Take right to exit

Take right to exit

No, it is not your navigator giving you directions while you are driving. It is the way politics are shaping up in the world these days. Most recently, the U.S. and the Netherlands both decided to move a little to the right.

Bulgaria, meanwhile, managed to keep in its lane, and it looks like Germany will do so too. The situation in Turkey is more intriguing still: Part of its center-right may be more left that right today.

A small but important tide has been rising in the towns of Anatolia since last year. Meral Akşener, a former interior minister and a very experienced politician in the center-right, has been calling for a change of guard in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). Current MHP head Devlet Bahçeli and his deputies saw this as a mutiny and kicked all dissident voices – such as Sinan Oğan, Ümit Özdağ, Koray Aydın and Akşener - out of the party.

One positive thing about this referendum period’s disproportionate campaign and coverage bias is that it has forced all the opposition parties and groups to come together to avoid conflict. Akşener and her group of naysayers are banned from all mainstream TV channels. So instead they go from town to town, village to village. 

Oğan and Özdağ, a respected academic, are facing incredible hurdles and attacks from Bahçeli loyalists during their trips into the heartland of Anatolia. After last weekend’s tumultuous visit to Yozgat, a nationalist “castle,” Özdağ and Oğan accused the MHP, not the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for this situation. Regardless of the result of the referendum in Turkey, it seems a new center-right will be rising on the shoulders of Akşener, Oğan, Özdağ, etc.

But the entire debate on why Turkey is going to the polls is still an enigma. According to Prof. Tayyar Arı from Uludağ University, Bahçeli agreed to allow the referendum as he saw national security danger and economic trouble on the horizon. It does not take a genius to guess that there will be a bigger economic crisis coming, and Bahçeli predicts more social protests and uprisings. The AK Party thus decided to take a risk and roll the dice.

Unfortunately, if bank loans skyrocket 47 percent as they did in the first three months of this year, one should not be surprised to see protests, bankruptcies, and general strikes in the summer.

But more striking is the Kurdish conundrum. Dr. Arzu Yılmaz of Dohuk American University signaled a huge storm ahead for Ankara in an interview she recently gave to daily Cumhuriyet. 

“In the southeast there might as well not be a referendum. The possibility of solving the Kurdish problem within the borders of Turkey no longer exists. The independence of Southern Kurdistan [the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq] is only a matter of time. Even Baghdad does not oppose that any longer,” Yılmaz said.

She also stressed that the game in the region is shaping up without Turkey’s input, and it will stay that way.

 “The only fear factor is the uncertainty [about an independent Kurdistan]. One cannot guess how such a development will spill over into Syria and Turkey, as both countries are unstable at this point,” she added.
Bahçeli’s crystal ball probably shows some pretty heavy fighting in the southeast and Ankara is gearing up for that. Just look at all the military-inspired TV dramas that are due to be launched this month.

Politics is swinging to right, and April will come with surprises for all.