Fuel for the election campaign again.. Calculations of the run-off for Türkiye’s presidential elections and its impact on the Syrian refugees

istanbul- Syrian Mays (a refugee who did not obtain Turkish citizenship) is experiencing double tension as a result of the opposition’s focus on the refugee file – especially the Syrians – and its endeavor to satisfy the “extremist” nationalists after the first round of the Turkish elections.

Mays says to Al-Jazeera Net (a housewife who lives in Istanbul), “Before the first round, I was eagerly awaiting the result, and yet I was less nervous because the parties and candidates did not focus on the Syrian file, but now we have become the main concern of the electoral campaigns, and this is something Scary to me.”

Mays adds that she is “convinced that Erdogan will easily win the second round, but I am afraid of the escalation of racist rhetoric and its consequences in the street.”

Syrian refugees flocked to the border with Greece after Turkey announced opening the way for them to leave for a short period last year (Getty Images)

At the heart of the opposition campaigns

Like Mays, the reassurance of most Syrian refugees in Turkey did not stabilize after the racist rhetoric that had been targeting them for years declined, until they found themselves the biggest targets of the Turkish opposition’s electoral campaign after the results of the first round of the presidential elections that took place last Sunday.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won 49.5% of the vote in the first round, while the candidate of the opposition People’s Alliance, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, won 44.9% of the vote, and the candidate of the National Ancestors’ Alliance, Sinan Ogan, won 5.2% of the vote, which put him in a bargaining position with all From the government and opposition coalitions to gain his support in the second round.

Sinan Ogan linked his support for either party before and after the elections to a number of conditions. Most notably, working to return refugees and irregular immigrants – who he says have reached 12 million – to their countries, as well as disengagement from parties associated with “terrorist” organizations.

Ogan mentioned by name the Peoples’ Democratic Party (the Green Left Party), which is supported by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party labeled “terrorist”, which is Kilicdaroglu’s ally in the elections, as well as the Free Dawa Party, Erdogan’s ally, which many see as an extension of the Hezbollah organization that has engaged in “terrorist activities”. In previous decades, while the party denies its connection to the organization.

Erdogan has repeatedly declared that he will not compromise Ogan on his terms, while the opposition candidate hastened to adopt a new discourse based on a pledge to return refugees and illegal immigrants to their country as soon as he came to power, using the word “disordered” in describing them, and repeating the number “12 million” that he insisted Ogan previously used it in his election campaign, although official figures speak of about 6 million foreigners residing in the country, including 3.5 million Syrians.

Meetings and bargains

And yesterday, Friday, Erdogan and Ogan met, as did Kilicdaroglu and the head of the Victory Party, Umit Ozdag, the main supporter of the losing presidential candidate, Sinan Ogan.

However, the latter has not yet announced his support for either of the two candidates, and it is likely that his final position will be announced within days, which may include being content with neutrality and not supporting either of them, according to other statements he made.

The meeting between Kilicdaroglu and Ozdag was preceded by a meeting between Ogan and the leader of the Future Party, Ahmet Davutoglu; One of the leaders of the opposition nation coalition. Opposition media sources talked about an offer that the candidate of the ancestors’ alliance, Ogan, received from the Nation’s Alliance, to grant him the Ministry of Immigration in the event that Kilicdaroglu wins the second round of the presidential elections, but Ogan demanded the Ministry of Interior.

In an interview with the press, Ogan asked: Why should he settle for the position of minister if he can obtain the position of vice president, apparently referring to his raising the ceiling for negotiation with the opposition and the government, which might make him, if he reaches an agreement with any of them, in A site that allows him to impose his policies and vision on many issues, most notably the issue of the Syrian refugees.

Presidential candidate Sinan Ogan casts his vote
Sinan Ogan linked his support for Erdogan or Kilicdaroglu to conditions, most notably working to return refugees and irregular migrants (Anatolia)

Can Ogan impose his terms?

Syrians are afraid of Ogan’s influence and that the percentage of votes he obtained will turn into a reason for his subsequent control over their fate, whether he joins the government or the opposition, but will he succeed in imposing his conditions on either side?

Academic Engin Koch – an assistant professor in the Department of Politics at the Turkish University of Uludag – believes that Ogan’s demands regarding the Syrian refugees will be received positively by the opposition Ummah Alliance, at a time when no change is observed in Erdogan’s current policy on this issue in the current circumstances. However, these demands of Ogan were certainly raised during the talks with the President.

Koch played down the possibility of Ogan’s demands turning into real influence over the refugee file. He told Al-Jazeera Net that the proposal for Ogan to take over the Ministry of Immigration – whether it was achieved by Kilicdaroglu or Erdogan – would not constitute a coercive situation for the Syrians who hold the protection of the United Nations and have the status of “temporary refugees”, but would be closer to an initiative to stop the uncontrolled flow of refugees.

The Turkish academic believes that this situation will be in the interest of both Turkey and Syria if Ogan joins the government, as talks between the two governments will continue after the elections regarding the return of refugees, provided that this is achieved in accordance with international law.

However, he hinted that Ogan’s joining the opposition might put him in a stronger position to achieve his vision, given the more extreme positions of the Nation Alliance in this regard compared to the ruling coalition.

Koch ruled out that the opposition Ummah Alliance would be able to win Ogan’s support if the alliance did not move away from the Peoples’ Democratic Party, likely in this case to join the ruling “public” or remain neutral.

Fear mixed with optimism

Abdul Rahman (a journalist residing in Istanbul, who obtained Turkish citizenship 5 years ago) is afraid of the opposition taking power in Turkey, but he became more reassured after the results of the first round of the presidential elections appeared.

Abdul Rahman told Al-Jazeera Net, “I used to feel fear before the first round of the elections, but now I feel safer, especially after the government’s statements that it will not abandon the refugees, in exchange for the racist statements issued by the other side.”

He made it clear that he would vote in the second round for President Erdogan. “It is now the safety valve for the presence of Syrians in Türkiye,” he said.

As for Ibrahim (a worker in a Syrian bakery in the city of Gaziantep), he talked about his feelings of instability recently in Turkey due to the escalation of hatred against foreigners and Syrian refugees in particular, in addition to the issuance of new decisions every period that impose additional restrictions on refugees.

However, he told Al-Jazeera Net that the current situation remains better than the unknown that awaits them if the opposition candidate, Kilicdaroglu, succeeds. He added, “I am afraid that if the opposition takes power, I will lose my job if the new government takes decisions that restrict the Syrians and their commercial activity in the country.”

Fear is appropriate

Ghazwan Kronfol (a Syrian lawyer and human rights activist residing in Gaziantep) believes that the Syrians’ fear is legitimate and justified, and is not limited to the electoral polarization we are experiencing today, but rather began a long time ago and left them with an unknown fate in this country.

Kronfol adds to Al-Jazeera Net that there is a clear position from a large segment of the ruling and opposition political parties alike regarding the issue of refugees and the need for their return.

While the lawyer – who holds Turkish citizenship – confirms that the Syrian in Turkey today does not feel stable or certain about his future, he called on the law enforcement institutions in the country to take measures regarding the escalation of hate speech and racism against the other in general and the Syrians in particular, stressing the need to confront this. firmly by judicial institutions.

At the same time, Kronfol called on the Syrians to try to avoid friction with the Turks as much as possible, in light of the electoral polarization and “tight nerves.”

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