Turkey is a strange country. The political parties that receive the votes of economically and culturally disadvantaged segments that constitute the others of this country are described as right-wing parties while those that are supported by elites and the military, which had ruled the country since its foundation, are categorized as leftist parties.
The primary reason for this confusion is that the political polarization in Turkey is shaped in line with people's preferences and practices in their daily lives instead of according to class distinctions as is the case in most of the rest of the world. For instance, it is enough for a pro-coup, wealthy boss to drink alcohol to be deemed a leftist. In contrast, a politician who receives the votes of the poor and disadvantaged groups by producing welfare policies in favor of them is typically considered a conservative just because he performs prayers.
İdris Küçükömer, a prominent Turkish economist, defined this oddity with the formula: "In Turkey, the right is actually the left, and the left is actually the right."
As with everything else, the comments in Turkey on the election victory of Greece's Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza) have their share of this distortion. Some sections that criticize the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for moving away from the EU are dancing on air because of the election victory of Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras, whose greatest promise is to secede from the EU.
Moreover, the same group of people lambasts the government since it produces policies in favor of the poor, Kurds whose mother tongue was prohibited for years, religious women who were disenfranchised from working in the public sphere due to their headscarves and non-Muslim minorities. The same elite group, however, dotes on Syriza, which, just like the AK Party, came to power receiving the votes of the poor and minorities in Greece.
Syriza's approach to the Palestine question, dictatorial regimes in Egypt and Syria and third world countries shows great similarity to the AK Party's position. Furthermore, the economic and political conditions that brought Syriza to power are not so different from those that brought the AK Party to power in 2002.
Covering Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's visit to Greece last December, I quoted him summarizing what he told Tsipras during talks: "I told Tsipras that when the AK Party came to power, Turkey was facing a similar crisis just like the one Greek is experiencing now. The established parties in Turkey had collapsed. The AK Party came to power by challenging everything. The AK Party came to power by giving voice to the people's reaction against Turkey's [desperate] situation. There were great expectations. We presented 100-day, five-year and 20-year perspectives to the public. These perspectives constituted bold but doable programs that were not just distant dreams. We want Greece to be strong. You need to verbalize your offers to the public by first thinking carefully. It was a nice and friendly talk."
Turkey achieved its goal, now it is time for Tsipras and Greece to achieve theirs
Even though this was a move that reflected the expectations of the Greek people, as Davutoğlu said, the task that Syriza has undertaken is not an easy one. It is obvious that Syriza cannot overcome its greatest problem - the economic downturn - with only slogans and romantic outbursts. Fortunately, there is a great success story from which Tsipras can learn.
Remember, when the AK Party, with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as one of its founders, came to power in 2002, national and international media outlets underestimated his efforts, asking what he could do differently or whether he had a magic wand to change things in a flash. They displayed the same attitude when Brazil's Lula da Silva won the presidential election the same year, describing his victory as a disaster for his country and the world.
But both Brazil and Turkey achieved what seemed impossible. I have no doubt that Greece, which has hit rock bottom, will inevitably rise and progress likewise. This will come true as long as Tsipras and his team do not lose themselves in the waves of archaic leftist romanticism. They should offer viable and honorable alternatives to people in order to overcome the economic crisis and to improve ties with the EU by giving up "rejection and denial." Syriza should make people feel "hope is coming," as seen in its election slogans, and establish trust that will invigorate Greek economic life inside and outside the country. Syriza's success will continue because Tsipras and his party promise their support to the Mavi Marmara and because of their stance against dictators like Syrian President Bashar Assad and President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt, their sensitivity to the Palestine question and their democratic approach to Greece's minorities.
I am sure that Tsipras, who says he closely watches the transformation process and the ruling party in Turkey, will see that the potential on the two sides of the Aegean Sea is also a golden opportunity for others in the world, which after all, is bigger than five.