Nation Alliance facing difficulties due to candidate blunders

NUR ÖZKAN ERBAY
ANKARA
Published 15.03.2019 00:24

The local election race blazed this week with the forgery allegations directed at the main opposition Republican People's Party's (CHP) Ankara Metropolitan Municipality candidate Mansur Yavaş, causing the Nation Alliance to weaken ahead of March 31, with other threats emerging against the party, such as challenges created by the Democratic Left Party (DSP). Since the beginning, Yavaş has kept his campaign relatively under the radar, with few public and media appearances, portraying an image that some polls claimed to put him ahead by about 6 to 7 percent against the People's Alliance candidate Mehmet Özhaseki. But now, as he is faced with serious allegations, it has become a gripping issue as to how these allegations will affect voters' choices in the capital.

And there is more evidence to prove Yavaş's task will not be as easy as assumed.

According to Murat Pösteki, the head of the Ankara-based Objective Research Center (ORC), Yavaş's campaign had already lost momentum before the forgery allegations. He said Özhaseki now has a greater chance to triumph in the race in Ankara, if he can get the votes, especially in the swing districts of Ankara.

Another factor that might lead to a Yavaş defeat is the recent emergence of DSP Ankara Mayoral Candidate Haydar Yılmaz, whose campaign posters directly target Yavaş on Ankara billboards. Yılmaz served as the mayor of Ankara's central Çankaya district between 1999 and 2004, one of the strongholds of the CHP. Yet, he resigned from the CHP last month and declared his candidacy from the DSP, a challenger for the CHP's center-left voter base. Thus, his candidacy is expected to give the CHP a headache in many districts.

In our conversation, Pösteki pointed out that a division of the Nation Alliance's votes seems likely with the emergence of Yılmaz. In fact, some CHP voters would turn toward Yılmaz because of their discomfort with Yavaş's background, coming from a far-right political tradition rather than a social democrat background. The DSP's emergence in Ankara, Istanbul and many other municipalities may also undermine the CHP's strategy to bring various opposition parties of different ideological backgrounds against the People's Alliance under a single umbrella. The DSP's transfer of prominent names from the social-democrat wing of the CHP, such as Mustafa Sarıgül, the former mayor of the Şişli district of Istanbul, seems to have changed the game already.

Compared to Ankara, the race in Istanbul should be an easy task for People's Alliance's candidate Binali Yıldırım, Pösteki indicated. According to their latest polls, voters in Istanbul seem keener to go to the ballot box and fewer undecided voters remain. Thus, the People's Alliance might get a clear victory against the Nation Alliance here, he said.

Another reason for a possible Nation Alliance defeat is increasing discomfort among CHP constituents, who represents the more nationalist wing in the alliance, over some CHP candidates. For instance, two incidents occurred this week: The CHP Deputy Aysu Bankoğlu of northern Bartın province denied the link between the pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and the PKK and said: "We are seeking the votes of all. It does not matter whether one is from the PKK," during a televised interview.

Another incident happened in a public speech by Selman Hasan Arslan, the CHP mayoral candidate for western Balıkesir province's Edremit district. Without knowing the microphone was on, Arslan responded to a citizen, who said, "My vote is for Kurdistan," he replied, "Yes, it means you will vote for us," during the conversation with other party delegates. The incident caused many raised eyebrows by the other Nation Alliance partner, the far-right Good Party (İP), and drew strong criticism from many in his own party as there is no region called Kurdistan in Turkey, and the notion itself was originally used by the PKK to divide the country.

Taking into account all of these incidents, much indicates that the İP-CHP cooperation cannot endure without resolving the HDP position in the alliance, which was transformed into an almost raison d'etre for all three parties. However, as long as fundamental differences on ideological backgrounds remain an existential problem, it is inevitable these increasing daily blunders give birth to new crises, hard times and contradictions ahead for the Nation Alliance.

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