Internal row may further strengthen İYİ Party’s Akşener
The governmental People’s Alliance, composed of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), is following a three-legged policy against the oppositional Nation Alliance by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the İYİ (Good Party), the Felicity Party and the Democrat Party. The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is not a formal member of the alliance; it just acts as an indirect supporter of the Nation Alliance during election times.
They block the Nation Alliance at the parliament by rejecting all their efforts to be a part of legislative activities and checks-and-balances mechanism. The opposition’s law proposals, amendments on the laws and initiatives to launch parliamentary inspection on many social issues have been totally rejected.
Blocking the oppositional activities is more solidly observed when it comes to a competition between the government and opposition-run municipalities, particularly in Istanbul and Ankara. Preparations for drafting a law to entirely overhaul the law on the municipalities are ongoing at the governmental front, which is expected to transfer many of the local governments’ authorities to the central government.
Plus, as seen in the early days of the national fight against the pandemic, the government did not hesitate to block the municipalities’ humanitarian assistance to the people in need. This attitude reflects itself harder against the HDP mayors as nearly two-thirds of them have already been imprisoned due to alleged
links to the PKK and were replaced by the government-appointed trustees.
The government’s second option is to ignore the opposition parties and municipalities. In well-functioning democracies, it’s normal that the government members regularly inform and update the opposition parties and the parliament on crucial national issues. Although Turkey has so many ongoing national issues to follow, this communication between the government and opposition does not exist almost in many cases.
Ignoring the mayors is also attributable to the government’s strategy. Istanbul Mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu is the local politician suffering from this total blackout. He is not invited to the very important meetings, even those about Istanbul’s readiness for a major earthquake or about the ongoing struggle to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Turkey’s largest metropolis.
The third pillar of the People Alliance strategy is meddling in the internal affairs of opposition parties in a bid to weaken and disunite the Nation Alliance. As this column has underlined a few times, the İYİ Party is seen as the soft belly of the opposition alliance and thus has already been subject to some plots. But the most severe one is now happening inside the İYİ Party after a prominent MP, Ümit Özdağ, suggested that the party’s Istanbul head is a member of FETÖ.
Özdağ’s unexpected move comes after his name was dropped from the İYİ Party’s executive-management list by another top İYİ Party figure, Koray Aydın. Both Aydın and Özdağ followed İYİ Party chair Meral Akşener when she quit the MHP and founded the İYİ Party in 2016 and since then worked closely with her. Another similarity between the two is the fact that both men have a good reputation among the state apparatus due to their strong nationalist positions.
Many İYİ Party members recall that the government submitted a summary of proceeding against Özdağ in April on charges of violating a law on the functions of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and argue that his strings are at the hands of the People Alliance. The party is now discussing whether Özdağ should be expelled through disciplinary action or not.
Akşener is pursuing a very careful line nowadays in a bid not to derail what she has built over the recent years. Instead of engaging in a direct quarrel with Özdağ or the People Alliance’s spokesperson, she is focusing on her agenda by hitting the government through the economy and social matters.
For many, she is receiving her rewards for this strategy. Some credible public opinion surveys show that she is the most liked opposition leader with around 30 percent, while the İYİ Party increased its votes to a 13 to 15 percent margin.
Her messages to the people are neat, easy to comprehend and without fancy words. Her emphasis on democracy and fundamental freedoms distinguishes her from the nationalist rhetoric and paves the way for her to reach out to more urban and moderate voters.
However, she still has to prove genuine leadership to keep the İYİ Party right on track and united until the next elections.