Political stances slowly changing at TOBB

Political stances slowly changing at TOBB

The Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges (TOBB) held its general assembly last Saturday. In every general assembly, we try to hold the pulse of the business world by observing the reactions and applause from the audience. When compared to previous assemblies, I can say that in this last general assembly, in general, the political views of businesspeople are changing, but this change is a bit slow. 

This should not be regarded as the entire stance of the business world because TOBB delegates are mostly conservative and nationalist-minded people from Anatolia. We cannot say they represent the big capital. However, this texture of theirs makes a better platform to see the political outlook before the elections. 

TOBB delegates mostly react to epic speeches and those aspects and criticisms that directly involve themselves. For these reasons, the parts of TOBB head Rifat Hisarcıklıoğlu’s speech that were applauded the most were when he criticized civil servants, when he said civil servants should also be tried when they made a mistake and also the part when he attacked banks. Every year, these topics are applauded.

Other parts, for instance when he mentioned the new industrial revolution, the restructuring of the industry and global harmonization, were not applauded adequately.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s speech was dull when compared to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s past speeches. Actually Davutoğlu did the right thing when he lowered his voice and did not speak as enthusiastically as he has in his election campaign speeches. The part of his speech when he said employers will need to let workers go if the minimum wage is increased received the biggest applause. If he had stayed to listen to opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s speech, that would have been big news.

Kılıçdaroğlu, in his speech, chose to explain the economic sections in his party’s election manifesto. He told of the measures that will be taken to raise the minimum wage so that the burden on the employers would be lifted. However, that part was not applauded much because it does not fit the blueprint in the mind of the businesspeople; it is obvious that this has to be detailed and elaborated upon. Also, I think it could have been better explained that the CHP’s measures to increase domestic demand would create a better economic platform suitable to the TOBB grassroots. 

Other leaders should have been present 

Due to the cultural texture of the TOBB delegates, I should make a reminder that the CHP has always met resistance from the beginning on this platform. Based on these two political parties, I can easily say there is some distancing from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in those segments representing the Anatolian capital and that the huge support of 2007 has not continued. This was not only in Davutoğlu’s term; the decline in support had started during the Erdoğan era. Because Erdoğan made more epic speeches, he would be applauded more. 

While only a few hands went up when Kılıçdaroğlu said, “Those who say there is media freedom in Turkey should raise their hands,” his biggest applause came when he criticized the justice system. It is apparent the CHP now has more support from TOBB delegates compared to the past.  

It is not correct to decide by looking at the audience’s reactions that the AKP has had huge losses and the CHP has had huge gains. There is some change for these two parties, but not much…  

I think if Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli had attended, he would have received huge applause from this crowd. Apart from that, the TOBB should also invite Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Selahattin Demirtaş to this platform. I think even the TOBB is mentally ready now for a multi-voiced democracy.