The photo above is hard to digest. An image that depicts current Turkey, a hard pill to swallow. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and his wife, Selvi Kılıçdaroğlu, were filmed addressing the public via social media, in the light of kerosene lamps, in their homes with no electricity.
It was no surprise that their electricity would be cut off. Kılıçdaroğlu was clear as early as February when he announced that he would not pay the bill until President Tayyip Erdoğan withdraws the energy hikes. It was announced a day before by Sabah newspaper that the Başkent Electricity company of the Sabancı Group would disconnect the electricity supply. The newspaper is owned by the same Group which was granted the privatization tender of electricity distribution of Ankara region for 1,225 billion US Dollars in 2008 by the ruling AKP. On April 21, Kılıçdaroğlu announced on social media that their household electricity was cut off, and made a broadcast from his home same night in dark.
Will Kılıçdaroğlu stay without electricity?
According to some, Kılıçdaroğlu’s act will not be enough to get the electricity hikes back, so it is futile. Some asked what would happen if students decide not to pay public transport by his encouragement? Of course he will pay his bills, some say. Others argue that it is wrong to adopt an oppositional standpoint based on complaining. It seems that the media, whose capital structures have been handed over to pro-government groups willingly or by force, want to silence the news.
The CHP leader, on the other hand, says that he understands the situation of the 3.5 million subscribers whose electricity was cut off in 2021. He said he took this action because he wanted to be their voice, not because he did not have money to pay the electricity bill.
“I stand up against the darkness created by greedy politicians. This action of mine is not a call for civil disobedience but a resistance. This is my struggle to claim your rights,” he said,
“My wife and I will be in the dark for a week. I have walked miles in this country for justice, now I will sit in the dark.” he added, reminding his “Justice March” in 2017, where he walked from Ankara to Istanbul to call for “Justice, Law and Rights.”
“I am calling out to all democrats in this world: If they are sincere, they should also take action for their people. I’m calling out to Erdoğan, withdraw your energy hikes. Reset VAT. No one should worry, we will bring the darkness to the light,” he said.
Justice March marked a change in Turkey’s politics
On the other hand, Kılıçdaroğlu’s call to Erdoğan in the dimness of the kerosene lamp is clear enough. The important thing here is that Kılıçdaroğlu’s passive resistance has made Turkey talk about the injustice of the electricity hike, rather than whether Erdogan will withdraw the hike. It is a strange, disturbing and game-changing act. It is natural for people, even their own supporters, to react at first.
In this respect, it is similar to the Justice March in 2017, which he gave as an example.
CHP Deputy Enis Berberoğlu was arrested on 14 June 2017, after his parliamentary immunity was lifted and he was arrested on serious charges such as espionage and terrorism, and he was imprisoned in Istanbul, Maltepe prison. (Actually, the fact that Kılıçdaroğlu and CHP’s vote for the removal of immunities is a mistake that has not been claimed for yet) After the arrest, Kılıçdaroğlu started his 450-kilometer march, which lasted for 25 days, on the morning of 15 June, despite the objections of the majority in the party administration.
The march became a center of attraction for dissidents from all walks of life with the slogan “Right, law, justice”. That walk led to another groundbreaking step. By transferring 15 deputies to the IYI Party in the 2018 elections, he enabled Meral Akşener to overcome the obstacles to entering the elections and join the Parliament. That policy made Erdogan taste the defeat in the 2019 local elections in big cities, especially in Istanbul and Ankara.
Can it get results this time?
If the result means getting Erdogan to get the electricity hike back, I don’t think so.
If the result is to make us face the hard truth, it means that the results have begun to be gained.
So, would a one-week sit-in in the dark with the power cut off have consequences like the 2017 March for Justice which led to the opposition’s policy of alliances? It’s too early to tell. Maybe it will backfire. Those who say that the opposition cannot be in power by constantly complaining will perhaps be right. But even the trauma caused by this action can be considered an accumulation.
Sometimes the road is not for the distance, but for walking, for the sake of the road. Sometimes the road becomes the range itself.
Kılıçdaroğlu is trying a difficult job. A high risk action. But sometimes it is necessary to shake the body in order to overcome the blockage, to provide a jump. We have more than a week ahead of us to see if a week of powerless sit-ins can make the leap.
And let’s see how this action will resonate at the 6-party table meeting on April 24 as much as it does in Presidential residence.