UWI author Onur Sinan Güzaltan was the guest of Russia Today. Güzaltan evaluated the results of the first round of elections in Turkey and its possible reflections on foreign policy. Below we present the transcription of the interview.
Turkish political scientist Onur Sinan Güzaltan. Welcome Onur. Nice to see you are joining us here in the studio. It looks like Erdoğan nearly missed getting a majority in the presidential election. What can we expect coming into the second round? Especially where the third place votes will go? And who do you think will get them, which will essentially determine the results of the winner?
It was long night for the Turkish public. What we see from the results of the first round of the election that it is almost a victory for president Erdoğan because he almost received 49.52% of the votes and the opposition candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has only 44.88%. There is 5-point difference between the two candidates. If we look at situation of the Türkiye in general now, there is economic crisis, 11 cities hit by the earthquake, instability, but despite all this, President Erdoğan got 49.52%. That is one of the important points. Secondly, Sinan Oğan got the third place with 5.17% of the votes. We can describe his voters as nationalist, secular and most of them live in the metropolis like İstanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Eskişehir. Oğan will play a key role in the second round. His voters could vote for president Erdoğan because the “hidden” alliance between pro-PKK separatist party, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the main opposition party, Republican’s People Party (CHP) will probably turn these voters to Erdoğan.
How do you feel the situation was on the ground? There was a rising tension between the opposition candidates and how about their supporters as well?
I was in Russia Today last week too. I will repeat what I said then. Türkiye has a culture of democracy and we know what means to hold an election. So I don’t think there will be big protests and so on in the near future, even the second round will be more peaceful. People will respect the choice of the others.
There has been some much talk of election interference, either foreign or domestic. Do you believe that there was any of that at all and do you see the potential for that happening in the second round?
I think the Western countries, especially the United States, tried to interfere and manipulate the Turkish public in this election. For example the latest cover of the Economist was so aggressive against the Turkish government and was calling the Turkish people to vote against Erdoğan. We can consider that as a direct interference in the election. And secondly they tried to do that by intervening the economy. However both the government and the opposition didn’t let this happen.
There were subtle reports about Russian interference in the election process both from Western media and Turkish opposition. How accurate were those statements?
Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu, the candidate of the opposition, stated several times about the Russian interference in the election, but he didn’t show any proof at the end of the day. I think that was just a tactic that he used to manipulate the nationalist voters. In one of the TV programmes Kılıçdaroğlu said that there were just rumors.
Looking at the results it seems like we are for sure going into a second round. How do you think that the US’s position could change seeing that the opposition candidate is falling behind at this moment from Erdoğan?
In the first round we saw that the US openly supported the opposition candidate. The US used methods of media pressure as we saw in the case of cover of the Economist and the economic pressure. However having seen that the result of the first round, the huge gap of approximately 5% between the two candidates the US could change its strategy and try to normalize the relations with president Erdoğan after the second round.
Let’s talk about the big question that many are asking: What interest do foreign states have here because the opposition candidate Kılıçdaroğlu and Erdoğan have completely different foreign policy positions?
Geopolitically Türkiye has a very strategic position between Europe-West and the East. So it is an important country for the both sides. If you look at the conflict in Ukraine, Türkiye didn’t take an anti-Russian position as the West did, and for this reason the Western pressure on Türkiye is increasing day by day. The government and President Erdoğan are following a balance policy between the West and the East. Erdoğan is keeping some distance from the Western policy against Russia and Iran because they are Türkiye’s neighbors. However, the opposition declares openly that it is pro-Western and loyal to NATO with its latest statements about Russia and Iran. Here is the main difference between the two political camps. From the result of the first round we see that the Turkish public favors this balance policy being followed by Erdoğan government. The Turkish publics knows very well that Türkiye has very good relations with Russia in the economic, military and energy fields. For military field, just recall the S-400 and cooperation to end the conflict in Syria with the Astana Process. So Turkish people showed its support to Turkish-Russian alliance in the first round.
You talked about the relationship. Economy, tourism, nuclear power plant… Do you that this relationship could change depending on who wins the election or doesn’t matter?
Probably president Erdoğan will win. I think he will continue his ongoing policy of putting distance from the Western policies and approaching Russia. In this case, the Pentagon could use certain methods to put pressure on Turkish government. And I think that Syria is strategic point that could be used against Türkiye.
Thank you very much Turkish political scientist Onur Sinan Güzaltan.
 The HDP participated in the election by changing the party’s name as “Green Left Party”.