Elections – Türkiye: what they expect in Athens and Nicosia

Elections – Türkiye: what they expect in Athens and Nicosia

Greece has no illusions about a change of leadership in Turkey, as it does not automatically mean a change in permanent positions

Turkey at the polls. To the “most important elections of 2023”, as the “Economist” wrote, and beyond. In elections which, for the first time in 20 years, everyone admits the outcome is difficult to predict, as there are uncertain factors. And Erdoğan nobody can think that he will allow defeat without a fight. Athens and Nicosia are following developments, perhaps more closely than anyone. Because much will perhaps depend on the result of the next day in the vicinity of the eastern Mediterranean. In Athens, the fact that the first round of the Greek elections is between the two ballot boxes of the first and the second round, as long as no one exceeds 50% this Sunday, acquires its own significance. The first positions of the new government in Ankara are likely to be expected before the formation of a government in Athens, thus having their own impact on the Greek polls. The Greco-Turkish language having recently appeared on the pre-election balconies of Turkey and Greece and being used in the party agenda.

In the pre-election rhetoric of the two gladiators, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the Greek-Turkish – and Cypriot – tone has fallen. Threats of “we’ll come one night”, as well as challenges of “why are you saying this and not doing it” have ceased. The conversion is attributed to the climate imposed by the direct solidarity of Athens with Ankara within the framework of “seismic diplomacy”. But as Al Jazeera observes, Erdogan clearly understands that elections are won and lost primarily on internal rather than external affairs.

Change of rhetoric by Kilicdaroglu, who bets on low profile and caution. Most analysts, however, refer to Kilicdaroglu’s promises to the West for a change in foreign policy, adding that this may turn out to be “wishful thinking”. With the question marks they raise on Greek-Turkish relations, but also on the substance of the Cyprus question. As noted by the international media, “even after a change of power in Ankara, it does not seem that there will be signs of a rapid rapprochement with Greece”. Recalling beyond the positions of Erdogan and the challenges of Kilicdaroglu.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu wants to appear as “the anti-Erdogan”. He says he will restore Turkey’s relations with the West and seek a change in rhetoric and policy, distancing himself from Erdogan’s aggression. And so far, it has conquered the Western media.

However, he failed to gain the belief that he will be able to form a stable government capable of taking decisions, but also of advancing against the bad texts created by Erdogan’s 20 years of rule. Such a diverse coalition of parties, which starts from the left and reaches Meral Aksener’s far right, is not certain to survive, according to the estimates of those who follow the developments and note that the scenarios are that Erdogan does not react. not immediately, but to undermine his opponent’s government and wait for its collapse. A scenario of instability in Turkey is not something Athens would like, since internal problems during Ankara’s constant tactics are exported to aggression.

Since then, Erdogan’s aggressiveness has been seen as an attempt to divert the country’s major economic problems, but also as a message sent to Washington, via Athens.

Valuable but difficult

Erdogan managed to bring Turkey firmly into the position of a valuable, but “difficult” and many times “unpleasant” ally for the West. For Athens, Erdogan is the president who started with the “best recommendations”, since in the early years and at least until 2016, Greek-Turkish relations had their best days. While tensions have remained low and both sides are tense, diplomats on both sides who took part in the negotiations admit, very close to a solution in 2004 and as Turkey insisted on joining the EU .The rapid deterioration of Greek-Turkish relations, with Erdoğan greatly improved Ankara’s claims and manifested its revisionist agenda towards Athens in 2019 with the signing of the Turkish-Libyan memorandum, which attempted to create an act in the context of the narrative of the “blue homeland”. At the same time, Turkey’s complaints about demilitarization, which are attempted to be linked to the questioning of Greek sovereignty over the Aegean islands, have grown. Positions from which Kilicdaroglu should not move away, even if he does not threaten “to come one evening”.

Foreign diplomats note that Kilicdaroglu is a tough nationalist who will not back down. And for Athens, after all, there is no room for illusions about the possible change of leadership in Turkey, because this does not automatically mean a change of permanent posts. There are years of data that can only be resolved if there is a will, or pressure from Turkey to obtain the will, to sit down at the negotiating table with the intention of finding solutions. Otherwise, everyone will wait for the next crisis. What is recognized is the existence of an opportunity for dialogue, which Greece cannot ignore.

What does the United States want?

The appeasement in the eastern Mediterranean and the solutions that will serve to redraw the energy routes imposed by the decision of dependence on Moscow, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine which brought Russia and the West on the brink of a new “cold war”, but also the indisputable unity of NATO, the USA also wants it. Before reaching a settlement of the question of the continental shelf and the EEZ, or agreements on the route of gas pipelines, Greece and Turkey could agree on energy issues, within the framework of the positive agenda, which includes an “energy” chapter, without touching on the “difficult chapters” of relations between the two countries.

Everything indicates that Washington, after the Turkish elections, will seek to bring Athens and Ankara to initiatives in order to set up a first dialogue table, with the aim of normalizing relations between the two parties. And it is considered that the diplomatic haggling that Ankara will attempt will play a crucial role in the developments. Even with Erdoğan in power, Turkey’s economic situation, which requires American assistance, may force him to change his attitude and turn to finding solutions.

Greek and Cypriot politicians are certain that on Sunday evening they will see Turkish elections. Even if they don’t publicly express their preferences for the result, they are sure to have measured the two gladiators. With the recipe for distance and balance which is currently the wisest of all.

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