Toward the grand conservative-nationalist-religious coalition

Toward the grand conservative-nationalist-religious coalition

By now, it should be safe to argue that the end of the solution process and the resumption of the armed conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) right after the June 7, 2015, elections worked in favor of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in the short/mid-term and the PKK in the short term. 

The AKP’s heavy handed approach against the PKK played a significant role in the rise of the AKP’s vote totals in the November 2015 elections, and recent opinion polls show clear support for the government’s strong clampdown that has continued ever since. It has also helped revive the role of the MHP in politics. After seeing a sharp fall in its votes in the November 2015 elections and the AKP’s U-turn on Kurdish policies, there was no opposition ground left for the MHP to build upon. It therefore chose to side with the AKP and be part of the government. The failed coup prepared the ground for the MHP to offer its support to the AKP, using the argument of forging unity against domestic and foreign enemies. The MHP further strengthened its cooperation with the AKP, facilitating the road toward the shift to a presidential system. 

Some argue that by giving the green light to the presidential system, which is usually based on two major parties, one in government and one in opposition, the MHP has prepared its own coffin. Not necessarily. The AKP will make sure the MHP remains a government coalition partner. The speculation that MHP members will be appointed as ministers and that there will be a joint list of candidates for general elections do not appear to be baseless.

Turkey is set therefore to be ruled by a right-wing coalition for a long time to come that actually reflects a majority of people in Turkey who, according to polls, consider themselves to be conservative and or nationalist and or religious. The coalition probably makes up 60 to 65 percent of the population.

In the meantime, the short-term winner of the end of the solution process and the resumption of conflict is the PKK, as these developments have undercut the rather unexpected success and popularity of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The 13 percent of the votes that the HDP received in the June 7 elections meant the transfer of power from the PKK to the HDP, undermining the PKK’s leadership in the mountains. 

This appeared to be unacceptable for the PKK which by then was enjoying considerable popularity in the outside world for its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) under the name of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria.

But the PKK’s appeal in Syria could be short-lived as the cards are being reshuffled with Turkish-Russian rapprochement as well as the arrival of a new administration in the United States. 

Domestically, the PKK is in a setback and its political wing (as was desired by the PKK) is losing blood, albeit more so than it originally expected. Conservative Kurds seem to have deserted the party, while the leadership is struggling against the government pressure which has resulted in the incarceration of the party’s key figures.

So, in the face of an ever-growing and consolidating right-wing bloc, stands a weakened HDP and the People’s Republican Party (CHP) which is unable to represent those who fall outside of the right-wing bloc.  

Being against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is the only common denominator of those who have been voting for the CHP, but an important number of those outside the right-wing bloc do not identify themselves with the country’s main opposition party.

Independent of the result of the referendum, Turkey is set to be dominated in the next decade by a conservative/nationalist/religious bloc. And it seems that Turkey’s decade-old problem, namely, the absence of an effective opposition party with a clear identity and vision is set to continue, too. In the last decade, the weak opposition led to the consolidation of the AKP’s power. In the next decade, the lack of strong opposition will have more dire consequences as it will remain insufficient to check the rise of an existential threat for those who remain outside of the right-wing bloc. It is an existential threat because this overwhelming and highly self-confident bloc is not encouraged by its leaders to respect the views of others. 

One wonders how many decades it will take to witness an effective counter political force to the grand right-wing coalition.