Snapshots from Turkish politics in 2020

Snapshots from Turkish politics in 2020

For many, this is somehow to the advantage of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as it prevents Turkey’s acute economic and democratic problems from coming to the fore.

Although the overall economic situation seems to be under control and away from the turbulences of the past, the high cost of living and unemployment continue to hit a good portion of Turkish society.

Sticking to the foreign and security agenda does also help the government to consolidate the conservative and nationalist grassroots while leaving not much room for the opposition to stand against the AKP policies.

2019 was not a very good year for the AKP as it lost Istanbul and Ankara mayor’s posts to the Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) candidates, Ekrem İmamoğlu and Mansur Yavaş, who were, in fact, representing the “Nation Alliance” with the participation of the İYİ (Good) Party.

The cancellation of the Istanbul polls and İmamoğlu’s re-win with a bigger difference made the loss on the AKP’s side even more painful.

The ruling party will hold its provincial conventions throughout the year and will convene its big convention either late this year or early 2021. The party leadership sees these conventions at the local and general levels as a good opportunity to reshuffle the party management from the bottom to the top.

The new leadership under President and AKP Chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will lead the ruling party to the presidential and parliamentary polls in 2023, they stress.

The AKP’s main ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and its leader Devlet Bahçeli continue to stand with Erdoğan on all foreign and domestic issues. Bahçeli was off the political stage in the last quarter of 2019 due to a serious health problem.

Although he has gradually returned to his routine, his health conditions are still fragile. A leadership problem may be observed at the MHP in the coming period.

The CHP will also press the button for the provincial party conventions and all eyes will be in Istanbul on Feb 9. Canan Kaftancıoğlu, the sitting chairwoman of the CHP Istanbul organization, continues to receive the support of party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, but she still has opponents.

A more republican wing of the CHP hopes to topple her, but it won’t be easy. Kaftancıoğlu is believed to be one of the most important architects of the last year’s local election victory in Istanbul and her popularity has not eroded.

Apart from the in-house processes, Kılıçdaroğlu is also trying to keep the “Nation Alliance” in place and intact as he continues to underline that “there are two camps” in Turkey: Those who are in favor of democracy and those who are not. He suggested that today’s politics are not about being a leftist or rightist but being pro-democracy or anti-democracy. He wants to expand the scope of the pro-democratic camp as he frequently criticizes the civil society for not being active in terms of pressuring on the government for more democratic rights.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is also very active nowadays as it will hold its fourth big convention on Feb. 23 in Ankara. Expectations are that co-leaders of the party, Pervin Buldan and Sezai Temelli, will be re-elected for another term, although nothing is certain yet. But the more difficult task will be finding a new way to deal with the problems the HDP has long been facing. Former leaders of the party, Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, along with hundreds of other party officials, are still behind bars. Thirty-two mayors have been removed from their posts since the local election while 23 of them are in prison.

Two important concepts the HDP is planning to build its political road map are “the alliance of democracy” and becoming “the party of Turkey.” The latter concept has long been in circulation, especially since the 2015 elections, but was far from being realistically implemented due to the strong influence of the PKK on HDP leaders.

The vital question for the HDP is now whether it can grow a more independent line as the PKK has lost enormous power as a result of the massive anti-terror operations inside and outside Turkey.

The Good Party is loyal to the “Nation Alliance” and the dialogue between CHP’s Kılıçdaroğlu and Meral Akşener makes the cooperation feasible and sound. Akşener’s weekly addresses continue to hit Erdoğan’s AKP and she constantly criticizes the government over economy policies. It’s hoping to attract more urban nationalist votes as the case was in the local elections.

Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s Future Party was announced in the last week of 2019, but it is hard to suggest that it brought a new momentum to Turkish politics. Time and content are needed to see the real capacity of Davutoğlu’s party.

The eyes, however, are on Ali Babacan, former AKP economy minister, who has twice postponed the foundation of his party. In a statement, he said he will announce the new party very soon while many in Ankara believe that it will still take four to six weeks before Babacan concludes all necessary work.

The reason for the delay is very much related to the foundations on which Babacan wants to build his party, according to the sources.

He does not want to look like a continuation of the AKP or a politically conservative party and that’s why he wanted to persuade some social-democrat figures along with center-right politicians to join his party.

Besides, he is now re-designing the list of the founders of the party by excluding some former senior AKP figures from the list.