Politics revive as Turkey is poised to reopen

Politics revive as Turkey is poised to reopen

A nearly three-month-long emergency period due to the pandemic is coming to an end as the Turkish government is poised to gradually reopen the country in the coming days. The cabinet will get convened under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on May 28 and he will outline the normalization steps. Weekend curfews will likely be brought to an end and intercity travels will be resumed in the first week of June to boost tourism.

The step-by-step normalization process will also revive the political parties and the parliament, which will re-assemble on June 2. The leaders of the parties have already started to urge their party fellows to cease self-isolation and begin interactions with the people.

Erdoğan, who is at the same time the chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), called on all the AKP officials to actively return to their normal activities and hold meetings in their constituencies, in an online address to the party’s provincial heads on May 25.

Erdoğan wanted all his aides to explain how Turkey outperformed even the most developed nations in responding to the coronavirus and providing assistance to the people. In the meantime, the AKP is also working on a plan to resume the canceled provincial conventions by abiding by the social distancing rules.

Erdoğan’s main ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chair Devlet Bahçeli, has signaled that a set of legal amendments would come to the agenda of the parliament in the coming weeks. These amendments should be drafted in a way to reinforce the implementation of the executive-presidential system, Bahçeli said, explaining that changes on laws concerning the political parties and election should be on the list. A senior AKP official echoed Bahçeli’s words in the recent days, hinting an omnibus bill covering all these amendments would be in the pipeline after consultations with the MHP.

One of the drivers behind the AKP-MHP move is to make life difficult for the newly established political parties, the Future Party by Ahmet Davutoğlu and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) by Ali Babacan, particularly in case Turkey goes to early polls.

That is surely a response to Kemal Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the chairman of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), who said he won’t hesitate to pledge at least 20 lawmakers to each of these two parties so they can run in the elections, just as he did for the (İYİ) Good Party prior to June 2018 twin elections.

But the priority of Kılıçdaroğlu will continue to be the municipalities his mayors are running. He believes the performances of his mayors in Istanbul, Ankara, İzmir, Adana, Antalya and others will reverse the negative perspective on the CHP’s capacity to run the country.
His second priority is to keep the Nation Alliance with İYİ Party’s Meral Akşener solid and to expand it with Babacan and Davutoğlu. Although coming from different political backgrounds, they agree that democratic and economic deficiencies should immediately
be fixed through rational and structural moves.

Akşener’s proposal of setting a roundtable by the leaders of all the political parties to discuss the problems of the country and solutions to them has positively resonated among the oppositional circles while the AKP-MHP due categorically rejected. Both former AKP senior officials, Babacan and Davutoğlu have started to be more visible, particularly in the alternative and social media, as they criticize the AKP’s policies in various fields.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is also preparing for the new period. After months-long low profile and silence despite dozens of their mayors have been removed from their jobs and some of them having been detained on terror charges, HDP officials are working on a plan to re-activate the party through meetings and rallies. They hint at a tough opposition against the AKP.

One factor that will make the political discussions much more heated and tense is the worsening economy with rising unemployment. And consequently, more political polarization seems to be ahead.