According to latest estimates, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is coming in at around 44 percent popularity, while the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is, as always, around the 25 percent level and the junior opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is at around 16 percent or so. A surprise is in the Kurdish votes, as the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) is claimed to have reached 8 percent.
There are at least six months before the elections and these public opinion results might change a lot by the time ballot boxes are placed in front of the people. Yet there are some alarming signs which might please or at least offer a ray of hope for those Turks still aspiring to see a place for their country in the European family of nations. Foremost are the economic indicators that have been shouting for some time about the coming of a new crisis unless the country undergoes radical public expenditure cuts. On the contrary, while placard presentations at ceremonies or sending flowers are banned by the government of the Pinocchio with the almond mustache, exuberance in governance is continuing unabated. Can the Foreign Ministry, or the prime ministry, disclose to Turks, for example, how many greenbacks were spent to bring Hamas leader Khaled Mashal to the Konya provincial convention of the ruling AKP?
For a long time, the Turkish economy has been surviving on hot money pouring in through investments, land purchases or, for some other reason, from the Arab neighborhood. Through its Syria policy and arrogant style of leadership, Turkey has support from the entire neighborhood, though Qatar has been lost over the past few years. If and when Turkey starts having servicing problems, will it be able to find preciously sufficient cash? The energy bill of the country has shrunk due to a global decrease in prices, but the very same reason has seriously hurt Russia, a country that has long replaced Germany as Turkey’s primary trade partner. In the last weeks of 2014, the impact of the crisis in Russia on the Turkish economy was starting to be seen. While Russia was taught a lesson for its Ukraine adventure, the oil price artillery of the Americans might explode on Ankara as well.
Turkey is an independent country and it can of course invite anyone it considers appropriate to any event in the country. Inviting someone to talks and simultaneously to attend an AKP provincial convention cannot be questioned by anyone, unless the invited person is considered by the foremost ally of the country as the leader of a terrorist organization. There is a perceptional difference between the Americans and the rest of the Western family when it comes to the current Turkish Islamist government. When Mashal made a “semi-secret” trip to Ankara while Abdullah Gül was still the foreign minister, the meeting venue was a factory on the way to Esenboğa because Turkish officials were concerned of the consequences of such a meeting. Now, the Turkish prime minister was joining the crowd cheering and clapping for the radical Islamist statements being made by Mashal. The Turkish premier, together with the crowd, chanting “God is great” while Mashal was declaring to the AKP’s provincial convention in Konya that “God willing, we shall erase the state of Israel and liberate Jerusalem” must be an indication of the mentality in power in Ankara.
“Precious isolation” is what a top advisor of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had said in reaction to allegations by the opposition and critical writers that Turkey has become an outcast for incorrect policies on Syria. Morality, he had said, was far more important than the interest-based real politik.
A Turkey in isolation is not of course in the best interest of Turkey, and to what extent it fits with morality or whether Turks will buy a “we are hurting our interests but acting in conformity with moral values” excuse will be seen at election time. Moral or immoral, the electorate decides according to how much money is in their pockets, the situation of the economy and of course job availability.
Pockets have been drained through undeclared devaluation. The economy is passing through some very dire straits. Unemployment has started to increase. Plus, we have some two million guests from Syria who have become an added burden on the budget. Furthermore, the exuberance for a state administration and arrogance about continuing adventurist policies in Syria without calculating the added risks by insisting on the “no deal as long as al-Assad remains” stance continues to demonstrate how great the absolute ruler of the country is.
If I add to all these the probability of infighting within the ruling party, prospects might not be bright for some in Ankara this year.