These elections will be Turkey’s pride
As we all approach the most exciting election night in a decade, it is time to stop and reflect on the struggles we have overcome as a nation. Because nowhere in this part of the world could this be possible but in Turkey. Despite all the criticism and self-bashing, we all should be very proud of being citizens of a republic which builds democracy every day.
Who could have thought that this time two years ago, Taksim Square would be full of young people demanding respect for their lifestyles? Who could have imagined our nights in white pepper gas and Talcid-filled water bottles? Would you ever have envisioned days and nights of fighting, with grandmothers and fathers joining in? So yes, we have come a long way baby.
How could a traditional party like the Republican People’s Party (CHP) be able to break its mold and put an Armenian-Turk female academic, Selina Özuzun Doğan, on the top of its ballot? Better yet, how could a party like the Justice and Development Pary (AK Party) put an Armenian-Turk journalist, Markar Esayan, on its ballot?
Who would have thought that the mysterious and very interesting voters called “the undecided” would swing between the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Kurdish-dominated Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and people would be totally cool with it?
Notwithstanding its pitfalls and religious obsessions, the AK Party should get credit for the changes it has created in Turkish society. Without it, the elite, the rich and the petty bourgeoisie would have no reason to change and embrace a candidate like Selahattin Demirtaş today. It was mystifying to see Demirtaş’s massive rallies in Batman and Mardin this week, which were once AK Party strongholds. Demirtaş almost burst into tears when he saw the hundreds of thousands in the streets of the very conservative town of Batman chanting for him. Unfinished construction holding hundreds of people draped with flags and placards resembled the Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM) in the days of the Gezi Park protests. Or maybe even the May Day celebrations of the 1970s.
There stood the poor, tired masses of a lost generation. There stood the hope for peace and maybe a better, more prosperous tomorrow. There, from the heart of Batman, emerged the beauty of Turkey’s democracy and how it should be an example for the nations of the Middle East. Only in this country can a young lawyer in his 40s become the leader of a very firmly structured political party and challenge conventional wisdom. By these criteria, Demirtaş has become the Erdoğan of 2015.
For a long time, we have discussed how and why the left in Turkish politics has failed to produce leaders or has cut them short of powerful positions. Demirtaş, after Erdoğan, has broken all taboos and become the leader of this country’s future generations of leftists. He has a long way to go in politics but he also has to change his party as much as his voter base, as he said in the big Istanbul rally last weekend.
So after all, this is the beauty of this land. The moment you lose hope and think nothing will ever change, something happens and moves the earth. Then, rivers move. Then, minds move. Then, life moves. Slowly and silently, nature teaches us its eternal balance that no big power can survive forever. Demirtaş is not that earthquake yet. Gezi is. And this is just the beginning.