The unbearable lightness of candidacy
Turkey is heading into the most boring and bland election season in decades. Partly because President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is not an active candidate anymore. But for the majority of the voters, regardless of the party lines, the candidates’ lists that were announced this Tuesday carry no weight and very little excitement.
Let’s start with the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) candidates. There seems to be an overall housecleaning in the parliament candidates, which is an encouraging sign. But there is a huge shadow of nepotism attached to the list. Everybody is somebody’s somebody. Niece, uncle, wife, cousin… The game seems to be “Let’s keep it in the family” in the AK Party ranks. There were several hard-working women, old volunteers of the “cause,” ideologues of political Islam that could easily have been respected by voters. Some of them were lucky but for the majority, unfortunately, the AK Party’s close-knit team of election supervisors have almost fallen into the trap of the “Baykalism of CHP.” This is a syndrome that expresses itself in the concept of “Let’s decide for the A-Team among us, our businessmen, our advisers, our relatives… We’ll think about the rest later.” The candidacy of the president’s son-in-law, Mr. Berat Albayrak, is no surprise to many. But it will be very difficult for foreign investors and financial markets to digest a possible economy minister that is directly linked to the president.
The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), on the other hand, is no better. Its priorities have been limited to running “sample” candidates in high positions. Selina Özuzun Doğan and Zeynep Altıok Akatlı are good but unfortunately symbolic gestures. Here again, we see the CHP falling into the AK Party Syndrome of “Identity Politics.” If you are somebody with “suffering,” if you have been called “the other” by someone, or if you are again somebody’s somebody, you were a good candidate for parliament. Representing “the disenfranchised,” “the outsider” and “the other” unfortunately does not make you a good policymaker. In fact it boxes you into your cause. This is how the AK Party became the party of the so-called “sad Muslims suffering under the secular regime.” The CHP will eventually fall into the same trap.
So at the end of the day, this election is all about the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) passing the threshold. Are we seeing any excitement there? Any fun names? Any philosophy to broaden the base in bigger cities? NOPE. As it looks now, Selahattin Demirtaş will be working extra hard for the party because there are very few names who carry his gravitas. And at the end, will they pass it? Who knows? Even Demirtaş admits they are at a hair-thin distance from passing it. Last week he was more optimistic. Come next week, we may never be able to predict? Does jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan care? Probably not.
This election marks a transition in all leading parties. We can all expect changes in the leadership ranks after the results come out. Some financial professionals I spoke with are slowly whispering the possibility of a coalition and how much it may hurt their business. Unfortunately, they may end up working with a system that is partly democratic, which comes with a risk premium in itself.
As for candidates, we wish them all the success and a fair competition.