Opposition falls behind in transition

Opposition falls behind in transition

Since Aug. 10, the day when the Turkish people elected the country’s 12th president, things have been going well for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). It completed a historic transition within the party by smoothly appointing Ahmet Davutoğlu as the new chairman and prime minister to succeed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

Davutoğlu has already hit the road for the 2015 elections, after forming his government and reading the government’s program at Parliament, he will now seek a vote of confidence. Erdoğan and Davutoğlu did not allow even the tiniest wave inside the party and seem to be content that the party will run for the upcoming elections in good shape.

The opposition parties, however, are not giving the same picture in the post-election period. Let’s begin with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), which will hold its extraordinary congress Sept. 5-6.

The CHP’s leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu became the center of criticism after the party’s joint candidate with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, lost the presidential elections against Erdoğan. Kılıçdaroğlu’s opponents, mainly the ultra-nationalist wing of the party, wanted to challenge his leadership, but it seems obvious Kılıçdaroğlu will use this week’s congress as an opportunity to get rid of these ultra-nationalists. But problems remain on the table for the CHP. Although there is an ongoing lively debate over the CHP’s future strategies and policies, what is seen is Kılıçdaroğlu will not give up in opening the party to more center-right policies. There are rumors he will invite more former center-right and even conservative figures to the party in order to expand the scope of potential voters.

However, there are serious questions that have to be raised before this strategy takes place. For many social democrats, these moves are not helping the party to increase its voters; instead it loses its identity. Nominating İhsanoğlu for the presidential race and Mansur Yavaş, a former ultra-nationalist politician, for Ankara Mayor were two strategic mistakes in the eyes of Kılıçdaroğlu’s dissidents. For them, the party should stick to universal social democracy and help itself to become a genuine leftist party. The CHP’s approach on the Kurdish issue and the democratization process are seen as key areas to this end.

As for the MHP, not much can be said as the party’s sole motivation is to oppose the ongoing Kurdish peace process. However, it fails to see there is a general change in the Turkish public opinion regarding the Kurdish issue and their tone on this issue has softened compared with the past. Besides, the MHP are giving signals of splitting into two parts: secular and religious nationalists. There are signs that the latter group voted in favor of Erdoğan in the presidential elections, a development that boosted the AKP’s appetite for the upcoming elections. 

The Kurdish political movement seems to be satisfied with the post-election developments. Erdoğan’s presidency and the fact that the new government has placed the Kurdish peace process as the highest priority are two important developments for them. It’s also observable that they have welcomed the government program and the new structure that will carry out negotiations. It won’t be a surprise to observe further rapprochement between the Kurds and the ruling party. The most likely fruit of this process would be the acceleration of the peace process and a fresh deal for the new Constitution, something that will be on the top of the country’s agenda after the 2015 elections.