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Markar Esayan

NEW TURKEY AND THE OPPOSITION

Markar Esayan 27 June 2014, Friday
Turkey is unlucky in terms of its opposition parties. For the last 12 to 13 years, since the reformist Justice and Development (AK) Party became the ruling power in the country, the incapacity of the opposition to offer a dıfferent way been ubiquitous. The AK Party became the ruling government by garnering the support of the many people who suffered under the oppression of the totalitarian oligarchic state for the last 80 years. Since the day the party came to power, it has been exposed to non-political attacks from those deposed from power.

Religious and non-religious Turks and Kurds as well as non-Muslim minorities and all other disadvantaged segments of society supported the government's democratization of the totalitarian state. An extraordinary course of events took place before each election – street protests erupted in which people were killed. The former ruling class, which used the bureaucracy as a tool of their authority for 80 years, in order to prevent the reform process, resorted to attempting coups directly or indirectly.

However, the AK Party and its grassroots movement did not give up the struggle by political means. Both the public and the party have the experience to know that resorting to violence would only mean losing their moral superiority. Instead, they patiently relied on the well-functioning election system. So far, Erdoğan and the AK Party have been victorious in each of the eight elections that have been held since 2012, increasing their percentage of votes each time. This is just as unprecedented in Turkey as it would be elsewhere in the world.

Of course, the opposition's unlucky streak is not a mere coincidence. Neither the Republican People's Party (CHP) nor the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) could understand the public's need for reforms or agree to include the public in the political process. They thought that creating dialog with the public would weaken their bureaucratic hold on power ending their existence. Civilian and military domination has an influence on bureaucracy, the business world, media, universities, unions, chambers and even on NGOs – and they believed that they would eventually overthrow Erdoğan. As they planned their games accordingly, it became impossible for them to rely on the public. After each defeat, the continued to lose face.

To cover this loss, they started to disseminate hatred towards Erdoğan within their own base, which comprises a total of 35 percent of society. Though Erdoğan only has made some trivial mistakes that any politician might, the opposition tried to paint him as a dictator. This served them especially well in during the Gezi Park incidents and the judicial coup attempts on December 17 and 25. With hateful propaganda, Kurd, Alevi and secular youth groups were provoked to engage in street protests. In the face of the government, which has made many social reforms at the state level, including health reform which could not even have been imagined by the opposition, Turkish left-wing groups have become more and more nationalist, and even fascist, instead of cooperating with the AK Party. Their class arrogance, Islamophobia and loss of privilege have divided the country's politics in two after 13 years – those of Erdoğan and his opponents. It was easy for them to blame Erdoğan for this polarization. But we witnessed that the hate speech and violence were actually used by the opposition groups.

The same mood still prevails in the process of the upcoming presidential elections. The CHP and MHP have been trying to form an alliance to prevent Erdoğan's success in the August presidential elections and the 2015 general elections at all costs. So, the CHP and the MHP declared Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, the former Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as a joint presidential candidate against Erdoğan, who will most likely be the AK Party's presidential candidate.

Members of the CHP were shocked after this decision. In order to ingratiate their candidate to the CHP's base, some of his more favorable choices such as having a "non-headscarved" wife, not opposing the Egyptian coup, and even his support of el-Sissi were highlighted. Of course, their candidate also needs votes from AK Party supporters to win the election and İhsanoğlu's religious history is being used to court these voters.

Meanwhile, the former CHP chair Deniz Baykal said, "Elections cannot be won with slyness." Forty-two members of the CHP published a counter declaration rejecting İhsanoğlu's selection. The CHP, which always used democracy within its party in its decisions, decided on its presidential candidate with negotiations held behind closed doors and without consulting the party's members or voting bloc.

The CHP and MHP have had to succumb to the political process more and more. Now they are pretending to hear the public's concerns even though it didn't work well for them before. The party, that supported coups to prevent women from wearing headscarves, now offered a candidate with an Islamic background, which is the result of the public's increasing influence on politics.

The problem is that resorting to such false tactics at such important times while spreading hate towards religious groups and Prime Minister Erdoğan by using the media would cause a big crisis both the CHP and MHP in the event of failure. After Erdoğan and the AK Party's likely victories in the two upcoming elections, it will become evident that the supporters of the CHP and MHP must call their party leaders to account for their losses, resulting in the parties' would decline as a result. I think there might be a chance for the opposition after such a crisis.
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