The race in June elections will be between the AKP and the HDP
The last time George Papandreu became prime minister, he had to tackle Greece’s deep economic crisis.
At one stage, he realized that doctors in Greece preferred to prescribe the most expensive medications instead of cheaper ones, creating a huge burden on the government. As a deterrence measure, he proposed to introduce a system whereby prescriptions would be made online. Shortly after it came onto the agenda, his health minister called him to say that doctors objected to the idea. “Why?” asked Papandreu. The doctors said they did not know how to use computers, replied his minister. “Then we will fire the doctors who don’t know how to use computers and hire those who know how to use them,” said Papandreu. A Greek politician familiar with the issue said that 90 percent of Greek doctors ended up “learning” to use computers in a matter of weeks!
Kemal Derviş, who came to Turkey in 2001 to rescue the Turkish economy, leaving his position at the World Bank, had to deal with similar absurdities. I recall how he was astonished about the presence of “ATM officials.” ATM officials were public officials who were not actively employed, but who went to the ATM each month to get their monthly salary.
Change is resisted everywhere in the world, particularly in this part of the world.
In contrast to the Greeks, Turks adapted much quicker to the austerity measures and the reforms that were introduced by Derviş. Among these reforms was securing the independence or autonomy of regulatory bodies, like the Central Bank.
The Turkish people suffered tremendously under the economic crisis that came as a result of a system that lacked an effective mechanism to prevent the governments’ irresponsible interference in the economy for short-term political gains. But Turks made those who did not change the system, but abuse it, pay dearly. None of the political parties that formed the coalition responsible for the crisis made it to parliament in 2002.
Instead, when it came to power, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) did the smart thing and continued the existing economic reform program. The ensuing economic stability benefited the AKP, which took credit for it because no one recalled that it was Derviş’s reforms that enabled the recovery. Opinion polls conducted by different companies indicate how one evaluates their own economic situation is the main determinant of voting behavior.
Over 12 years of AKP rule, a lot of people have enjoyed the economic stability and felt they were better off economically. Within this framework, the autonomy of certain institutions was most probably internalized by certain segments of society.
Now this system is under attack by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The economy has not been doing so well for some time. The foreign exchange rate, which is the economic barometer for the ordinary person in the street, has been fluctuating.
How will that be reflected in the June elections?
The recent poll conducted by the Metropoll research company indicates that a majority in Turkey disapproves of Erdoğan’s harsh criticism of the Central Bank. Even half of the AKP constituency seems to believe in the importance of the independence of the Central Bank. Will that lead to desertion from the AKP? Even if the answer is yes, it is hard to imagine a slide toward the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) or the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The latter’s economic policies are not known (if it has any), while the former has a credibility problem.
The main ingredient of economic stability is internal stability. Ongoing reconciliation with the Kurds after 30 years of internal conflict that has left thousands dead has certainly contributed tremendously to the improvement of the Turkish economy. A successful outcome in the peace process could be perceived as a key element securing economic stability and prosperity.
In that respect, those who are unhappy about the economic situation but unconvinced that the CHP or the MHP could do better, might opt to invest in the peace process in order to boost the economy.
Again, as the MHP and the CHP are nonexistent in this process, the main race in the June elections is going to take place between the AKP and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). Kurds, especially those who have voted for the AKP in the past, will decide which will guarantee a better outcome: A stronger AKP, or a HDP crossing the 10 percent threshold and getting into parliament.