An uneasy alliance

An uneasy alliance

Talk in the Ankara village is that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the junior opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) have almost sealed an “election alliance” accord for the forthcoming mayoral elections. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was said to be enraged at this development and that is why a contest of “cesspit language” has continued for a while between the AKP and the MHP.

Can the two opposition parties continue talks and eventually engage in a win-win alliance in the upcoming election? It won’t be the first in Turkish politics but definitely will be a first-ever alliance between the CHP and MHP in any election, of course excluding a successful small test in Bursa in the last parliamentary election. It might be said that the social democratic CHP has always been nationalist as much as it has been a leftist party and particularly since the rise to power of the Islamists has become often more nationalist than the MHP. No one can dispute that. Indeed, that was the main complaint of die-hard CHP supporters with their party. Reconciling nationalism with the left, melting social democratic principles, Kemalism and nationalism in one pot was not an easy job.

The MHP, on the other hand, has long abandoned its racist approaches to nationhood and has been suffering labor pains to convince the masses that its understanding of nationalism embraces everyone living on this land, irrespective of race, ethnicity, religion or mother tongue. Indeed, Assyrian, Kurdish or Christian members of the party were often given prominent roles in local party organizations to demonstrate the “all-inclusive nationalism” the party claims to have been pursuing.

Still, can the CHP and the MHP agree on joint lists of candidates in mayoral elections? Names of mayoral candidates might not be that big a problem, but what about city assemblies where hundreds of candidates will compete? How will these two parties cooperate? The talk in the town is that the media should not be bothered with such “delicacies of politics” and city by city a cooperation scheme will be finalized by the two parties with the understanding that after it is removed from local governance the AKP cannot cling to the central government.

For example, it is claimed that under the deal the MHP will support the CHP candidates in Istanbul and social democratic stronghold İzmir, while in Ankara the CHP will support the MHP candidate. Although İzmir is generally considered to be an easy win for the CHP, after alterations on provincial borders the electoral map of the city might be altered and the AKP might have a chance of winning. With the MHP lending support, İzmir will still be a very easy win for the CHP. In Istanbul the AKP’s last mayoral strength was 44 percent. The latest polls show it might have reduced to around 41 percent. Irrespective the CHP was at 37.6 percent in the last poll while the MHP was at 5 percent. A combined vote might score a victory in the largest city in Turkey. In Ankara the AKP scored 38 percent in the last election as opposed to the 31 percent of the CHP and 21 percent of the MHP. The CHP supporting the MHP in Ankara would mean a comfortable victory for the MHP. Of course in all these three big cities as well as in other cities they will cooperate to choose candidates who will appeal to the electoral base of both parties.

In any case, politics is no easy job and as is said it is an area where mathematics often doesn’t work. Adding 31 to 21 might not produce 52 while adding 37 to five might exceed 44, depending how such collaboration is perceived by the people. After all, as is often said, politics is an art of perception rather than realities.