Erdoğan is not the worst-case scenario.
The handling of the elections and, by extension, of the political reality in Turkey in the mainstream Western analyses were largely unidirectional: the opposition steps in and, along with it, democracy and freedom are restored.
But was that a realistic estimation or merely wishful thinking? The result of the first round is here and allows little room for doubt regarding the outcome of the second round. So, will Mr. Erdoğan be re-elected? Nobody can tell for sure.
Undoubtedly, change and renewal after 20 years of governance may be important and necessary. However, the previous political situation was not necessarily or clearly better.
The Kemalist establishment that represents it and today constitutes the main opposition behaves as if it were a product of parthenogenesis. This Kemalist establishment was tainted by five coups d' etat and juntas. That very establishment in Turkey had been and still appears willing to tolerate coups d' etat and the involvement of the military in political life for the sake of a much-revered asset, a secular state. The Kemalist establishment itself suspended or banned a great number of political parties. For decades, it systematically expelled (organised) Kurds, whom it considered, at best, as second-class citizens and, at worst, as terrorists. This is why it is not fortuitous that Kurds, even in the earthquake-stricken areas, voted for AKP. Because the gap dividing them from the Kemalist establishment is a much deeper than the one dividing them from Mr Erdoğan's party.
Certainly, regarding our region, we would better not have any illusions, as Mr Kılıçdaroğlu has been criticising Mr Erdoğan for only paying lip service and not actually doing anything regarding the "militarisation and occupation of islands by Greece". What is more, his party, the CHP, was in power in 1974, when Cyprus was invaded. Unfortunately, the opposition as a whole carries grave ideological burdens and obsessions concerning Greece and Cyprus. For Erdoğan, it has always been about doing business. His toughest policy on Greece and Cyprus was imposed and dictated by his government's junior partner MHP, the Kemalist grey wolves.
On the other hand, if it were – if it is – elected, it is not certain that the opposition's coalition could govern effectively: it is comprised of six heterogeneous parties not even enjoying parliamentary majority.
All indications are that Mr Erdoğan will be re-elected. What could we expect? Perhaps the prospects will be better. These are his last elections. This is of utmost importance for a politician who has perceived everything almost exclusively in terms of internal electoral battle, and it is expected that it will grant him greater peace of mind and eliminate the need for confrontation. At the same time, he doesn't seem to have the same economic motives as before, but he has a great interest in his reputation and legacy, which may prove to have a powerfully positive effect.
What is more, his approach to external politics has been incredibly realistic and adaptive. Tensions have always served several purposes. These may have now changed. Turkey needs the West, and the West needs Turkey. Therefore, it is highly likely that pragmatism will prevail, leading to rapprochement, which will be useful for everyone and will bring an inflow of capitals for reconstruction, an agreement for Sweden's admission to NATO, an agreement for the F-16 and, furthermore, extended collaborations in the field of energy etc.
No matter how problematic or controversial he has been or is for his country, Mr Erdoğan, besides his rhetoric and in terms of substance, is not the worst-case scenario for Greece and Cyprus.
Harry Tzimitras is an Associate Professor of International Law, Director of PRIO Cyprus Centre and a Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, Washington.