Time for sincerity all around
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesman Ömer Çelik are treading cautiously and refraining from triumphalist outbursts following their landslide victory in the Nov. 1 elections.
Speaking on behalf of his party after their victory was ensured, Çelik said, “We are aware that we are the party of all of Turkey. We are aware of the weight placed on our shoulders.” He added that they would look on everyone in this country equally, regardless of ideological outlooks or lifestyles.
Reaching out to everyone in this friendly manner after electoral victories is a tradition in Turkey, as it is in most places. It is clear, however, that the AKP is not the party of all of Turkey. Otherwise, 50 percent of the votes that went to other parties would have gone to it also.
We also have the example of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s famous balcony speeches, as prime minister, after the AKP’s previous electoral victories. He promised to represent everyone, but ended up dividing Turkey as never before.
Çelik is probably speaking the truth, though, when he says they are aware of the weight placed on their shoulders. There are millions of Turks who believe these elections were not fair. While the electorate was not coerced into voting the way it did, the environment leading up to the voting was far from normal, as international electoral monitors are also indicating.
This has increased the AKP’s responsibility to prove its democratic credentials.
There is also the woeful performance of opposition parties in these elections, of course. The Republican People’s Party (CHP) has to understand the true reasons behind its failures in every election since 2002.
The Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the real loser this time, has to develop programs addressing Turkey’s economic and social problems in a realistic manner, rather than merely blurting out what it does not want and leaving it at that. It also has to come to terms with the fact that it gained fewer seats than the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), its archenemy.
As for the HDP, while it passed the electoral threshold – which is still an important achievement – it has to understand why it lost the 20 seats it had won in the June elections. In doing so it has to start with its weak stance with regard to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) violence, which clearly cost it much support, even among Kurdish voters.
There is much talk again now about the need for a new democratic and inclusive constitution for Turkey. If the AKP and opposition parties are sincere, a golden opportunity has arisen for this. The CHP says it is ready to do what is necessary provided the AKP does not bring up the matter of a presidential system.
The AKP does not have the numbers to write a new constitution on its own so if it insists on this system, under pressure from Erdoğan, this will clearly be a nonstarter. While the MHP’s demands can be overlooked in this respect, given its weak position in parliament and the fact that the AKP represents many of its core values, the HDP’s demands cannot because it remains the main Kurdish party.
This, then, is the moment for all the parties to prove their true intentions when they say they want the best for Turkey, rather than trying to only serve the ideological interests of their constituents. The past shows us that the conciliation required for this has been elusive in this country. It is easy, therefore, to be pessimistic in Turkey.
But, going along with the positive, calming, and friendly outreach Davutoğlu and Çelik are trying to project now, we have to show some optimism. Yet everyone has to be aware that the benefit of the doubt will not last forever.
The country can easily slide back into the deeply divisive atmosphere that marked the lead-up to the elections. If they are truly sincere, all the parties in parliament have to ensure this does not happen. If they cannot, it is certain that “all of Turkey will lose.”