The rulers of ancient Greece would go to Delphi to solicit the advice of a hallucinating priestess. The rulers of modern Greece, along with potentates and policymakers from other jurisdictions, go to the same vicinity for the Delphi Economic Forum, where the deliberations (if not the dinners) are rather more sober.
Delphi’s agenda is vast. There are discussions on everything from Russia and Ukraine to the possibilities of quantum computing and the merits of teaching classical Greek. But if one theme emerged from this year’s forum, it was that Turkey’s election of 14 May is the most important scheduled event of 2023. It’s startling to consider the degree to which Turkey’s voters could reshape the world. The country has Sweden at its mercy when it comes to the Nordic nation’s Nato bid. It can make the eastern Mediterranean a geostrategic headache instead of just a conundrum. It occupies a chunk of an EU member; it is sort of at war in Syria and Iraq. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan (pictured on poster, on left) – if that is still his job description a month or so from now – will decide whether the democratic world retains a significant asset or the authoritarian realm claims one.
The general attitude at Delphi was fatalism rather than optimism. Harris Georgiades, chairman of the foreign and European affairs committee of the Cyprus parliament, told me that he wasn’t sure a change of leadership would make much difference to Turkey’s trajectory. Qubad Talabani, deputy prime minister of the Kurdish regional government in Iraq, candidly admitted, “We just deal with what we have to deal with because we’re not really in a position to influence any outcomes.” At one Delphi panel, Turkish-American economist Nouriel Roubini worried that Erdogan might yet engineer a dramatic crisis ahead of the election. The world stays up all night to watch the results of US presidential elections come in; we should keep just as riveted and wary an eye on this one.
Andrew Mueller is Monocle’s contributing editor and host of ‘The Foreign Desk’, which airs on Saturdays at 12.00 London time on Monocle Radio. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.