New parties can’t compete with the ‘Big Four’

Published 17.11.2014 00:08

With the parliamentary elections scheduled for June 2015, political hopefuls and disenchanted voters are looking for viable alternatives to the Big Four (i.e. the AK Party, the Republican People's Party, the Nationalist Movement Party and the Peoples' Democratic Party) that successfully defended their dominant position over Turkish politics in several elections and constitutional referendums since the 2007 confrontation between the secularist establishment and the Justice and Development Party government. It was hardly surprising, therefore, that the news of three new political parties being formed hit the wires last week. Whether or not these movements will manage to survive the extremely competitive market of Turkish politics, though, remains to be seen.

Anyone watching the country's political landscape closely enough had already predicted that new political parties would surface at this point of the campaign season. This time around, the usual suspects included several politicians who had recently resigned from their parties and were looking for ways to stay in the game. The first announcement came from İdris Bal, an independent member of Parliament who left the AK Party following the Dec. 17 operation, who launched the Democratic Progress Party (Demokratik Gelişim Partisi) in the hopes of creating an alternative to the ruling party. Several days later, former CHP whip and outspoken jurist Emine Ülker Tarhan announced that she would form a new ultra-secularist party, the Anatolia Party, in order to uphold the principles of secularism and Turkish nationalism - which, in her resignation letter, she claimed the CHP leadership had failed to defend. The final addition to an already overcrowded political scene will presumably come from former Interior Minister İdris Naim Şahin, who still seems to work on putting together a platform to lure nationalist voters away from the AK Party, which he left just months ago.

The above examples inevitably bring to mind how the efforts of disillusioned politicians to take on their former parties ended in disappointment. Those whose interest in Turkish politics extends beyond the past few years would surely remember how Abdüllatif Şener, who had served as deputy prime minister during the AK Party's first term, resigned from his party in 2007 to launch the Turkey Party as a movement for business conservatives and ended up shutting it down in 2012. Similarly, resigning from the CHP to establish the People's Ascent Party in 2005 brought the political career of renowned theologian Yaşar Nuri Öztürk to an abrupt end. The nation's contemporary political history, in this sense, provides valuable lessons about trying to affect party policy from within rather than launching anti-establishment parties.

Everybody loves an underdog story, but let's face the facts here: The rules of the game, especially those pertaining to the electoral threshold and campaign finance, remain largely the same. Furthermore, the main areas of conflict - the economy, secularism, nationalism - did not change and the vast majority of voters, whose behavior is directly determined by one or more of these issues, feel that their parties of choice are able to adequately represent their positions. And although new political parties represent a valuable addition to Turkey's vibrant political landscape, there is no reason to believe that the most recent generation of mavericks will become more successful than their predecessors. This campaign season, I will be watching the Big Four and recommend you to do the same.

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