The Turkish opposition in a nutshell

The Turkish opposition in a nutshell

Recent opinion polls conducted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) have shown that the economy is the Turkish public’s number one concern, surpassing terrorism, after many years, despite points gained by President Tayyip Erdoğan for his foreign policy stance vis-a-vis the U.S. and Europe.

People have been complaining about not being able to feel the 11 percent plus growth rate in their lives, with double-digit inflation rates and a high rate of unemployment looming over the country. 2018 does not promise a better picture either. And in 2019, there will be elections, with local elections scheduled for late March and parliamentary elections to be held together with presidential elections in early November of that year.

Worried about the high number of “no” votes in the April 2017 referendum, when the nation was asked whether they wanted to hand over boosted executive powers to the president, especially in AK Parti-run big cities, Erdoğan thinks that if he loses municipalities, maintaining power would become more difficult.

This situation turns our attention to the Turkish opposition, and here’s the current outlook:

CHP: The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) presents a rather clumsy image when looked at from the outside. It has taken some influential steps this year, like the “justice march” between June and July and putting pressure on the government for the rights of outsourced workers. But the party congress to be held in the first half of 2018 and murmurs from within the party against its chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, despite the lack of any palpable alternatives to him, is making Kılıçdaroğlu become an even more open target for attacks by Erdoğan.

HDP: The Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has suffered two major wounds since the June 2015 elections. At first, it fell into the trap of backing an armed uprising attempt by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) late 2015 and early 2016, which has claimed thousands of lives, causing a decline in sympathy for them. The second was the arrest of its co-chairman, Selahattin Demirtaş, and co-chairwoman, Figen Yüksekdağ, on charges of supporting terrorism. The latter was also stripped of her membership in the Turkish Parliament. Nine HDP MPs and around 80 of its mayors are in jail.

MHP: It was thanks to Devlet Bahçeli’s Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) support that Erdoğan was able to be granted executive powers in the referendum. Since 2016, Bahçeli has been Erdoğan’s major ally despite a major split in his own party. There are recent frictions between the two however, as Bahçeli wants the 10 percent electoral threshold required to get into parliament to be lowered but Erdoğan thinks it should be maintained. Also Erdoğan’s need to attract conservative Kurdish votes makes Bahçeli anxious.

İYİ Party: İYİ (Good) Party, founded by Meral Akşener, a former Interior Minister who resigned from the MHP, aims to open a new space on the right side of the political spectrum to attract center-right votes, secular but conservative and nationalist but Western-oriented voters. But mainly because of the tension between two of its main deputies, the İYİ Party still gives the impression of being a party split from the MHP and might remain as such if it keeps heading this way. Instead of aiming for the grassroots of the AK Parti and the MHP, the İYİ Party seems to be heading toward the nationalist electorate within the CHP, which might work in the CHP’s favor on election day, leaving İYİ Party as a fringe party.

Murat Yetkin, hdn, Opinion