Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has denied being an autocratic leader, saying if that had been the case, he would not be competing in a runoff election later this month but would have had an outright victory in the presidential election on May 14, CNN International reported.
In an exclusive interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, Erdoğan criticized US President Joe Biden for calling him an “autocrat” in his 2020 campaign for the White House. “Would a dictator ever enter a runoff election?” Erdoğan said, referring to the vote on May 28 in which he will compete against his main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition party and the joint presidential candidate of an opposition alliance.
In an interview with The New York Times in late 2019, then-US Democratic presidential candidate Biden described the Turkish president as an “autocrat,” criticized his policy towards the Kurds, and advocated supporting the Turkish opposition, triggering an angry response from Erdoğan’s government.
It is not only Biden but also many Erdoğan critics who accuse him of establishing one-man rule in the country and being an autocratic leader, particularly after a system change granted him vast powers. Turkey switched from the parliamentary system to a presidential system of governance in a referendum held in 2017. Erdoğa was elected president under the new system in 2018 following his first term under the parliamentary system, which began in 2014.
According to unofficial results in the May 14 presidential election, Erdoğan received 49.51 percent of the vote, while Kılıçdaroğlu, garnered 44.88 percent.
Opposition parties have been raising allegations of irregularities in the election. Some claim that the election result was rigged and that Erdoğan orchestrated it to necessitate runoff to fend off criticism about his being an autocrat since such leaders win landslide victories in elections.
In a similar vein, Newsweek magazine published an article this week by Asaad Sam Hanna, a fellow of international affairs at Columbia University, titled, “Stop Calling Erdogan a Dictator. Dictators Don’t Go to Runoffs.”
Hanna denied the claims about rigging in Turkish elections, claiming that in Turkish elections, which he said are among the few fair ones in the region, “you can change a regime by voting.”
“Western media denouncing the Turkish election as ‘rigged’ and calling Erdogan a dictator will only harm the electoral process in the future and push a conspiracy, which will lead to reducing trust in the Turkish electoral system.
“The U.S. media seems to want to export its own problems—probably the best sign that democracy is alive and well in Turkey,” he wrote.