The leaders of the six opposition parties will meet for the first time on February 12 to launch discussions about the 2023 elections. The rumor it is that the headquarters of these parties are paying much more attention to the form of the discussion than what will be discussed. What I mean by the “form” is that they are basically talking about what kind of table that they are going to sit around, a rectangular or round?
The most sensitive person in these matters is Future Party leader Ahmet Davutoğlu. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, has repeatedly said that if there will be unity, it will be “unity among equals”, regardless of the voting rates; despite the murmurs rising from within the party. IYI Party leader Meral Akşener does not have such a problem. However, Davutoğlu wants the image of equality to be emphasized in the form of the meeting. The table seems to be round at the expense of some of the leaders being photographed from their backs.
It is not easy for the six opposition parties to come together.
Opposition to mark reconciliation on February 12
Apparently, on February 12, the leaders will discuss the draft constitution for the transition to the parliamentary system, which will be brought to the agenda in the event that President Tayyip Erdogan is defeated in the election.
Following the weeks of work at the level of vice presidents on the draft, the text is finally agreed upon. This meeting will actually mark the declaration of the reconciliation on the completed text by the opposition block.
Of course, it will not be enough for the opposition bloc to act in unity and win the election in order to change the Presidential Government System, which is dragging Turkey towards a one-man rule. There should be at least 360 deputies in the parliament to bring any constitutional amendment to a referendum. Will the opposition block gather that seat in the parliament in the election?
Assuming the majority in the parliament is attained, then the details of the transition procedure should be clarified. This procedure will be on the table at February 12 meeting. After all, if Erdogan will not be elected, the new President will rule Turkey with the current Constitution. Considering that the transition period is expected to take at least two years, the duties and scopes of the administrative positions defined by the current constitution should be defined. How and by whom the vice presidency, ministries, key offices will be administrated? Will there be leaders in this division of labor? Or will the founding officers undertake the duties until the new Constitution?
Can egos be set aside?
And most importantly: can voters be ensured that this can be done?
The problem of winning the trust of the electorate
The constitutional amendment is the only ground that can bring the six parties together, and it is important in that respect.
However, it seems that it is not enough to gain the trust of the voters by promising constitutional amendments. According to political scientist Seda Demiralp, the economic crisis would not solely cause the government to lose elections, the opposition needs to convince the voters that they can do better.
The constitutional amendment depends on the winning party to have 360 seats in the parliament. But no matter who wins the election, the next day, the citizens will start their demands for the betterment of the economy and will not respect the excuse of being in the transition process.
This can actually be seen in the latest findings of the MetroPoll Research Company. In the recent survey of MetroPoll, as of Jan. 2022, 46 percent of the participants answered yes to the question: “Is the opposition ready to rule?”. 47.1 percent said “No”.
The bad news for the opposition here is that they have yet to reassure more than half of the electorate that they will “govern better”. The good news is that the difference has narrowed considerably. So more effort is required.
Two conditions seem necessary for the opposition to reassure voters: the joint economy program and the joint candidate.
Joint economy program and joint candidate
Another finding in MetroPoll’s Turkey’s Pulse survey is that 36.9 percent say they will vote for anyone who opposes Erdogan: it’s not enough. Whereas, 29.3 percent said “Depends on the candidate”. This means that the preconception of “the name of the candidate will be unimportant” in some sections of the opposition is not correct.
It matters who the candidate will be. There is a concern in the Nation Alliance that if the candidate is announced early, the ruling AKP-MHP’s People’s Alliance will focus its attrition campaign on that candidate. However, this situation may turn into a disadvantage that will damage the confidence of the voters as time goes by.
In addition to Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş, who seem to have high levels of appreciation against Erdoğan, there are also those who support Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy. We should not forget the warning of Koray Aydın from the IYI Party: “an electable candidate”. Akşener’s statement “I want to be the prime minister in the new system” does not completely close the door to candidacy; It’s worth noting.
In this environment, it seems unlikely that the leaders will agree on the joint candidate on February 12. It is not even certain that the subject will even be discussed.
However, the issue of starting the joint economy program work seems imperative.
Is a joint economy program possible?
It may be more difficult for the opposition parties to produce a common economic program than to produce a common Constitutional text. Each party has knowledgeable and talented economists. But priorities are different.
The people’s priority is economy, financial difficulties, cost of living, electricity hikes, natural gas hikes, rising food prices by far.
AKP Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş says that not only the opposition but also themselves see that the economy is a serious problem but “the citizens still see the solution in AKP.” CHP Deputy Chairman Faik Öztrak, on the other hand, says that the prominent question they have received in their provincial visits is the opposition’s solution to the economic problems.
In fact, both Kurtulmuş and Öztrak say the same thing from their own perspectives. Whether the opposition can agree on an economic program that will convince the voters is also of strategic importance for the government. The most important issue for domestic and foreign investors is the common economy program rather than the constitutional amendment.
The fact that the leader of the opposition started the joint economy program on February 12 is important in terms of gaining the trust of the voters. The candidate issue remains sensitive.