Turkish politics further strained with attack

Turkish politics further strained with attack

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu was attacked in Parliament on April 8, as he was entering the hall to address his party group for the first time since the March 30 local elections.

The attacker, identified as 28-year-old Orhan Övet, with a lot of prior police records, landed a fist on Kılıçdaroğlu’s left cheek before being immobilized by bodyguards and other MPs present.

The police chief of Parliament said the attacker had entered Parliament with a visitor’s pass, adding that if he had been carrying an object in his hand the consequences could have been worse.

After quickly getting over the trauma, Kılıçdaroğlu got to the floor and his first message was a “call for calm” to everyone.

That is important, because not only the CHP but other opposition parties like the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) must have understood, especially after the local polls, that political tension and antagonism was helping only one person in Turkish politics. That is Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan, who is a real master of increasing and decreasing tension in society. In a 2008 interview, he said that his “anger is a part of the art of rhetoric.”

Almost half an hour before Kılıçdaroğlu was attacked, Erdoğan was addressing his Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) group in Parliament. He was telling his MPs to “never forget” the attacks on him, his family, and his party, by those who wanted to “block Turkey’s bright future.” He was not only implying the corruption allegations and wiretapping leaks, but also the wiretapping of a secret Syria meeting in the Turkish Foreign Ministry. The supporters of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident moderate Islamist scholar, his former close ally, were the target. He said the AK party election victory was a clear message from voters to wipe out the Gülenists.

We have to make the point that this time it is Gülen being targeted, but in former election campaigns there were others. Antagonism and tension has been a recipe for success for Erdoğan throughout his rule, which will complete its 12th year this autumn. In the meantime, there are presidential elections in autumn too.

Turkey is heading into another election before even getting over the effects of locals. There are lots of signs that Erdoğan’s road to the presidency might be a narrow and winding one. It is true that he has agreed with President Abdullah Gül to “sit and talk together” over a joint strategy. But the AK Parti spokesmen are giving statements one after another, as if trying to convince Gül that once he gives up the idea of being a candidate for a second term, they will do everything they can to present him with a comfortable prime ministry position. Gül, on the other hand, said on April 8 that he thought he should have a say on his own future: A gentle warning to Erdoğan to tell his people to stop manipulating. The signs from Parliamentary Speaker Cemil Çiçek and Constitutional Court Head Haşim Kılıç also tell Erdoğan that his desire to become the next president will not be so easy to realize.

Also speaking yesterday, MHP head Devlet Bahçeli joined an earlier statement by Kılıçdaroğlu and said that “anyone other than Erdoğan could be the next president.”

Under the circumstances, Erdoğan has no recipe to achieve his goals other than keeping political tension high.

It would be unfair to say the attack yesterday was a direct result of the continuous political tension mastered by Erdoğan, but it can be speculated as a by-product of the tense political atmosphere.
Let’s hope the attack will be the last example of such dangerous by-products.