Socialist International meets in today’s Turkey

Socialist International meets in today’s Turkey

Socialist International (SI) Council meets in Istanbul on November 11-13 hosted by Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

It was not before the SI meetings of last September in New York during the U.N. General Assembly sessions that Istanbul was fixed as the meeting point for world socialists and social democrats, mainly thanks to two developments.

The first one is the Gezi Park wave of protests which shocked and shook Turkey for three weeks late June and early July and found echoes elsewhere. The CHP did not play a leading role in Gezi; only supported the protests in order not to allow more police action on demonstrators. Actually there was no political leadership for the protests. It was more a social outcry against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government to let their “We are not like you, but we are here and not to be ignored” voices be heard, mainly by educated urban middle-class, determined to keep their modernist-secular lifestyles. The Gezi protests showed everyone interested in Turkey and its region that there is a vibrating, heterogeneous society here.

The second one is the reforming political stance of the CHP under Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. In domestic politics, the CHP has supported government’s initiative for a political solution to the Kurdish problem with criticism over the transparency of the process, condemned military intervention into politics in an unequivocal way, did not object to freeing of the headscarf - as a sign of respect to faith and in the meantime underlined the importance of separating religion from government and the need for more freedom of expression and media warm on country’s agenda.

In foreign policy, Kılıçdaroğlu not only stood against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s policy regarding the Syrian civil war, sectarian rift in Iraq and turmoil in Egypt, but got into an alternative diplomacy by going and sending delegations to Iraq and Egypt. He organized meetings and rallies against any Turkish military involvement in regional problems. Partly thanks to that competition, the government has started new initiatives to mend the ties with the neighborhood. Nowadays he is getting prepared for contacts in Washington DC.

The Gezi protests on the other hand put the Erdoğan government off balance and in today’s problems within the government, like the one between him and his deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç over student accommodation, there are traces of the Gezi concerns. There are those in the executive branch, like President Abdullah Gül who saw especially after Gezi that it was not possible to mold Turkey into one shape, but Erdoğan with the confidence of 50 percent of votes in the 2011 elections is too proud to acknowledge that there might be something wrong in his stance as well.

The economy is still vibrant despite more than 10 percent depreciation in the Turkish Lira against the U.S. dollar in practice in the last few months; the country is getting prepared for three consecutive elections, local, presidential and parliamentary in the next 20 months.