Turkish opposition insists on impartial presidency

Turkish opposition insists on impartial presidency

A week after the Istanbul municipal election rerun, which handed a clear and unprecedented victory to the opposition’s candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu, all political parties have been continuing their assessments on the results.

The opposition bloc and its components have increased hopes for the future in light of the Istanbul election results, trying to draw an efficient road map to this end. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is also working on the election results to find out what went wrong and to agree on measures to correct the mistakes of the past.

There are so many speculations about whether or not President and AKP chairman Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will undergo a reshuffle in both the cabinet and his party organization, accompanied with drastic policy changes on key economic and foreign policy matters.

The opposition side seems to be clearer on how to proceed. Obviously, the climax of this partnership has been observed in the Istanbul re-run elections that opened the doors of the Istanbul Municipality to İmamoğlu with a record-high vote.

At the end of the day, a social democrat, a nationalist, a pro-Kurdish and a conservative party were able to come together for a well-chosen candidate, displaying a rare political compromise in Turkish political history. Furthermore, he also garnered votes from AKP and MHP voters, making clear that with the change of the political landscape he even has the potential to widen his electorate.

However, having said all, what’s more important is how this alliance will prolong its life during a considerably long election-free period. Sustaining such a coalition in the long-run requires motivation, common objectives and a project.

The motivation is there: This alliance is a product of years-long polarization policies conducted by the Erdoğan rule. But it’s not enough. This alliance needs to build a set of common principles and objectives outlining their future vision. They should include a process of democratization for Turkey by enhancing human rights, lifting restrictions on the use of fundamental freedoms and taking measures for an impartial and independent judicial system. Then, all these principles and objectives should turn into a project to be materialized through constitutional reforms. That surely requires a good majority in the new parliament.

That’s why CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu reportedly told his lawmakers at a party assembly meeting on July 1 that he is in favor of a strengthened parliamentary system, but that the priority should be given to secure “50 percent plus one vote” in the next elections.

Apart from this long-run strategy, they should also adopt short and medium-term priorities, as launching a debate on the entire governmental system after a win merely in a municipal election is not a wise move.

There seem to be four main items on the road map of the opposition. The performances of local mayors will have a crucial role in introducing the opposition bloc led by the CHP as a potential government in the future. İmamoğlu in Istanbul, Mansur Yavaş in Ankara and elected mayors elsewhere will have all the attention on them in this period. In relation to this, the tension between the government and the opposition over the mayors would flare-up in the coming months if the AKP and MHP take legal steps to curb the rights of the elected mayors. 

Justice will continue to be on the agenda of the opposition. Kılıçdaroğlu, in his parliamentary group on July 2, emphasized this notion as the continued basis of their political language in a way to embrace all the citizens in the country, as well as all imprisoned intellectuals, journalists and politicians with political motives.

The third notion is the economy. Economic conditions are very volatile and are hitting ordinary citizens very hard. Kılıçdaroğlu opted to take the case of former Parliament Speaker and current AKP member Bülent Arınç, who has recently
been appointed as one of the members of the presidential high advisory board.

In the first meeting of the board, Arınç and other members decided to increase their monthly salaries from 13,000 Turkish Liras to 18,000 liras. When criticized over this pay rise, Arınç accused his critics of being “shameless.”

“You better look at the mirror if you are talking about shamelessness. The people are paying your wage,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.

The fourth issue the opposition is raising is the controversial status of Erdoğan as both the country’s president and the AKP’s chairman, although the Turkish Constitution stipulates an impartial head of the nation.

In a bid to single out Erdoğan’s declining capacity in ruling Turkey, Kılıçdaroğlu decided to highlight this controversy without mentioning a comprehensive constitutional amendment to return to the parliamentary system. Kılıçdaroğlu suggested a referendum to ask the people whether they are fine with the existing status of Erdoğan or they want the re-installment of impartial presidency.  

The main target of the opposition’s strategy is likely to be Erdoğan himself in line with the rise of dissident voices among the former and current cadres within the AKP.

Serkan Demirtaş, opposition parties, presidential system,