Can Turkey’s Good Party capture attention?
The Good Party, established last week under the leadership of Meral Akşener, has emerged as a new factor in Turkey’s political scene that must be taken into account by all other actors.
The main body of the party comes from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) but it also incorporates names from the center right and center left, even including some who have left the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). It almost resembles the model that Turgut Özal applied when he brought together different existing political tendencies in his establishment of the Motherland Party (ANAP) in 1982.
The first test facing the Good Party is whether it can turn all of its tendencies into a coherent political identity. It can either develop according to dominant MHP structure or open itself to a new track by trying to bring its many different tendencies together.
If it tends toward the second choice, another critical question arises: Can this party capture the attraction of the public from different political tendencies?
Let’s admit it: the Good Party came into being as a result of the power struggle among opponents inside the MHP against the leadership of Devlet Bahçeli. Therefore, its primary target group will be those who are not pleased with the political support that today’s MHP gives to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
But the party’s chance of playing a “regulatory role” in politics by relying only on disgruntled MHP voters is very low. To grow her party, Akşener needs to gather support from other political streams.
She will also be setting her sights on wavering voters who lean toward the AK Party. It is no secret that the AK Party suffered some erosion, however limited, in Turkey’s biggest cities in the April referendum on shifting to a presidential system.
She may be also calculating that she can receive support from the parts of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) with patriotic or nationalistic sensitivities.
In the end, for the Good Party to be successful it will have to have an effect on the other three parties. But even if it does not create a shocking and destructive effect on the targeted parties, it could deeply affect the other actors’ political calculations.
At the top of the list of political actors who will perceive the Good Party as a threat – probably even ahead of the MHP - comes President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is aiming to win the presidential elections in 2019 by winning more than 50 percent of the votes in the first round.
The political success of Erdoğan over the last 15 years comes from his ability to keep a significant number of right-wing voters with him, consolidating them within the AK Party.
Erdoğan has never hesitated to create alliances with political formations, small or large, in his bid to attract as many right-wing votes as possible. So it is not difficult to guess that Erdoğan will not welcome warmly a new player who also has eyes on right-wing votes.
We will all see in the coming period whether or not the Good Party reaches its goals. For now, we can only talk about the principles behind it.
If we believe in democracy, we must welcome with respect those who have objects and those who want to wage a political struggle by forming a new party. We must see this as a positive value given and secured by democracy.
In the Turkey of 2017, one of the most fundamental concerns of democracy must be the wish to create a righteous competition environment for political parties. Parties and their ideas must be able to compete in a genuine competition environment. Society must be able to watch this and make its choice.
The Good Party must be allowed to proceed on its own way, without facing any restrictions. It must have the freedom to explain itself to society under conditions of genuine competition.
It is up to voters to decide whether they like it or not. It is up to them to decide whether the party is “good” or not.