Turkey needs a strong opposition
Well, the full version of the sentence should be like this: Turkey should have stronger opposition parties for a better-working democracy, since it has a government that is strong enough already.
This is something that is voiced by government members as well, though in an ironic way.
They are right because the lack of a stronger opposition in the Turkish system has started to create a power vacuum which further inflates the government’s room to maneuver in almost every field. As everyone interested could observe in the recent row between the judiciary and the intelligence, even political crises have started to break not between political rivals but within government elements.
In Turkish there is a self-explanatory expression for that, coming from childhood street football.
When you don’t have enough players for a match and when the players’ numbers are uneven, you divide into two groups, the remaining one keeps the goal, the only goal, and you start to play like a half-court match in basketball. This is called a “single-goal match,” in a crude translation. The situation in Turkish politics is like that more or less because of the lack of a strong rival.
There are systemic reasons for that situation. The 10 percent election threshold, for example, is not only a factor obstructing fair representation in Parliament but turns into a force multiplier for the victorious party, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in our case. In a way, the AKP is playing a “single-goal match” with itself when looked at from the outside; Prime Minister Erdoğan being the only goal keeper, the captain, the coach and the one who owns the ball at the same time.
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is trying to do its best perhaps but fails to be as efficient as a government alternative party should be in a multiparty democracy. There are two main reasons for that. The first is the systemic problems coming from the election law as mentioned. The other one is the inner problems of the party which give a distracted impression with an insufficient focus of power; it is almost becoming a tradition in Turkish politics that CHP veterans are much more interested in keeping the in-house power with themselves in order to play their own “single-goal match.”
That’s why when Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said following his in-house victory in the two-day congress they should stop fighting internally and focus on their political struggle against the AKP, it led the way for a faint hope the CHP might transform itself under Kılıçdaroğlu to be a modern political force, to be a real alternative for power. His move to shift the focus from a “unity of the state” line to a “basic rights and freedoms” one by amending the regulations of the CHP, by imposing a minimum one-third quota for women and one-tenth for youth at all party levels, could be regarded as steps toward being a European-style social democratic party.
If he can do that, it will be good for the sake of a better working democracy in Turkey and better for the AKP as well. To play a “single-goal match” all the time is no good for keeping the team in good shape either.