Tension in politics may lead to early polls in mid-2018

Tension in politics may lead to early polls in mid-2018

Turkey marked the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016, coup attempt last week with the participation of masses across the country under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The parliament gathered on July 15 in a special session to commemorate the coup attempt and mark the role of the four political parties in defending democracy and the dignity of the parliament, which was under heavy bombardment on the night of the attempted takeover. 

However, the week-long commemorations were far from highlighting the need of unity and solidarity and promoting compromise between different political parties for a peaceful and terror-free country. 

Despite high expectations that political tension would be de-escalated following the anniversary of the coup attempt, leaders’ addresses to their parliamentary groups proved the opposite. 

Continuing Erdoğan’s strong accusations against main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım maintained a harsh rhetoric against the social democrat leader, which aims at associating him with terror organizations, namely the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). 

Yıldırım pressed Kılıçdaroğlu over his FETÖ-related discourse, especially his “controlled coup” comments, advising him not to fall under the control of the Gülenists. In reference to the CHP’s “justice march,” Yıldırım stressed walking hand-in-hand with terror-affiliated groups and people would constitute a big disrespect to the martyrs of the July 15 coup attempt. 

In response to both Erdoğan and Yıldırım’s accusations, Kılıçdaroğlu blamed the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government for using undemocratic and non-peaceful ways to intimidate the opposition groups. He accused the government of using decree laws under the emergency rule in order to fight the opposition groups and of introducing a drafted bill to silence the opposition parties in parliament. 

All these, Kılıçdaroğlu claimed, were examples of a one-man rule under a party state which has engaged in curbing the rights of the opposition parties and dissidents, including academics, journalists and activists. That was why he vowed to continue street protests; to end this oppressive regime for the sake of democracy. 

All these indicate that in-house political tension tends to further escalate with more oppositional massive protests and government responses to them. The political language is full of insulting and labeling each other while the media is not hesitating to add fuel to the flames. 

All these tension point at just one target as voiced by government and opposition camps:  To win the twin elections in 2019, which will elect the head of the nation who will enjoy excessive powers under the new constitution and the parliament. However, for many in Ankara, it will be hard to sustain the stability and balance in the country under this heavy political tension until 2019 and that’s why snap polls in mid-2018 would not be a surprise. 

The parliament’s current agenda sets this goal as well. It will soon approve changes to the internal regulation of the parliament so that a package of bills to harmonize existing laws with the new amendments in the constitution could be legislated as quickly as possible. This process is expected to be concluded before the end of this year. After all these are done, there is no other obstacle to bringing polls forward. 

This climate indicates a rather tense period in Turkish politics awaits the entire nation.