Guess who is missing from this photo at Turkey’s parliament
This photo was taken in the office of Turkish Parliament Speaker İsmail Kahraman at around 4 p.m. on Oct. 1, right after the new legislative term was opened with a customary speech at parliament from President Tayyip Erdoğan.
The difference this year is that the president is also once again the chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), as Turkish presidents no longer have to be non-partisan following the April 16, 2017 referendum, which gave all executive power to the presidential authority.
The state-run Anadolu Agency photo shows Erdoğan sitting in the chair of the speaker, who is sitting to the left of Erdoğan at the side of his own desk. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli are sitting in the chairs in front of the speaker’s office desk. The other people seated in the picture are Constitutional Court President Zühtü Arslan, next to PM; Chief of
General Staff Hulusi Akar, just back from Somalia and just before a trip to Iran; and Supreme Court of Appeals head İsmail Rüştü Cirit, on the opposite side next to Bahçeli.
All others in the photo are AK Parti and the MHP officials, and high-ranking military officers accompanying Akar. They are all waiting for their teas to be served, amid the hard work of the opening session, and to have a chat about Turkey’s pressing matters.
However, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is missing from this picture. Also missing are the co-chairs of the Kurdish issue-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), but they had already boycotted the opening session and instead went to the northwestern province of Edirne to pay a visit to their jailed co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş.
Kılıçdaroğlu was there in parliament but he was not invited to the chat over a glass of tea.
At first, Parliament Speaker Kahraman said he forgot to call the CHP head on time. When asked, Kılıçdaroğlu said he had never received any invitation to the meeting, either timely or not.
Meanwhile, in the evening there was a traditional reception for the opening of parliament. There, President Erdoğan, standing next to Bahçeli, once again vowed that Turkey is ready to act against the Iraqi Kurdish referendum at any moment if there is a threat, in coordination with the Iraqi and Iranian governments. The following day, two days before a scheduled visit to Iran, Erdoğan said he would hold a meeting with Bahçeli and, if necessary, he may also talk to Kılıçdaroğlu. Most of the Turkish press reported that Erdoğan would have a meeting with opposition leaders, but he actually said he would meet with Bahçeli and then only with Kılıçdaroğlu as a possibility, “if necessary.”
Just before the Oct. 1 reception was set to end, Erdoğan, Kahraman, Yıldırım and Bahçeli - along with a more limited number of party officials - decided to have another tea-talk in a room next to the reception hall in parliament. Kılıçdaroğlu was once again “forgotten.”
The leader of the main opposition party, as well as the third biggest party group in the Turkish Parliament - the HDP – are apparently not desired in those behind-closed-doors meetings between the leaders of the ruling party (also the president) and the fourth biggest party (MHP) in parliament.
President Erdoğan has in recent months treated Bahçeli as a kind of hidden coalition partner, and the MHP head seems to have no objections to this treatment. All this comes as the MHP has been losing blood to another political party on the right, which has announced that it will be established later in October.
The executive, legislative and judicial branches of government, as well as the Armed Forces, all took their place in a photo taken during the opening of the legislative year at parliament, but the main opposition was forgotten.
If this is not merely forgetfulness, causing a serious deficiency in the name of pluralist democracy in Turkey, what is it?