Efforts to design Turkish politics likely to remain futile

Efforts to design Turkish politics likely to remain futile

It was interesting to observe that almost all the Turkish news channels were airing a press conference by Muharrem İnce, former presidential candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). What made this fact even more astonishing was that all of the pro-government news channels were broadcasting the press conference live, something they never do for any opposition politician.

The reason is obvious. İnce, who has long been at odds with CHP chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, was launching his dissident movement with sturdy criticism on the main opposition party and its leadership.

The elevated interest shown by these news channels and journalists is part of an ongoing effort by the People’s Alliance of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) to weaken and even dismantle the Nation Alliance, comprised of the CHP, the İYİ (Good) Party, the Felicity Party and the Democrat Party.

İnce’s dissident move received support from both President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and MHP chair Devlet Bahçeli, with the latter arguing that İnce’s endeavor would result bringing back the principles and values of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk to the main opposition party.

İnce has been emphasizing that his movement will be a genuine republican, one with no room for those who are against Atatürk and his principles, a very sensitive issue for the CHP voters. The spokesmen of the People Alliance will surely continue their interest on İnce as a potential figure that can cause a major split from the social democrat party, although, the dissident politician’s influence will likely to be very limited.

But the effort to divide the opposition alliance is a larger project. It seems President Erdoğan and MHP leader Bahçeli are paying the utmost attention to convince the İYİ Party and its leader Meral Akşener to leave the opposition alliance and join the People’s Alliance.

First, it was Bahçeli who had called on Akşener to return home despite being the cause for her expulsion from the MHP back in 2016. Bahçeli’s support was endorsed by President Erdoğan, who asked Akşener to join the People’s Alliance. As a matter of fact, Erdoğan and his AKP have always been gentle in approaching the İYİ Party and Akşener while channeling all their bitter and strong-worded criticisms against the CHP.

Being aware of all these tactics, Akşener was firm against all these calls, stressing she will not leave her partners in the lurch.

Furthermore, she paid a quick visit to the newly founded Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) of Ali Babacan with plans to visit Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Future Party next week. Thus, she has shown that she will engage more with the opposition parties rather than joining the AKP-MHP duo.

In a bid to display the continued unity, CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu and İYİ Party’s Akşener participated in a ceremony held by the İzmir Municipality on Aug. 13 where the leaders jointly laid the foundation of a mosque.

The position of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) continues to be weak on part of the Nation Alliance, as the İYİ Party does not think differently from the People Alliance when it comes to ties with this party. However, the continued low profile of the HDP and CHP’s successful management of the process avoided further actions by the People Alliance.

The strategy of the opposition alliance has not much changed since the local elections in 2019. They continue to focus on the real problems of Turkey, like the economy, unemployment and high cost of living while avoiding new culture or ideology wars with the AKP, as seen during the conversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque.

They are also trying to build a common manifest to be used in the next elections based on the need for the re-installation of the parliamentary system in prevailing democracy, rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
So far, this strategy seems to work and efforts to re-design Turkish politics have remained futile.