Politics without identity?

Published 28.06.2014 00:49

Turkish people, who are used to the unpredictable nature of election results, seem to have changed their behavioral patterns in the presence of the successful performance that has been displayed by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). In the past when it was not certain who would win the elections, the majority felt stand on the sidelines which was a quite rational attitude, as the elected person had little influence on the country's administration. The political parties used to work in no-risk fields such as economy and social services by generating and distributing unearned income through them. Bureaucracy, however, used to deal with hard issues such as identities, ideological threats and foreign policy. Doing politics in Turkey during the multi-party term did not go beyond distributing wealth within the framework determined by the bureaucracy by admitting its supra-political power.

Today, the situation is dramatically different from the past. Even from the beginning, election results are clear as day, and the system is in the process of pulling down the dominance of the bureaucracy step by step. However, the military and judicial bureaucracy in Turkey is not only a field of profession; it also represents a certain understanding of state and citizenship as well as a power distribution that prioritizes secular and Turkish identities. Therefore, it acts as a representative for those who possess this identity. This segment of society did not care much about who won the elections, as they took bureaucratic dominance for granted regardless of the winner. But now, the AK Party government is striving to eliminate this bureaucratic power and to restructure the state mechanism. Thereby, the secular block no longer has the luxury of remaining as an onlooker to elections; instead, they have to take a side and take action to protect the bureaucratic tutelage system.

The trouble is that what they adopt is not a realistic project, since Turkish people are gradually becoming an open society. From now on, it is not that possible to inactivate governments that are democratically elected by the majority or restraining them with ideological excuses. Those who rely on secular identity constitute a minority that declines gradually. That is why they have gathered around a common goal: to overthrow the AK Party at any cost. Nobody in the opposition block, neither political parties nor nongovernmental organizations argue about Turkey's future and offer an alternative to it; for them, the ideal situation was already available in the past. All they want is to go back to the pre-AK Party period in one way or another.

For all these reasons, their formula of presenting a joint candidate is quite functional. Since their aim is not to win but to disgrace the AK Party, the question of who will be president loses its significance under these circumstances. The secular elites strike a delicate balance in their own way by nominating someone who is Islamist enough to challenge Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the one hand and who lacks a certain political identity and does not seem very Islamist on the other. If this action were to bring them victory, we would have to regard it as an important political move.

However, what is in front of the secular elites is a dichotomy that cannot be overcome so easily: A conservative figure who is expected to receive votes from secular factions and conservative circles should be noncommittal enough, but such a person who lacks a certain identity, has no chance to gain votes from either side and to win the election in today's political circumstances.

There is another reality: Almost all candidates will play second fiddle in the face of Erdoğan. The problem is that while political parties, nongovernmental organizations and media outlets of the secular block seem to be practicing an offensive strategy against the AK Party, they are actually on the historical defensive. What seems to be politics is no more than the digestion of a lost struggle. The main trouble is that secular and Turkish identities have become extremely meaningless in the eyes of the society, as they represent an almost archaic structure.

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