SP: A kingmaker in 2019 elections?
Turkey’s conservative Felicity Party (SP) has gained real momentum under Temel Karamollaoğlu, 77, who has led the party since October 2016. With tensions continuously on the rise in Turkish politics, Karamollaoğlu’s party opts for a new and smoother genre.
There are some political parties that cannot be considered in terms of their vote rates. Small parties sometimes wield a strategic importance. SP is one of them. In the last legislative elections held on November 2015, SP won only 0.68 percent of total votes. Although the score was disastrous, faithful cadres decided to carry on with the struggle. SP’s previous leader, Mustafa Kamalak (70), stepped down and paved the way for Temel Karamollaoğlu.
In early TV shows, the SP’s new leader already displayed an unusual portrait. He quoted Western philosophers, made academic-level sociological analyses and embraced an inclusive political discourse.
Since its historical leader, Necmettin Erbakan, traditional SP politics were mainly directed towards hard-line Islamic references. Even if its conservative features survived, nowadays the SP tends to avoid polarizing positions in this regard. The general shift of policy undertaken by Karamollaoğlu was not that simple at the beginning.
Indeed, Karamollaoğlu had a problematic reputation. While he was the mayor of the Sivas province, in 1993, he failed to stop a furious crowd of protestors lynching prominent Alevi journalists.
As time passed by, however, the Turkish public discovered that incidents in Sivas were primarily the work of the “deep-state.” This is why we may, from today’s perspective, assert that Karamollaoğlu had few options available to him.
Nowadays, Karamollaoğlu has the ears of conservatives, nationalists but also socialists and even Alevis.
His recent refusal to join the right-wing alliance between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) suddenly propelled SP into mesmerizing media spots.
Public opinion, on the other hand, seems to have developed a general sympathy towards this old man who was barely known a year ago.
Paradoxically, young generations also show interest in Karamollaoğlu’s stances.
I think the key reason behind this is the SP leader’s efforts towards balance. Karamollaoğlu mobilizes a national vision with rational and moderate approaches.
As Turkish politics becomes more and more centered on negative campaigns, Temel Karamollaoğlu’s constructive posture wins him a lot of credit.
The “SP alternative” has surely become a serious factor in the national equation. All other political actors are now required to give a minimum of attention on what the SP actually represents. Various opposition parties are now courting the SP’s leader. However, and this is important, the Turkish parliamentary system exists no more. Rather than a strong party or a party with great potential, Turkey needs a presidential candidate in the 2019 elections.
Not long ago, nearly everybody thought that MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli would be the most influential politician in the upcoming presidential elections. Today, things have changed.
Obviously, Temel Karamollaoğlu is not the best candidate for 2019. Nevertheless, his possible role as “kingmaker” is gently coming to the fore.