like they interrupt and de-concanrate the guest. It is a disrespectful behavior to the guest. I had a worse experience. A western TV had recorded my interview but they didn’t broadcast it since they didn’t like my answers. Very pity for TV anchors.
How do you access current and future relations between Turkiye and the U.S., as well as between Turkiye and its other NATO allies?
Tensions rose between Türkiye and the US as well as other NATO allies as they left Türkiye alone in its fight against terrorism. Currently, the US arms YPG in Syria, which is actually an offshoot of the PKK. Turkish government is much disturbed about the US-YPG alliance. Although Washington claims that they collaborate with YPG to fight ISIS, this argument doesn’t look realistic for Turkish government because Ankara wants the US not to use another terrorist group to eliminate the other one since terrorism is terrorism. Moreover, Ankara believes that the US and some European countries supported the failed cuu of 2016. They deny it but the leader of the cuu perpetrators Fetullah Gülen lives in Pennsylvania and he is not extradited. Also, other people involved in the cuu live safe in Europe. So, Turkish government is disappointed by its western allies and expect them to side with itself. Relations may not be improved until NATO allies support Türkiye.
What exactly is your vision for Turkiye’s future, both domestically and internationally – and how would it be different from what we’ve seen in the past few years?
Economically, the economy was not performing well in recent years but it is now in a recovery process. So, we may see a better economy. Particularly recently discovered oil and gas will boost it. Certainly, government will make people enjoy benefits of natural resources. But in domestic politics, there may not be much change as we have a very hard opposition which never gives up struggling to rule the country. Regarding international politics, Türkiye’s foreign policy
won’t change much. Türkiye has already mended relations with Arab states and it will improve them. I guess western countries will get used to live with Erdoğan. So, there may be an attempt from western side to restore relations. Relations with Russia will continue to be friendly.