Ideologically hybrid alliances may disintegrate Turkish opposition, experts say

TUĞÇE KILIÇ
ANKARA
Published 17.11.2018 00:11
Updated 17.11.2018 00:18

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has ramped up its efforts to form an alliance for the upcoming March 2019 local elections with parties from opposite sides of the political spectrum, including the far-right Good Party (İP) and the pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). However, according to experts, an alliance based solely on the common ground of anti-Justice and Development Party (AK Party) rhetoric will not be enough to create a uniting force to meld the voter base in the same pot.

"Although the CHP is trying to ally with the ideologically different İP and HDP through the common motivation of hostility toward the AK Party, it is hard to maintain the balance, and I believe that differences will be exposed in the long term," Nebi Miş, a political analyst at the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), told Daily Sabah about the CHP's recent alliance strategy.

As the elections near, the incumbent chairman of the CHP, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has increased the party's traffic with other opposition parties. Kılıçdaroğlu and İP Chairwoman Meral Akşener met last week, while delegations of the two parties also held a technical meeting yesterday, signaling the continuation of the Nation Alliance.

Both parties previously formed the Nation Alliance with the participation of the conservative Felicity Party (SP) and the center-right Democrat Party (DP) ahead of the June 24 parliamentary and presidential elections. The alliance received 33.9 percent of the votes, suffering a defeat to the AK Party's and the Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) People's Alliance, which received 53.7 percent of the votes.

After the disappointing results in the election, all four parties of the Nation Alliance made statements one after the other and announced that the alliance was over. Yet, the CHP and the İP, crippled by internal tension and intraparty conflicts following the June elections, have been seeking to heal wounds by getting a satisfying result in metropolitan municipalities and cities in local elections through an alliance.

Speaking to Daily Sabah, Mustafa Altunoğlu, an academic from Anadolu University, underscored that both parties need the alliance. "The CHP is aiming to increase motivation within the party by winning Istanbul and Ankara, while the İP is trying to cement its presence and power as a newly founded party with the local elections."

While Kılıçdaroğlu's administration has increased efforts to appeal to nationalist and center-right voters through the İP, it has also made discreet contact with the HDP, which has a strong base in Turkey's southeastern areas known for their Kurdish population, to attract Kurdish votes in the big cities, notably in Istanbul.

HDP Co-chair Pervin Buldan said the party could make an alliance with the CHP under the principles of "peace, democracy and freedom," despite CHP's ongoing refusals of such an alliance. Still, Kılıçdaroğlu met with former HDP Deputy Ahmet Türk last week, which can be interpreted as a part of his efforts to form alliances.

Even though the HDP was not part of the Nation Alliance, the pro-PKK party is considered a natural partner of the alliance due the CHP helping the party enter Parliament, refraining from including it officially in the bloc among fears of possible backlash from its secular voter base.

In the June 24 elections, the CHP urged its voter base to vote for the HDP to halt a possible disproportionate amount of authority of the AK Party, a possibility had the HDP not passed the 10 percent threshold and failed to win seats in Parliament. As part of the efforts, the CHP initiated the motto "one vote to the HDP in each household" during the campaign period.

Ideological conflict between İP, HDP pose threat for allianceExperts further underscore that the CHP's plan to attract both nationalist and Kurdish votes by allying with the İP and the HDP seems to be on the rocks due to ideological differences between the parties' voter base, and it even may trigger shrinkage in CHP's own voter base.

Accordingly, "bringing together the three parties under the same roof is extremely challenging. A partial alliance between the İP and the CHP seems more likely. Yet, there are mounting objections within both parties," Altunoğlu said.

The İP is an offshoot of the nationalist MHP that was formed when a group of party members split from the party due to MHP leader Devlet Bahceli's cooperation with the AK Party. Having failed to dislodge Bahçeli, Akşener first created a splinter movement within the party, then quit and formed her own. Much like its parent party, the İP has a nationalist stance.

The HDP, on the other hand, is known for its support of autonomy in regions where large Kurdish populations live. Also, some of its members have been charged for or accused of having links to the terrorist organization PKK that has been fighting the Turkish state for more than 30 years and left more than 40,000 dead. Its former co-leader, Selahattin Demirtaş, was arrested in November 2016 over terrorist propaganda. Cooperation between the HDP and the İP seems very unlikely since the latter is extremely critical of the former's demands for further autonomy.

Moreover, some disintegration within the İP started due to the party leader's sympathetic remarks toward the HDP. Ali Aydın, one of the founding members of the party and a member of IP's general executive board, also declared his resignation, criticizing Akşener's statements that portrayed the HDP as representatives of Kurdish politics instead of the terrorist organization PKK.

Commenting on the ideological differences between the İP and the HDP, Miş pointed out that the CHP will not publicly cooperate with the HDP to avoid affecting public opinion. "Open cooperation with the HDP means losing the secular vote base of the CHP and the nationalist vote base of the İP," he added.

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