Hopes of Sweden quickly following Finland in Turkey’s presidential election in May have been dashed, with recent polls threatening to end President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 20-year rule.
“The signals that Sweden has received from the opposition have been very good,” said Paul Levine, director of Stockholm University’s Institute for Turkish Studies, the national coalition of six parties challenging Erdogan. “Opponents suggest they will approve Sweden’s NATO membership soon.”
Erdogan’s popularity in Turkey has been severely eroded in recent months by the country’s economic hyperinflation, February’s devastating earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people, and the government’s slow and weak response to the disaster. As Erdogan’s troubles worsen, National Union coalition leader Kemal Kilidaroglu (pronounced “ka-LEECH-da-ro-lo”) has begun polling ahead of the president in recent weeks.
Moderate and more secular but lacking Erdogan’s charisma is Kilıdaroğlu. He is known as “Gandhi of Turkey”. Six years ago, after walking 200 miles from Istanbul to Ankara in protest against Erdogan’s anti-democratic laws, the “March for Justice” march. Few had given him much of a chance to win in the past, but recent polls show him ahead. 3% to the 10% If that political earthquake were to occur on May 14, many experts say the effects would almost certainly be felt in Sweden.
“If Kemal Kildaroglu wins the presidential election, Sweden’s chances of becoming a NATO member will increase,” Pinar Sayan, an associate fellow at the Istanbul Institute of Political Studies, told Yahoo News.
Turkey, which last week voted for Finland to join NATO, has so far kept Sweden from joining over objections from Russia. Erdogan has demanded that Stockholm extradite dozens of Kurdish refugees – an ethnic minority in Turkey who have been blamed for separatist attempts and militant actions – whom the Turkish government suspects are terrorists. Last year, Sweden conceded only three.
“Turkey is quick to hit the terrorist label,” said Asli Aydintasbas, visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Most European countries have a gap between ideas and actions.”
In January, an anti-Islamist Swedish politician burned a Koran outside the Turkish embassy, days after a Kurdish group placed an effigy of Erdogan in front of Stockholm’s city hall. While legally protected by Sweden’s freedom of expression law, those incidents angered Turkey’s president. Numan Kurtulmus, vice chairman of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, said: “Sweden’s application for NATO membership will not be approved by Turkey at this speed.” He told Turkish journalists..
There is a belief that Russia is funding some of the protests in Sweden under Erdogan’s skin.
Gunila Herolf, a research fellow at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, said: “Russia is thought to be everywhere to defend Sweden’s membership. Many Swedes, for example, suspect that Moscow was complicit in January’s graffiti and Koran burnings, Herrolf said, and videos of such protests have used Erdogan to drum up domestic support.
“Hanging the president’s effigy may not be a big deal in the United States, but it resonates in Turkey,” Aydintasbas said, adding that “Erdogan is taking this personally and blaming the Swedish authorities for allowing these demonstrations to take place.”
Knowing well how those demonstrations played out in Turkey and other Islamic countries, the Swedish police banned the burning of Qaran. Swedish court They threw it out last week. Swedes are “self-righteous when it comes to freedom of speech,” says Aydintasbas. The result is a conversation. [between Sweden and Turkey] It’s not going anywhere.”
But if Kilıdaroğlu is to manage the frustration with Erdogan and the current government takes further action by allowing those results to stand, Aydintasbas believes “the first order of business is to improve Turkey’s rule of law and try to reverse the country’s authoritarian trajectory.”
Erdogan’s government is said to be in jail. They account for nearly one-third of all jailed journalists worldwide.and recently passed a disinformation law that strengthens Erdogan’s control over news and social media platforms.
“A competent and organized opposition can do well in elections. But there are risks that people should take into account,” said Aydintasbas, one of which was that “Turkey is a country that experiences unexpected events during elections.
April 6, for example, was reported to have been shot in Kilidaroglu Party headquarters.
Levin said that the Swedes were upset that Turkey’s parliament refused to approve NATO membership, and that Sweden had “acted” on all of Erdogan’s demands by drafting an anti-terrorism law, considering extradition requests and imposing a ban on the sale of military equipment. Turkey in 2010 After attacking Kurdish militia in Syria in 2019. “There is not much that Sweden can do within the bounds of the rule of law,” Levin added.
If Erdogan wins the May elections, his hard line to force a deal from Sweden to join NATO could finally be considered decisive.
“Domestically, it was good for Erdogan’s green-light Finland and red-light Sweden,” said former U.S. diplomat Elizabeth Shackelford, now a senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “It is a clear demonstration of the power within NATO. Erdogan makes Turkey’s position very important for the world’s important defense cooperation. She added that Erdogan is “still holding a card he can play to get more concessions from NATO members,” including the F-16 deal with the US.
Soner Kagaptay, director of Turkey’s research program at Washington’s Near East Policy, acknowledged the importance of Sweden passing a new anti-terrorism law. “If Erdogan wins, it will make the case that Sweden is on its knees and acceding to Turkey’s demands,” Kagaptai said, adding that whoever wins, Sweden will probably eventually join Finland in NATO – how much is a question. He is forced to accept more.