Iranians are watching the unfolding Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections with a keen eye, comparing the continued struggle for democracy and fair elections in Turkey with the fight for democratic values and equal rights in Iran.
“Erdoğan’s defeat will make me happy, as Iran’s defeat will,” said academic Fatemeh Shams, adding, “Do not underestimate Erdoğan and his mafia’s corruption and radicalism. If the opposition wins the election in Turkey, many dynamics will change in the region.”
In Turkey’s divided society, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government is seen by the opposition as a patriarchal one-man rule, and while the elections set off on an unequal campaign footing (the opposition alliance were denied the same resources that Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) led alliance had access to), fears grew about election fraud amid reports of inconsistent ballot box counts and the deportation of international election observers. This came after a swift government-led pre-election crackdown on opposition parties, involving hundreds of arrests of MPs, journalists, and lawyers.
In parallel, Iran has seen rising civil unrest since popular uprisings began last September against the country’s theocratic, patriarchal rule, after a young Iranian-Kurdish woman, Jina (Masha) Amini was killed in the custody of Iran’s morality police for not wearing her head scarf properly. Moreover, Iran’s 2009 presidential elections saw the arrest of thousands of protesters who objected to then-president Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s “stolen” election, as he announced victory only an hour after polls had closed.
Comparing the current Turkish elections with the Iranian presidential elections in 2009, a doctor of International Relations from Tehran’s Allameh Tabatabai University, Ehsan Movahedian, said, “The bipolar situation in Turkey is reminiscent of the 2009 election and its bitter consequences,” and added, “Erdoğan’s provocative speeches remind one of Iran’s former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.”
Iranian journalist Mohammad Motlagh argued that Iran will benefit no matter who wins the second round of Turkey’s elections. “If Erdoğan wins, that would be the beginning of the decline of NATO, and probably of conflicts between Turkey and Greece; and if Kılıçdaroğlu wins, it means harnessing the war in Caucasia [Armenia-Azerbaijan], reduction of tensions in Syria and Iraq and more interest in Russia to get closer to Iran,” he explained.
Meanwhile, since the 14 May elections in Turkey went to a runoff, military forces in northeast Iran, which borders Kurdish populated regions in eastern Turkey, were put on a state of alert to control possible demonstrations following a potential victory by Turkey’s opposition coalition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, reported London-based Iran International.
Kılıçdaroğlu is Erdoğan’s main presidential rival, and leader of the alliance formed between opposition parties in an effort to oust the president from securing a third term in office. The country’s third biggest party in Turkey, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) fights for Kurdish rights and backed Kılıçdaroğlu in the presidential election.
Tensions in Kurdish-majority regions on the border between Iran and Turkey remain high, and social media is rife with expressions of solidarity between popular forces in both countries.