The four-party alliance and the culture of democracy
The strongest stakeholder of the alliance defines itself as a social democratic party that embraces secularism. (The Republican People’s Party [CHP])
The other party represents a clear synthesis which is led by the dissidents that defected from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is identified with Turkish nationalism but keeps the doors open to the figures from the center-right. They also wink at disgruntled groups within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and even the nationalist core of the CHP. (The İYİ [Good] Party)
The third partner is a party that was founded by late Professor Necmettin Erbakan and the heir of the National Outlook Movement (Milli Görüş) that has distinguished itself with a strong pious standing. (The Felicity [Saadet] Party)
The small partner is the party that emerged when the True Path Party (DYP) and the Motherland Party (ANAP) dissolved themselves. It takes its strength, albeit not a quantitative one, from a symbolism that it holds the right to use the name of Democrat Party, which represents the spirit of 1946. (The Democrat Party)
The fact that those four parties from different family trees and different ideologies established a broad election alliance on a common democracy platform represents a unique experience in Turkey’s democracy adventure.
In fact, several election alliances were founded in the past between political parties. For instance, the Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP) helped the Democracy Party (DEP), and similarly the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi or RP) helped late Alparslan Türkeş’s Nationalist Work Party (Milliyetçi Çalışma Partisi) enter parliament. Those were the examples of cooperation aimed at helping those parties surpass the electoral threshold. Similarly, in the 1995 elections, ANAP helped the Grand Unity Party (Büyük Birlik Partisi) find representation in parliament.
Moreover, there have been coalition attempts among parties with very different ideological affiliations. For example, the coalition between the CHP and the National Salvation Party (Milli Selamet Partisi) aimed at “creating an atmosphere of brotherhood based on mutual reconciliation and tolerance that will help forget past hostilities and pains,” as stated in their program.
The coalition formed in 1996 between the RP and the DYP that triggered a deep political crisis is an example of a different case.
The current cooperation between those four parties is different from the past experiences in many ways. One of those dissimilarities is the fact that it covers a wider scope in terms of diversity of world views. In addition to attempts to making the electoral threshold irrelevant, it is also crucial that those four parties have put forward a common declaration of intention based on agreed values and principles.
We can summarize the fundamental concepts underlined in “The Election Cooperation Declaration,” signed by the four parties as follows:
“The separation of powers, a strong parliament, respect for different lifestyles, ending polarization, normalization, pluralist democracy, the rule of law, the impartiality and independence of the judiciary, ensuring the freedom of thought and freedom of the press, and equality of representation.”
The fact that those parties brush aside their differences and find a common ground based on the fundamental parameters of democracy and the rule of law indeed is a leap forward towards a more mature democracy in Turkey. If Turkey’s political culture internalizes those values its democracy will grow resilient against the problems it faces.
One crucial outcome of this alliance is that it is not about overcoming the electoral threshold, but the alliance has turned the June 24 elections into a second referendum on the country’s regime model. On the one side is the AKP/MHP alliance that joined forces to make sure that all the rules and institutions of the presidential system are in place. The CHP-İYİ Party- SP- DP alliance that highlights the parliamentary democracy is on the other side.
There is one more crucial point. This consensus, forged in 2018, represents an indirect self-criticism of the past. Respect for different lifestyles now can be highlighted as a common value by parties that have different views on this issue.
The evolution made in this issue that has long been one of the main sources of polarization in the country is a late handshake for Turkish democracy. If those steps had been taken before, Turkey’s political journey could have followed a different path.
Unfortunately, the process of the evolution of certain values is completed only by going through deep crises, paying high prices, and having bitter experiences.