AKP’s 2019 campaign labels CHP pro-terrorist

AKP’s 2019 campaign labels CHP pro-terrorist

An Istanbul prosecutor has launched an investigation against Sezgin Tanrıkulu, a prominent lawmaker from the ranks of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), over his claims that civilians had been killed by armed drones as part of the anti-terror fight in Turkey’s southeastern region.

What’s more striking is the fact that the judicial move against Tanrıkulu came only a few hours after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan strongly slammed the CHP member at a press conference before his departure to Kazakhstan on Sept. 8. This picture alone could be seen yet as another example of the deterioration in the implementation of the very principle of the separation of powers, with concerns that Turkish justice has increasingly become politicized in recent years.

Erdoğan’s criticisms toward Tanrıkulu, however, are rather a part of a larger political plan being implemented by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). In a statement on Sept. 6, Erdoğan compared the CHP to terror organizations, saying “Their language is not the normal language of an opposition party; it is almost the language of a terrorist organization.” “Whatever they [terrorist organizations] do, they [the CHP] do the same,” Erdoğan added.

In further remarks on the same issue on Sept. 8, he argued that the CHP was no different from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), describing both parties as having no “national” identity. The AKP and its de facto coalition partner, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), are fully national and local, Erdoğan suggested.

Erdoğan’s comparisons on these two parties are being closely followed by the Turkish judiciary. HDP’s co-chairman Selahattin Demirtaş and former co-chairwoman Figen Yüksekdağ have been in prison since late 2016. In addition to them, around nine other HDP lawmakers are also behind bars while four elected lawmakers have lost their seats in parliament with the votes of AKP and MHP deputies.

Many elected mayors from the HDP have been removed from their posts through governmental decisions on grounds they supported terrorist activities. It’s getting much more difficult for the HDP politicians to conduct politics under these conditions.

The campaign against the opposition has spread to the CHP in mid-June after Enis Berberoğlu, a prominent CHP lawmaker and former journalist, was arrested on espionage charges. That was why CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had initiated his “justice march” from Ankara to Istanbul and a “justice congress” late August. The investigation into Tanrıkulu fuels concerns that this campaign will likely continue in the upcoming months. 

Arresting political rivals on baseless grounds is simply not among the characteristics of democratic regimes. Accusing political parties of supporting terrorism and encouraging judicial action against them has no place in political ethics.

The AKP-MHP duo should immediately abandon their plans to win the 2019 elections through a massive crackdown on their political competitors, if they have anything like that in mind.