One of two tables is being set up in Istanbul Turkey for the 6 opposition party leaders get together to overthrow the ruling alliance through elections. Their main agenda is to find a strategy as a precaution against ruling party’s recent change of the election law to protect the number of ruling seats in the parliament despite visible loss of the votes. This will also answer the question of whether Turkey will be able to determine the power through free elections after the 2023 elections.
The other table is set up as Turkey’s effort to stop the spread of the war by hosting representatives from Russia and Ukraine for the second time. The government succeeded in taking on the role of intermediary in foreign policy, which most countries aspire to. Erdoğan saw the opportunity presented by the Ukraine Crisis, implemented a policy change and broke the Putinesque “authoritarian” perception in the Western world. The question here is that, can that changed perception be translated into a capital flow that would enable him to utilize as an election economy?
Here is the contradiction inherent to Turkey. There is one Turkey, that became a third world country with a leader, who recommend people to “eat cake, if can’t find bread” amid severe economic crisis, creating obstacles to pluralistic democracy. And there is another Turkey, which has increased its regional power by showing the teeth or offer a olive branch anytime it fits.
One of two: Is the opposition realistic?
This is the summary of two tables and two Turkeys set as of today. Let’s move on to the two questions we just mentioned.
The alliance policy that CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has followed since 2017, with the support of İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener, gave Erdoğan his first heavy defeat in his political life in 2019, in İstanbul, which the president considers his home. The alliance has grown in time, including four parties: DEVA, Future, Saadet and Democratic Party. The six parties have met in February for the first time and signed a joint memorandum for “strengthened parliamentary system shift.” Their second meeting was held on March 27.
DEVA Party leader Ali Babacan hoped this meeting to result in establishment of a road map to be followed in the event of coming to power or at least a formation of a working group for this purpose. However, the attempt to change the new election law presented to the parliament by ruling AKP and its People Alliance MHP votes, bring the alliance to their senses. They saw that the most pressing challenge before them was to win the election, and that this is not a piece of cake at all. The most important result of the statement published after the meeting was the establishment of a working group to ensure election security.
The indirect support to the Ukraine policy followed by the government in the final declaration of the six-party opposition alliance draws attention. We understand this indirect support from the following sentence:
“This crisis has once again shown us the importance of a rational, consistent foreign policy that takes into account the medium and long-term strategic interests of our country.”
It is clear that the policy that Erdogan followed and had to follow in the Ukraine Crisis has been successful so far. Retired admirals, who pointed out that the Montreux Convention was in Turkey’s interest a few months ago being still on trial for the love of protecting mega-project Kanal Istanbul, and Erdoğan’s taking the lead in international politics by protecting the Montreux Convention was the last proof of the president’s high maneuvering ability. Erdogan said “stop” to Russian President Vladimir Putin along with other NATO leaders from Brussels at the extraordinary meeting on March 24. He then called Putin on March 27 and said that opportunities were not running out; and persuaded him to the idea of Russian-Ukrainian meeting in Istanbul on March 28. He did this after US President Joe Biden said Putin “cannot remain in power”, a comment softened by the warning of French President Emmanuel Macron.
Putin had helped Erdogan
During the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, Putin gave Erdogan the support he could not get from the USA and the EU. Now Erdogan is showing Putin the way out of the Ukraine Crisis.
The day before Erdoğan’s phone call, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu in Doha said that Ukraine’s entry into NATO was out of the question. The importance of this statement was overshadowed by the statement that the Russian oligarchs could bring their free money to Turkey as long as they did not violate the law. Again, before Erdogan’s phone call, he mentioned about “referendum to join Russia” for the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of Ukraine, whose independence was recognized by Putin recognized. This indicates that the crisis will result in Russia’s seizure of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, as well as Crimea.
As long as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has devastated his country by relying too much on the NATO and EU membership agitation of the USA and Europe, accepts it, the international community, including China, seems to approve this solution in order not to spread the war. The fact that Erdogan is the one who provides this, strengthens Turkey .
The question is whether this prestige will be translated into Erdogan’s electoral economy, and perhaps he will go to the snap election with the “I am the one to save it” propaganda.
Table one and complex problems
There is a very complex picture in terms of domestic politics.
Erdogan tries to hide the economic crisis with his incredible pressure and dominance over the media, and he succeeds to some extent. Almost all polls show that the economic crisis has caused loss of votes not only in Erdogan’s AKP, but also to Bahçeli’s MHP. It is understood that this situation has set the alarm bells in the AKP Headquarters as well, and they are working on new tactics in case the election law change is not enough.
On the other hand, Bekir Ağırdır, General Manager of KONDA research company, thinks that Erdogan has turned from being a mass party to an identity party and slows down the loss of votes by instilling fear in public arguing that his absence will be much worse. Özer Sencar, who manages the MetroPoll research company, says that people who say that Erdogan can or cannot be elected President are 30 percent each, and 30 percent says that it depends on the opponent Erdogan will face. We should assume that the Kurdish voters, who have a say in who will be the next president – beyond HDP – are included in Sencar’s determination.
The opposition’s priority
The two questions here are whether Erdoğan will be able to take steps to regain the Kurdish voters despite Bahçeli, and whether Kılıçdaroğlu will propose to the ruling alliance a candidate that Kurdish voters will not object to, without losing the conservative voters. His name is one of the options.
It is clear that the opposition has a priority issue.
They need to see that the real problem is to win the election and show it to the voters.
Their rhetoric as if the election is over, they beat Erdogan at the ballot box and they are thinking about the future, may cause them to lose their biggest advantage. This is the hope and expectation that Erdoğan, who was defeated by CHP Ekrem İmamoğlu in the 2019 re-election, can be defeated again.
According to most voters, trying to plan the future as if they won the election is no different than ulama discussing the gender of angels while Byzantium was under the siege of Mehmet the Conqueror. Otherwise, setting up a new table every month can be more than consolidating wishful thinking.
Has the opposition bloc finally begun to understand that its priority is to develop measures against the electoral engineering of the government and to nominate a candidate who can win the election in the first round in front of the electorate?