Elections roundup: Lessons from Istanbul


With less than a month between Pakistan and the polls, there was another election in another part of the Muslim world filled with lessons and warnings. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was ushered in by the people of Turkey along with a new Presidential system of power.

For liberals, Erdogan’s election as President is a nightmare. For his supporters, it is a shining moment in an imperial revival. Here in Pakistan, his victory has everyone up in a tizzy. Imran Khan congratulated the Turkish President, PM Mulk and President Mamnoon also extended more-than-formal felicitations and Shehbaz Sharif was positively glowing.

Turkey, too, has had a problem with military takeovers and unstable democracies, but Erdogan presents an untouchable feat for politicians here in Pakistan. He survived a coup attempt in 2016, and has since gotten rid of his opponents, silenced dissent and consolidated power – all the while managing to become a hero of the Muslim world.

His opponents are jailed, his press is censored, his promised reforms give him unlimited control. Yet he is undeniably popular. Erdogan is the dream.

Pakistan has lessons to take away from Turkey. It is not only military coups that a country has to fear, but oppression and fascism in general. That is why these polls are so important. But as Simon Jenkins at ‘The Guardian’ puts it, “Blame liberal democracy’s flaws for Erdoğan’s win, not the voters.”


Mian Shehbaz Sharif kicked off his election campaign in Karachi with the obligatory visit to the Quaid’s mausoleum followed by an impressive rally. Meanwhile, elder brother Nawaz and daughter Maryam have said that their priority is Begum Kulsoom’s health and not electioneering. This leaves Shehbaz alone to manage the League’s campaign, including his own. As the prospective Prime Ministerial candidate for his party, he is already trying to play himself up on a national level, promising Karachi that he would not rest until the City crosses Lahore in development. But with reports floating around that he had been against putting up a candidate against Ch Nisar, one wonders just how often Mian Nawaz is going to be tugging at his younger brothers strings. Maryam, too, will need to make a call at some point on when to return. After all, this was to be her big debut.


Meanwhile, Imran Khan has been cleared to contest from his home constituency of NA 95 Mianwali, from where he also kicked off the PTI’s election campaign. Mianwali makes sense, it is Imran’s hometown as well as the Northernmost district of Punjab bordering KP. Imran will be glad he has at least one constituency down for him.


A funny little bit to take away from Erdogan’s victory was a tweet from the hilarious handle ‘Broken News’. They put up tweets made by Pakistani journalists back when the 2016 coup had been underway. Kamran Khan had declared it was over for Erdogan, Mubasher Lucman had even said Erdogan was on his way to Pakistan for asylum, while Dr Shahid Masood had half-cleverly said “Erdo . . . gone!” Just goes to show that television analysts aren’t all that great at their job, but that won’t stop them from saying their bit this election cycle.


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