The presidential elections and the opposition

The presidential elections and the opposition

The 2014 presidential elections present(ed) an important opportunity for the opposition parties. If, their performance until now is any indicator, it seems they will squander this opportunity as well.

The answer to the crisis of presidential elections the opposition seems to be trapped in is hidden in the Turkish political landscape that became clearly visible since 2007. The key for the opposition to climb out of this crisis is in their capacity to change this political landscape.

That Turkey was going to face a tripartite campaign race during 2014-2015 has been known since the Constitutional Court ruling on the amendments to the electoral laws in 2012. The upcoming presidential elections signify the last chance for the opposition, which already relinquished the March 30 elections to the actors of Dec. 17, 2013, to prove that it can change.

In fact, the moment the March 30 elections came to mean more than local elections was the moment the first round of the presidential polls were completed. If the opposition continues to remain indifferent to the presidential race, there might even be no need for a second round. If that is the case, the outcome of the no-longer-necessary second tour will not be unlike the 2015 general elections.

Given the current circumstances, it would be expected that the opposition would turn the presidential race into an existential issue. On the contrary, we are witnessing the opposition gradually slipping away from constructive politics and evolving into an anti-political entity that prefers the streets to the political sphere. The tragic result is that opportunities such as the presidential race are being squandered. 

Neither the Republican People’s Party (CHP) nor the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) can seem to find the courage to transcend beyond their anti-Erdoğan rhetoric and transform themselves into builders of a new Turkey. After every defeat at the polls, instead of taking account of the rights and wrongs like any responsible political actor, they choose to stay in their comfort zone, namely the limited areas of the political landscape in which they are trapped. Unfortunately, this limited existence in limited areas of the country does not seem to bother the CHP all that much despite the fact that it calls itself the “main opposition party.”

Ultimately, the CHP has not demonstrated the necessary moral or political accountability to reflect on, or to draw lessons from its certain defeat at the polls. Similarly, the MHP, as long as it passes the electoral threshold and holds seats in the Parliament, does not seem to be interested in any issue that does not directly concern its constituency.

As such, the opposition parties are forfeiting any claim they might have had in Turkish politics in general. Neither the CHP nor the MHP feels the need to take any responsibility for the democratization of the country, as long as there is a party like the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) that seems to be doing just that.

Although the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which deserves another column just for itself, substantially differs from the other two opposition parties, it does not seem to understand that acting like a “political counterweight” as in Iraq will not help it outgrow its reason for existence as the solution to a single problem.

For the two opposition parties to take any responsibility in the country’s democratization, their leaders will have to undergo fundamental changes, revise their 20th century ideological positions, venture out of their comfort zones, and take the risk of trying to persuade their constituency to accept change.

The tragedy is that every day the opposition parties fail to take such risks is another day they allow the AK Party to become the dominant party. They don’t seem to realize that the more they delay taking this risk, the more they seem to be implicitly giving their constituents the idea that the AK Party is the address for change.