In France, there was no winner in the first round of the presidential election on April 10. The current president and Le République en Marche candidate Emmanuel Macron gained 28.6 percent, and Rassemblement National candidate Marine Le Pen gained 23.9 percent of the votes and were the two candidates to compete in the runoff on April 24. In summary, right-wing and far-right-wing candidates will compete for the presidency in France.
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the candidate of the populist leftist “La France Insoumise”, remained in third place with 20.4 percent and was eliminated. However, with this rate of votes, he will probably be an effective political actor in the new period; if he doesn’t quit politics as he promised. The 1.7 percent of the vote received by Anne Hidalgo, the candidate of the Socialist Party, is truly sad.
In Germany, as one of the central countries of the European Union, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) won and formed a government with the Greens and liberal Free Democrats. But in France, even if Macron is re-elected a brand new political climate seems to prevail.
Political economy of France and Turkey
The political balances that affected the election results in France were established on Covid-19, the economic problems affected by the Ukrainian crisis and Islam. When we say economic crisis, we keep in mind that we are talking about the world’s 7th, EU’s 2nd largest economy, which grew by 7 percent last year; even though in Turkey we keep making people believe that only China and Turkey are growing.
Unemployment is falling in France. Inflation is a problem: it rose to 5 percent -not 60 percent like in Turkey- Food inflation in France, on the other hand, is not 70 percent as in Turkey, but 2.5 percent. The biggest complaint is that natural gas prices have increased by nearly 29 percent. Even before the last price hike, which was 35 percent for residences and 50 percent for industry, Turkey held first place in Europe’s natural gas price hike with an average of 47 percent.
The race in Turkey will be between the conservative-nationalist right alliance and the centre-left in alliance with other conservative-nationalist right parties. I’m not saying it positively, but the picture is compatible with the general rightward shift in the world. The economy is the biggest problem, as I stated. President Tayyip Erdogan is trying to turn the economy in his favor with foreign policy manoeuvres.
Can the opposition see change?
How long will the government’s “it is a global phenomenon” escape be able to distract the majority of the people who are struggling with their livelihood? It’s true, first the corona crisis and then the Ukraine crisis aggravated the problems. But before them, Erdoğan’s insistence on “interest is a cause, inflation is a result ” hit Turkey with his re-election as the sole authority in 2018, and its repercussions Turkey still pays.
Erdogan hopes that he will fix the economy by simply changing the hawkish foreign policy, ignoring the role of his moving away from the principles of the rule of law in escaping foreign investments. In line with the Joe Biden administration in the US, Turkey’s President is trying to heal the wounds with Armenia, Israel, the UAE and now Saudi Arabia to provide him with the resources to implement an electoral economy in 2023.
So, does the opposition have an alternative economic policy other than saying “Everything will be fine”? Not yet. Does the opposition have an alternative foreign policy except for the reactive – and quite outdated – statements about the government’s movements? It does not exist. Alternatives are being produced in terms of social policies and it is thanks to the metropolitan municipalities, which are under heavy financial pressure from the government. The opposition cannot detect the change in the world.
Liberal dreams are replaced by authoritarian nightmares
First of all, it is necessary to acknowledge that Turkey is also a part of the wind of change in the world. When we say “world”, we no longer need to understand only the western world. Nor do we need to understand only advanced democracies. Moreover, even in advanced democracies, there are tendencies to become authoritarian and to shift to the right.
Those who came to power with the election resort to all kinds of schemes in order not to go with the election. I don’t mean only Turkey. This is the case in EU member Hungary, whose economy is as big as a district in Turkey, to India, the world’s most populous democracy.
We witness with pessimism that the liberal fantasies such as “the end of history”, “the end of NATO”, “the end of the nation-state” that were so fashionable after the collapse of the Soviet Union thirty years ago are coming to an end: liberal dreams are replaced by authoritarian nightmares. While the scientific revolution atomizes individuals with the discourse of liberation, it empowers the strong.
Political economic upheaval
The US is still the world’s largest economic, military and technological power; but far from its old sanctioning power. Beginning with Barack Obama, US power has shifted. Now there is China, as the second power in the world. It comes out of the Ukraine crisis with the least damage, without saying or doing anything.
It is possible to read Russian President Vladimir Putin’s moves first in Syria and then in Ukraine as an effort to balance the situation by putting his weight with his military power in this picture. Reaching a “new global agreement” with Biden and asking “Where do you think you are going without me?” as a challenge, he dreams that he can shape the world.
The Ukraine Crisis showed that the European Union would only remain an economic and cultural focus without the military support of the USA. The rapid reversal of xenophobia and racism over immigrants made the cultural angle controversial. Governments in the EU (especially Germany) are rapidly arming themselves despite popular objections. If Le Pen wins in France, the EU could be plunged into even more dangerous uncertainty.
Africa is once again turning into a battleground of global and regional powers.
Turkey: those who see change and those who can’t
Turkey has been seeking a more active role in this upheaval for a while. Erdogan’s slogan “The world is bigger than five” is an indicator of this. The search for a more effective position rather than the role that was assigned to him has been ongoing since the coup attempt of 15 July 2016.
The Ukraine Crisis came at a time when the downhill effects of Erdoğan’s economic policy hit rock bottom in December 2021. Erdogan succeeded in breaking his international political isolation with agile diplomatic maneuvers, and Turkey and himself came to the fore. The fact that the USA gave the green light for the sale of the F-16 is one of the indicators of this.
However, while Turkey gains strength in the short run in this way, it loses one of its most important values in the long run: it’s being the only secular, pluralistic, democratic, social law state with a free economy in the Islamic world. Erdogan, on the other hand, tries to create an electoral economy by appearing in harmony with the political-military interests of the USA and the EU. The ruling party dominantly thinks that the violation of international law is an ordinary practice in the world.
In order for the opposition to change this picture, first of all, it must be able to correctly identify the change in the world and in Turkey, go to the revision of politics, and work with cadres who can do this.