Elections have been devised to serve as a way out of problems, as a device for political systems to avoid the risk of being led to an impasse. This time around, elections in Turkey and Greece could prove a trap.
Municipal Elections in Turkey are planned for March 31. One should not underestimate their importance: Ankara may well fall in the hands of an (Opposition, CHP) candidate, supported by IYI Parti, since the (Government-supported, AKP) candidate, also supported by nationalist MHP, trails at the latest polls by some 3%.
In Istanbul, the vote is too close to call: ex-AKP Prime Minister Binali Yildirim leads by less than 0.5% Opposition Ekrem Imamoglu. Other large cities – Izmir, Bursa, Adana – are also contested. The backdrop to these elections is the nosedive of the Turkish economy, which has led President Erdogan to take the lead in the electoral campaign promising everything to alleviate the life of the proverbial “man in the street” – down to low-price foodstuffs.
The Turkish political system being what it is, the Erdogan Government is also playing the national-pride card: Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has been asserting Turkey’s rights on surrounding sea-areas, all the way from the Black Sea through the Aegean and down to the Eastern Mediterranean and Cyprus, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu raised anew the issue of Thrace Turkish minority. So, while Greek Foreign Minister George Katrougalos made efforts to strike a conciliatory tone by stating that Turkey “has rights in the Eastern Mediterranean, such as recognized by the Law of the Sea” (stating in fact the evident…) and while a new generation of Confidence-building Measures were expected for just after the Turkish elections, tensions keep rising.
To such an extent that, in Greece, it is becoming a political no-go even to refer to the fact that the small island of Kastellorizo a valiant, isolated outpost near the Turkish coast and far away (some 80 miles) from the South-easternmost point of the Dodecanese…. constitutes no part of the Aegean.
Since elections – European and regional, but potentially also national – are just two months away in Greece, the Greek side seems to have little flexibility potential. A “war of the maps” looks imminent. So, elections can be quite a trap in this matter too.