Understanding Turkey and the elections

Understanding Turkey and the elections

In this column, I wrote five articles directly concerning the electoral race. I offered analyses of both the incumbent and the opposition parties. I claimed that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) would sail through elections with ease. And it was only last week you read the article in which I claimed that the outcome of the March 30th elections was already determined on Dec. 17, 2013, the day of the police-judiciary operation. I had written similarly bold claims once before during the campaign for the elections of July 22, 2007. The motivation animating these claims in both cases was the same – external intervention in politics.

Although the outcome of this election was clearly evident, roughly 70 percent of the media outlets that constitute the Turkish media told a completely different story. The same clichés and slogans were reiterated time and again as if their perpetual and collective repetition magically transformed these slogans into facts. These clichés and slogans were confronted with reality on March 30. There is a considerable market for these Kemalist and liberal platitudes in the global media. In fact, these truisms offer a picture of a comfortable intellectual world. So much so that the need for analyses that rely on history, sociology, politics and geopolitics are completely eliminated.

The experience is not all that different from the experience of following the news only from a TV channel that broadcasts “headlines” around the clock. Those who perceive themselves as followers of Turkish politics are only aware of the events in the most general terms. They possess neither the contextual nor the factual knowledge necessary to comment on events in Turkey. Of course, that is not to say that Turkey is exempt from the responsibility of expressing itself more and better. However, those who are interested are equally responsible for critically evaluating the media sources from which they derive their news about Turkey. At the very least, they should be able to acknowledge that there is a different story at play here than the one that conveyed March 30 as the expiration date for both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the AK Party for the last three months.

Some 70 percent of the Turkish media depicted the electoral race as if they did not reside in Turkey. They appeared to have forgotten the fact that Turkey, and therefore the electoral race, consisted of seven regions and not just the two in which the Republican People’s Party (CHP) did slightly better than the AK Party. The CHP collected less than 10 percent of the votes in 40 out of the 81 provinces that make up the country. Their vote ratios are even lower than 1 percent in some eastern and southeastern provinces. Under these conditions, it is impossible for the CHP to compete against the AK Party in any electoral race, let alone win. Other opposition parties are in even worse conditions than the CHP. This political reality is not really all that difficult to comprehend.

To win the elections in Turkey, one must necessarily run in the race. The AK Party wins the elections because it is the only party that is capable of running in all political districts in Turkey. But why is that? Answering this question first requires the purging of all media truisms and liberal platitudes. It requires an extensive comprehension of the dynamics that constitute the AK Party’s conditions of possibility.

Once their empty rhetoric are set aside, a picture in which opposition parties circumvent every attempt at democratization becomes clear. Answering this question also requires an understanding of what Erdoğan – with all his faults and virtues – mean for this country. It requires the recognition that it was Erdoğan who put a stop to the 30-year-long bloodshed for the last 18 months. This list can go on.