An important rally with something missing
With an expected attendance of 3.5 million people, the rally in Istanbul on Aug. 7 is expected to be the largest one in Turkish history.
It is going to be held under the title of “Democracy and Martyrs,” in reference to the 239 people killed during the coup attempt of July 15 by a junta from within the military.
The call for the rally was made by President Tayyip Erdoğan, and the first to answer was the Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) that Erdoğan had founded 15 years ago, but that was something natural. The social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said they would show a presence there except for their respective leaders, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Devlet Bahçeli.
The mood in the MHP changed when Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım called Bahçeli in person and convinced him to come and deliver a speech. There would be no flags other than Turkish flags and it would not look like an AK Parti demonstration.
According to Kılıçdaroğlu, his main reason for not attending the rally was not to be in a position to give outright support to the AK Parti for the state of emergency even as he gave full support against the coup attempt. He was particularly concerned about violations of basic rights stemming from the state of emergency and decrees with the force of law that are effecting structural changes in the administrative system (for example, the one restructuring the military) without consulting with the opposition, even though it stood by the government without hesitation to protect the democratic regime. He said he had written a letter of suggestions to PM Yıldırım, upon Yıldırım’s demand but had yet to hear any response.
On Aug. 4, Erdoğan at first repeated his call to Kılıçdaroğlu in public. Then Yıldırım called on him to repeat his invitation and said the CHP leader’s “sensitivities” mentioned in the letter would be considered. Kılıçdaroğlu told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 5 that he had received many calls from various layers of society from former President Abdullah Gül to business circles and the CHP grassroots, telling him that he should make his voice heard at the rally, which will be broadcast live in the public squares of Turkey’s 81 provincial centers.
After consulting with CHP executives, Kılıçdaroğlu also agreed to attend and deliver a speech with a few demands. The largest poster there would be a poster of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic; only the president and party leaders would deliver speeches; and no party marches or symbol songs would be sung, only folk songs with no political resemblance.
It is going to be an important rally to show the Turkish people’s perhaps first united stance against any anti-democratic intervention in politics. But an important political actor will be missing there: the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is focused on the Kurdish issue. Kılıçdaroğlu said he was sorry that President Erdoğan did not invite the HDP, but Erdoğan cited the same reason as PM Yıldırım in a TV interview: The HDP should first unequivocally condemn the acts of terror by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with whom they largely share a similar grassroots. The HDP has criticized the PKK but together with the security operations of the security forces.
Yet, there is still time until the evening of Aug. 7, and as it keeps proving itself, the winds can change rapidly in Turkish politics.