Reflections on the elections
“The biggest public opinion poll,” as I call the elections, are over. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his political alliance won the presidency and the majority in parliament. It was no ordinary election, as the governing party has long claimed it was a vote for a “New Turkey” project, or a regime change. It means that slightly more than half of Turkey approved the end of the old Republican regime in favor of a new religio-nationalistic order under Erdoğan’s leadership. It is going to be a process to build an authoritarian regime, but after all regime changes are possible only through authoritarian politics. Nevertheless, as regime changes often happen after painful periods of social and political turmoil, it has at least not been a bloody process in Turkey, so far.
This does not mean Turkey’s prospects are bright, on the contrary, we missed the opportunity to democratize the old system and realize a negotiated change, and instead ended up with a more authoritarian, more centralized and more closed system. What’s worse is that Erdoğan had to ally himself and his party with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to realize his political project, enabling the MHP to win a key role in shaping politics. It means that Erdoğan will not have any chance to lead in a more conciliatory way even if he wants and needs to, especially concerning the Kurdish issue. Under such circumstances, one may even wish Erdoğan would have won a clear majority without the support of the nationalist party. Those who are happy with the weakening of the ruling party and its dependence on nationalists are bad political calculators who are blind to the shortcomings of that alliance for Turkey.
The other victor of the election is the Republican People’s Party’s candidate Muharrem İnce, who won 30.7 percent of the votes after a very short period of campaigning. Nonetheless, so far, it proved meaningless as his party chose to dismiss his success and refused to revise the proved failures of their party. The CHP even sent one of its MPs who won unexpected victory in an eastern province to the disciplinary committee because he criticized the party’s response to the election results. It’s no wonder the majority of Turkey does not trust the main opposition party. In fact, Republican blindness to social and political realities is not only an omen of the future of the opposition but it says a lot about the reasons behind the demise of the old Turkey.
After all, authoritarian sways are sort of collective crimes since no single person, a party or a segment of society can monopolize power only by suppression. And that was not the case of Turkey under the ruling party. Those who refused to see that Erdoğan’s party reflected a serious social resentment deluded themselves that he wins the votes of the “deplorable,” and then by distributing benefits, rather than revising their politics. Then there were those who thought that democracy can be sacrificed as long as they do not lose their economic power. Finally, there were those “lazy democrats and liberals,” as I call them, who calculated that Erdoğan’s party will serve their aims by fighting against the secularist-Kemalist regime in their name and pave way for a more democratic Turkey. As for Kurds, they, too, refused to see the realities of Turkey and invested their hopes in secret deals with the state, which is now under the control of Erdoğan and his party.
The future is ultimately uncertain.