Turkey’s ‘native and national’ opposition

Turkey’s ‘native and national’ opposition

Since last week, Turkey has been suffering one of the most intense heatwaves in a century.

In this hear, the thousands of people are taking part in shifts in the “justice march” of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu. They are struggling under the burning sun over their head and also the melting asphalt under their feet. 

CHP parliamentary spokesperson Özgür Özel asked the crowd a few days ago the question: “What do we want?” in a bid to boost morale. He was expecting an answer like “We want justice,” but instead he got “We want water,” which made all of them laugh. One 75-year-old party member has already lost his life in the march after suffering a heart attack and a member of parliament was taken to hospital on June 30 for the same reason.

Kılıçdaroğlu, who is 69 years old and who has no daily work-out habit, has been walking an average of 20 kilometers every day. “We are walking towards a wall,” he told Hürriyet’s Ahmet Hakan in an interview on the road. “But when you believe in your cause, you don’t feel difficulties.”

On July 2, the 18th day of the march from the capital Ankara to Istanbul – a journey of at least 450 km - physical constraints were only part of the difficulties.

President Tayyip Erdoğan had said a day before that the march was in parallel with the aim of Fethullah Gülen, implying that the CHP was acting in parallel with the U.S.-based Islamist preacher, a former close ally of Erdoğan who is now believed to have masterminded the July 15, 2016 military coup attempt against him. 

Erdoğan’s remarks were actually a toned down version of his words about the march 10 days ago, in which he said Kılıçdaroğlu’s actions were “no different than a coup attempt.” The coup soldiers had their tanks and F-16s and the CHP head had his march, the president added. 

“You cannot convince anyone that you are marching for justice,” Erdoğan had said, implying that the action was part of an attempt to overthrow the government through illegitimate means. 

The answer that came from the marchers was simple: “We are not harming anyone. We are just walking.”
Political observers in Ankara believe that Erdoğan’s toning down followed polling carried out by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti). 

Kılıçdaroğlu said three-quarters of citizens within the AK Parti expressed sympathy for the march, though this may be misleading. The original version of that research, as reported in the media, claimed that 76 percent of AK Parti grassroots voters believe the courts do not deliver justice in Turkey. Of course, that is a different message than saying you have sympathy for the march.

Asking those who want to join the march not to react if they are attacked by “provocateurs,” Kılıçdaroğlu started his Gandhian march on June 15, one day after CHP deputy Enis Berberoğlu was sentenced to 25 years in jail. He was charged with espionage and terrorism after handling information about a security operation to a newspaper.

The concept of the march has now gone exceeded Berberoğlu and complaints about the justice system.

Yesterday, for example, representatives of workers employed by subcontractors with no social security guarantees joined the March. 

Until recently, some foreign diplomats used to report the political situation in Turkey with the cliché that it “lacked an effective opposition.” Ruling AK Parti circles had long endorsed this cliché, saying they “also yearn for a strong opposition.”

The AK Parti expresses pride that it is a “native and national” political movement, which it says is in contrast with the CHP. If the justice march is completed safe and sound on schedule in Istanbul on July 9, will we later be reading another wave of papers leaked by Wikileaks disclosing foreign diplomats’ reports about the “lack of effective opposition” or the “lack of a native and national” opposition in Turkey?