On January 4, when the people of Kazakhstan took to the streets to protest against fuel and food hikes, President Tayyip Erdoğan was addressing the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) provincial leaders in Ankara. The opposition was at his target:
“They say they take to the streets to fill the squares without feeling any shame. Didn’t you experience July 15? Wherever you go, go. Just as this nation gave a lesson to those who took to the streets on July 15, the ones who will take to the streets will also learn their lesson, with the name of Allah. As the people’s alliance, we will chase you down to your destination,” Erdoğan said on January 4, a day after CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener attended a joint rally in Mersin Cumhuriyet Square on January 3.
On July 15 2016, Turkey experienced a coup attempt that claimed over 300 lives. In the night, Erdoğan had done a live television interview and called out citizens to take to the streets to thwart the putschists. “Democracy vigils” were held around Turkey for a week, where people occupied streets at night against the coup attempt. Now Erdoğan likened the opposition leaders to putschists to holding public meetings gathering people in squares and made an overt claim that “they will chase the opposition down.”
The opposition’s reaching out to the public make Erdoğan uncomfortable. Last month, the CHP leader wanted to hold a meeting at the southern province of Mersin’s central square where the president addressed the public in previous months. The Governor’s Office did not allow the opposition party to organize a rally in the same court, stating that the square is closed to political activities. The office noted that the president attended an “opening ceremony,” not a rally. Following this obstruction, the Mayor of Mersin organized a groundbreaking ceremony for a subway station, a way to bypass the ban. This time İYİ leader Akşener accompanied Kılıçdaroğlu in Mersin, and they addressed the public together, repeating their call for an early election.
Threatening opposition with street raids
It is clear from the photographs that the opposition gathered more people than Erdoğan in the same square in Mersin. There is a visible discomfort of the people in Southern provinces such as Mersin, Adana and Hatay. Two opposition leaders, first Akşener and then DEVA leader Ali Babacan, went to Osmaniye, the hometown of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, which he had not visited recently. Both Erdoğan and Bahceli reveal with their actions that their main target is Istanbul, and they want to retake the city they lost in the elections by police measures. That’s why Imamoglu is on the target!
Of course, there is a rebellion dimension of taking to the streets. But, according to a decision of the Constitutional Court in 2015, a peaceful street demonstration is a constitutional right. Besides, freedom of assembly and association is a human right.
The peaceful gathering has a legitimate place in politics. But, what does it mean threatening the political opposition by labelling them as putschists and likening political meetings and rallies to July 15 coup plots? At this point, Erdogan almost says that he trusts the MHP in threatening to “chase” the opposition” as the People’s Alliance”.
Accusing power of “crying for civil unrest”
Kılıçdaroğlu responded to these words of Erdoğan, with the same harshness and assertion:
“Hey, you, who occupies the palace! As your votes drop, your ears stop hearing what you are saying. You started to cry out for civil war today. The people will not buy that. This nation will not shed blood in the streets so that you and your lineage may live in palaces,” Kilicdaroglu posted on Twitter.
Akşener also spoke harshly after meeting with Democratic Party leader Gültekin Uysal; He advised the president to “see a psychiatrist”.
Kadir Has University’s annual Turkey Trends research shows that polarization has increased. In this environment, the government is threatening the opposition that they will be treated as a putschist if they hold public gatherings. The opposition is accusing the government of shouting out civil war.
Saying that the government is threatening the country with a “civil war” is an extremely bold and harsh statement. The harshness in politics may be in favor of the government that will use its state power without hesitation.
On the other hand, after Bahçeli, it is understood that Erdoğan will also hit Kılıçdaroğlu with religious discourse. The ruling block’s reaction to the “Medieval mentality” analogy to Diyanet practices from the CHP will be the main theme of the coming days.
No, there won’t be record inflation. There will be no excessive price increases, exorbitant energy hikes, and price hikes.
Updated January 5, 2022 at 3:42