The end of Turkey’s ‘opposition camp’ fantasy

The end of Turkey’s ‘opposition camp’ fantasy

By paving the way for the election of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) candidate as the new speaker of parliament, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) “disappointed” not only the Republican People’s Party (CHP) but also leftist democrats and liberals. 

Still, all rumors about a secret deal between the MHP and the AKP are pointless, as it was the MHP’s refusal to recognize the democratic legitimacy of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party in parliament that was crucial to understanding the nationalists’ political stance. That is why it may be misleading to conclude that the election of the AKP’s candidate as the speaker of parliament with the help of the MHP is a clear sign of a future MHP-AKP coalition.

First of all, it was always a big mistake to consider the possibility of an “opposition camp of 60 percent against the AKP” as realistic. It is true that 60 percent voted against the AKP - and indeed against the idea of “one-man rule” or “one-party state” - and that this vote provided a golden opportunity for Turkey to return to normalcy. But the MHP could not be considered an actor of a democratic restoration, as nationalists insist in denying not only the HDP’s legitimacy but also demand an end to the “Kurdish peace process” or any other deal with the Kurds. 

It was odd for anyone to consider the MHP and the HDP to be in the same camp, even temporarily, against the AKP. The truth is that the MHP is anti-AKP, but this does not make it a viable actor to take part in a democratic restoration. To tell the truth, I never understood the leftist democrats and liberals who pursued this fantasy. Not only was it not realistic, more importantly it was not “politically correct.” That is why, putting democratic restoration first, I proposed a grand compromise, against the kind of punitive politics that have been attacked by most of the opposition circles. 

Thank God, the MHP did not lose time to end the “opposition 60 percent” fantasy and expose its own non-democratic quality. Now, it is time not for criticizing the MHP for what it is, but for trying to hinder the possibility not only of a AKP-MHP coalition, but also of their “cooperation” on some issues like the Syrian conflict. I am not sure whether President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his party are aware of the shortcomings of such a cooperation and/or coalition, but in particular they seem to be starting to see the “facts of life” about Syria. 

The Kurds should also avoid playing into the hands of a conservative-nationalist coalition or cooperation concerning Jarabulus. It seems that Democratic Union Party (PYD) Co-Chair Salih Muslim in Syria is aware of that danger in Turkey. Nevertheless, it is quite alarming that Turkey’s HDP has announced preparations for “mass peace meetings” in favor of jailed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Öcalan’s freedom. I am not saying that the Kurds should keep silent until an unknown future point to save democracy in Turkey; I simply do not think that a mass Kurdish mobilization will help to improve the situation amid general post-election political turmoil.

Unless all parties and actors prioritize a democratic political restoration, all will lose in the future. The MHP has already dropped out of the game and can only be an actor of destabilization and chaos from now on. I know it is very difficult for the CHP and the AKP to change course - even for the sake of democracy - after the enmity of the last election campaign and generations of culture wars. But they need to find a way. 

As for the Kurds, the challenges are great and difficult to overcome in the short term, but unless they manage to cope with these difficulties they will have a lot to lose. Perhaps Turkey needs more time and another election to fix all these problems, but nobody should lose time in trying to shift to “consensus-based politics.”  

Finally, nobody - especially Erdoğan and the governing party - should forget that “politics of compromise” cannot be achieved by focusing only on short-term gains and games. All need to know that “consensus” is not all about “concessions,” but rather about visionary politics in the name of democratic stability and sustainability. After all, despite the recent rise of skepticism about democracy all over the world, it remains the only long-term political insurance of stability and sustainability. The case of Turkey is a good example of that.