Richard Giragosian: Armenians worry over Erdogan’s probable presidency

Turkey is slated to elect a president by popular vote for the first time on Aug. 10, and parties have been announcing their candidates for the upcoming race. After all other candidates were announced, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared that he would be the presidential candidate for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). He is expected to win, and if he does, one result is that he could maintain the power of his 11-year rule in Turkey.

Political analyst and Regional Studies Center founder Richard Giragosian told Sunday’s Zaman from Yerevan that Erdogan is a dynamic and popular political figure in Turkey, but that he is also polarizing.

“He is often using extremely aggressive and bellicose language when referring to the Armenians or Armenian issue,” Giragosian said.

Giragosian thinks that although the prime minister’s rhetoric and what he calls “aggressive” remarks are not limited to only Armenians — such words have been directed at Israelis and the West on different platforms — “He is perceived as a pronounced ally of Azerbaijan and a foe of the Armenians, even despite his April 24 statement.”

As Giragosian mentioned, on the eve of the 99th anniversary of the 1915 events, Prime Minister Erdogan for the first time in Turkey’s history offered condolences to the families of the Armenians who went through the tragic events of those years. Using conciliatory language, Erdogan called the 1915 event “inhumane,” a statement that was not accepted by all Armenians unilaterally.

Delivering Armenians’ concerns that Erdogan will hold too much personal and political power without due deference to the rule of law or democratic institutions in Turkey, Giragosian says that the rise of Prime Minister Erdogan and the decline of current President Abdullah Gul is causing people in Armenia to worry about the future of Turkey.

“After all, it was President Gul who made history as the first Turkish head of state to visit Armenia,” Giragosian said, adding that Armenians worry the future of Armenian-Turkish normalization might suffer because of domestic Turkish politics.

“With hopes for normalization having rested on President Gul’s shoulders, his apparent political decline has meant that Armenia has lost a ‘partner for peace’ and a worthy and more sincere interlocutor for building a new relationship.”

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