Presidential candidates show Turkey has already changed

Published 02.07.2014 00:24
Updated 02.07.2014 00:53

As it was announced in a historic ceremony yesterday, one of the most influential leaders in Turkey's history, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is unsurprisingly the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) candidate for the country's first ever direct presidential election. From the beginning, Erdoğan has been the favorite even before the declaration of his candidacy. In addition to that, recent polls predict that he would win over 50 percent of the votes and that would make him the 12th president of the Turkish Republic on the first round of the election which will be held on Aug. 10.

Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party (HDP) nominated the party's co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş as its candidate on Monday.It seems as though Demirtaş's candidacy is a strategic move by the HDP to make harder the first round for Erdoğan by means of blocking the votes of the Kurds who are not blindly against Erdoğan. Forcing him to the second round will come to mean that he is not the sole authority over the ongoing Kurdish-Turkish peace talks. In Turkey, a country where even speaking in Kurdish was forbidden before the AK Party era, today, a pro-Kurdish party nominates their pro-Kurdish leader as a candidate for presidency with a pro-Kurdish discourse. It seems that not only the presidential election system changes, but also the motives of politics change in the "new Turkey".

On the other side, the main opposition parties, the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) submitted a joint application to nominate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu as their presidential candidate on the weekend. The former president of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, would be an unimaginable candidate for the opposition if the race was held in the "old Turkey." In fact, the CHP would be first to oppose İhsanoğlu's candidacy since he was born in Cairo and came to the fore with his "Muslim" identity.

Since today, the CHP's "laïcité" understanding was so puritan. They were behaving as if it was not a concept of secularism but the religion of Kemalizm. That's why, anyone who is even merely close to Islam, was seen as a threat to the state by them.

Even today, some of them cannot stand the idea. A group of CHP members was in the quest to nominate another candidate who fit their laic values. Several names were mentioned but none dared to come to the forefront until now since it will eventually divide the party.

Despite that, İhsanoğlu is a meticulously-thought-out project of the anti-Erdoğan circles who aim to get some of the "Muslim" votes and widen the consensus against Erdoğan. We can predict a campaign of "Islam against Islam" where they will try to portray Erdoğan as a "radical" and İhsanoğlu as "moderate." But aiming to get votes of Muslims, the İhsanoğlu camp seems to lose seculars. That's why the reports began to circulate as "a relative of İhsanoğlu said that he never saw him performing salaat" in order to convince the laics that İhsanoğlu is not a "performing Muslim."

The nomination of Cairo-born İhsanoğlu for presidential candidacy by the CHP, a party that generally cites the Middle East as a bog, is a big development although his name repulses their supporters. Yes they chose İhsanoğlu reluctantly after a desperate search to beat Erdoğan. And yet, the change is still a change even though it is involuntary.

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