Wednesday, 11 February 2015

What the Columnists Say

Published in Roundup of Columnists

Cengiz Çandar in Radikal writes that the AKP has no other raison d’être left than to cling to Tayyip Erdoğan, and to be the power instrument of the supreme leader. Cengiz Aktar in Taraf cautions against harboring “revolutionary hopes” in Turkey in the wake of Syriza’s victory in Greece and the Kurdish victory in Kobane. Fehmi Koru in Habertürk predicts that the HDP, if it crosses the threshold to parliament in the general election in June, is going to be a perfect partner for the AKP in the writing of a new constitution. Bekir Ağırdır on the t24 news site writes that the HDP is going to have to triple its votes in the eight major metropolises in order to have a chance to cross the ten percent threshold to parliament. Finally,  Hasan Bülent Kahraman in Sabah observes that HDP and its electoral prospects are now on everyone’s lips and that the party in that respect has succeeded in becoming a party that matters nation-wide in Turkey.


Cengiz Çandar in Radikal asks what the AKP is going to ask votes for.  All the members of the party and its voters should ask the following question: “Are we going to ask for votes in order to perpetuate the government of our party or are we going to ask for votes for Tayyip Erdoğan?” The members of the AKP, and chief among them the leader of the party, who has been reduced to a figurehead, need to search for answers to the questions “Who are we? Why do we exist? Is the reason for our continued existence to make it possible for Tayyip Erdoğan to realize his ambitions?”  Is the AKP to be viewed as the “brother organization” in Turkey of the Muslim Brotherhood; or is it rather the coalition of rent seekers from state power? Which is it? Or is it an amalgamation of both? If it is more of the second – and it does seem so – then that means that the AKP’s mission is finished. Then it means that the party has no other raison d’être left than to cling to Tayyip Erdoğan, and to be the power instrument of the supreme leader.


Cengiz Aktar in Taraf writes that Syriza’s election victory in Greece has created what is in fact an utterly unwarranted expectation in Turkey that the left can become a real alternative in Turkey as well. He also notes that the Kurdish victory in Kobane has created enthusiasm among the supporters of the pro-Kurdish and leftist Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Kobane has cleared the way for the model of political autonomy. It has carried fresh energy to the political struggle in Turkey and to the quest for autonomy. The self-confidence that led the HDP to decide to contest the elections as a party appears to have turned into an excessive self-confidence in the wake of the victories in Rojava and Greece. But we are neither in a Greece, that had no other alternatives left to turn to, nor in a Rojava, which is sensitive to the Kurdish reality. On the contrary, we are in a country that reacts in disgust to hearing the words “left” and “Kurdish.” If the HDP is not represented in parliament, nothing will stand in the way of Erdoğan who is going to run the country as he pleases. So the danger is clear and present, and there is no space for mistakes! Nonetheless, we now see how Kobane and Greece fuels illusions of revolution, with people having convinced themselves that the HDP is going to cross the threshold to parliament.


Fehmi Koru in Habertürk writes that global developments suggest that the HDP also has a chance to be successful. The conditions in Turkey today do not resemble those in Greece; it was the AK Party that once similarly turned the demoralizing condition of the country to its advantage and rose to power. However, the CHP’s difficulties in transcending its limits and the inability of the left to come together under one roof leaves a rather large space for the HDP to exploit, and which it will be in an even better position to further enlarge if it passes the threshold to parliament.  The existence of the “solution process” is the HDP’s strongest advantage. Even if there are serious doubts about the successful completion of the “solution process,” there is still widespread support for it in society. An HDP that emerges with success from the ballot in June and forms a group in parliament, is going to be a suitable partner for the AK Party in the writing of a new constitution that conforms to the principles of democracy and the rule of law. Just as was the case at the foundation of the republic, those who are represented by the AK Party and the HDP respectively can accomplish this hand in hand.


Bekir Ağırdır on the t24 news site writes that the crucial question is what kind of strategy, policies and discourse that the HDP is going to deploy in order to cross the threshold to parliament. The votes that were received (by the pro-Kurdish party) in both the general election in 2011 – 2,435,133 votes, which represented 5.7 percent – and in the local elections in 2014 – 2,961,194 votes, that is 6.6 percent – are far away from the threshold.  If we assume that the participation will as usual be around 80 percent in the general election on June 7, that means that the HDP is going to have to receive more than 4.6 million votes of a total of around 45 to 46 million votes. The Kurds make up 15 percent of the population, which means that there 7 million Kurdish voters. 3.4 million Kurds and Zazas voted for the AK Party, with around 2.6 million Kurdish or Zaza voters casting their votes for BDP/HDP. The HDP above all needs to increase its votes in the metropolitan areas. Without the HDP tripling its votes in the eight biggest metropolises passing the threshold will be very difficult. Consequently, the HDP needs to increase its votes, requiring it to reach well beyond its base in the Kurdish region and to transcends its present alliances. The key here is a discourse of “radical democracy,” the same that was used by the party in the presidential election. The way forward is to present a utopia of democracy for society, without distinguishing between Turks and Kurds. Whether the HDP is going to be able to do this remains to be seen.


Hasan Bülent Kahraman in Sabah observes that HDP and its electoral prospects are now on everyone’s lips. To what extent the HDP is becoming a party for the whole of Turkey is a different matter, but to the extent that it has become the subject of talks in households across the whole country, it has certainly become a “Turkey party.” There are a couple of reasons for this. The first one is that no one doubts that AK Party is going to win the election. This stability extinguishes the excitement about the AK Party. The dynamism and excitement that politics needs has in certain quarters – whether we like it or not – merged with the excitement created by Syriza. This excitement, together with the search for an alternative, is directing the voters toward the HDP. I also think that the discussions about the presidential system have given rise to a certain anxiety in society.  This gives impetus to the quest for a pole that would alter the parliamentarian mathematics to the detriment of the AK Party. This dynamism feeds the HDP. The left has been absent for years in this country. CHP killed the left. But there is a need for a left.

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The Turkey Analyst is a publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Joint Center, designed to bring authoritative analysis and news on the rapidly developing domestic and foreign policy issues in Turkey. It includes topical analysis, as well as a summary of the Turkish media debate.


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