Alp Sevimlisoy

Putin Ally’s Reelection Fight Shrouded in Skepticism

Significant doubt has already been cast on the presidential election in Turkey, with just one day left before voters go to the polls.

The highly anticipated election is set to take place Sunday, but there have been accusations of interference conducted by both the United States and Russia.

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Though he’s been the country’s leader for two decades, Erdogan’s position is being threatened by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Turkey’s main opposition candidate and the head of the center-left Republican People’s Party. A recent poll shows Kilicdaroglu with a 6-point advantage over Erdogan.

Given Turkey’s membership in NATO, which has strongly condemned Putin’s war in Ukraine, the election could have significant consequences for Russia.

On Thursday, Kilicdaroglu said a Russian group was spreading conspiracies and “deep fake content” about the election. Though the candidate didn’t name any Russian hackers, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied the Kremlin had been involved in any election meddlin

Following Kilicdaroglu’s allegations, a Russian state media outlet reported that Erdogan’s interior minister, S├╝leyman Soylu, has accused the United States of trying to influence the election.

“The United States is meddling in these elections…. Everyone in this country already knows this, U.S. President [Joe Biden] himself declares this,” Soylu said Friday, according to the Sputnik news agency.

Soylu has made similar claims before. In late April, he spoke of an alleged “political coup attempt” by the West in the upcoming election while singling out Biden.

Newsweek reached out to the offices of Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu via email for comment.

Steven Cook, the Eni Enrico Mattei senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said Soylu’s accusations have little to no merit.

“There is no evidence that the United States has interfered in the election. Keep in mind that Soylu is fiercely and poisonously anti-American,” Cook told Newsweek. “The Biden administration has been actually quite careful not to do anything that could be interpreted as trying to swing the outcome to one candidate or another.”

He continued, “As far as Russia goes, Turkish opponents of Erdogan have been fearing that Putin would help his counterpart…. Given Russian election interference elsewhere, it seems reasonable, but I have no information.”

Meanwhile, Northwestern University’s Elizabeth Shakman Hurd told Newsweek she “would not be at all surprised if Russia was intervening in support of Erdogan. In fact, I’ll be surprised if they weren’t.”

“I would also expect Soylu and others to respond with parallel accusations against the U.S. in these circumstances,” said Hurd, a professor of religious studies and political science. “I find it somewhat unlikely that the U.S. is putting their finger on the scale in this case, but it is certainly not completely out of the question, given the long history of close ties between the U.S. and Turkey and the deterioration of that relationship under Erdogan.”

As for whether possible foreign inference would alter the results of Turkey’s presidential election, Hurd said it’s “difficult to predict.”

“If the U.S. 2016 election is any precedent, however, I think we know that the Russians have the capabilities,” she said. “They certainly have reason to interfere as well, considering their increasingly close ties with the Erdogan government in recent years and their desperate need for allies, given their increasing isolation globally as a result of their invasion of Ukraine.”

Geopolitical strategist Alp Sevimlisoy told Newsweek that with the “Russian Federation’s desire to turn the war in Ukraine into a sustained status quo of conflict despite Ukraine’s valiant victories,” the United States likely puts a lot of significance in the results of the presidential election.

He added that Turkey’s place in NATO ensures Sunday’s election will be “the most important political event of the year” in the region.

 

Alp Sevimlisoy originally featured as per: Newsweek

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