Turkey’s largest party today is the ‘Erdoğan-must-be-stopped party’: Author

Turkey’s largest party today is the ‘Erdoğan-must-be-stopped party’: Author

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Turkey’s largest party today is the ‘Erdoğan-must-be-stopped party’: Author The Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) holds the key for the upcoming general election, according to political scientist and author Ateş İlyas Başsoy, adding that it must target wavering voters of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in order to pass the 10 percent election threshold.

Başsoy, the author of a popular book published in 2011 on how the AKP succeeds in managing perceptions compared to the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) titled “Why the AKP Wins, Why the CHP Loses,” told the Hürriyet Daily News that Turkey’s biggest current force is the “Erdoğan-must-be-stopped party.”

What do you see when you look at Turkey as it approaches the general elections?

Turkey had a very important opportunity with the Gezi incidents. It had the opportunity to be a society of trust. Societies can be put into three categories: First are infant societies, like those in the Middle East, where there is total adoration for their parents, their leaders in other words. This is a culture of submission. In adolescent societies, like Turkey, Russia and Mexico, there is an ontological war with the self, there is revolt. In adult societies, like those in Europe, there is simply affection for parents and society is at peace with itself.

With the Gezi incidents, we were set on a course to become such a society. We said, “We don’t need to worship a leader; we can rule ourselves.” But this dream has been ruined. There is nothing more dangerous than the dream of someone who sees himself as a father who thinks he knows the best. Now there is an effort to turn Turkey into a society of “peace and tranquility,” like North Korea or Saudi Arabia. I use the word “peace” in quotation marks, of course, because Turkey has been a society of fear. What peace means here is that in order not to fear anything, citizens must obey the leader and find peace that way. This is what the presidential system aims for.

But the aim should be a society of confidence. This is what Turkey has been aiming at for 200 years. That’s what Westernization was all about. But now we are faced with the idiocy of reversing this process. But I don’t believe the efforts to manipulate and abort the Gezi spirit will succeed in the medium to long-term. There is a large, well-educated crowd in Turkey. I think these dark days will be left behind. There are also many among the AKP rulers and voters who are uneasy about the current situation. 

But at the moment the AKP is trying to establish a model of fascism with those who cannot reach information and those who are the most uneducated, with the help of media manipulation and other tools of power.

The upcoming elections are important in terms of the efforts you are talking about. What kind of an electoral period is ahead of us?

The AKP’s electoral campaign will be based on rigging and fraud. Using religion, for instance, is rigging to me. There is also more basic fraud during elections.

Are you talking about stealing votes?

That’s just one part of it. Look at the way campaign financing was done during the presidential elections, for example. But securing the ballot box will be especially important. You can be sure that right now, in dozens of rooms in the 1,100-room presidential palace in Ankara they are planning a very scientific way to steal votes.

Coming back to the parties, the main opposition CHP should stop predicting that an economic crisis will erupt. They have been saying that an economic crisis will take place for a long time. Economic crises can happen whether or not you say so, and the person who predicted it will be held responsible. Turkey has become integrated with the global economy, and the global economy will not allow an economic crisis to break out in Turkey. So the CHP should put aside this economic crisis rhetoric. Instead it should speak as if it is the government. It should talk about the projects that will bring quality to the living standards of ordinary citizens. The CHP usually talks like the opposition during the election period. But if it continues to follow the rhetoric of the AKP and simply object to everything said by the AKP, this will only serve the ruling party.

The key to these elections is the HDP. When the HDP opposed the government during the presidential elections, it was rewarded, but it was also punished when it opposed the CHP during the local elections. If the HDP becomes the party of the workers, of the poor, and of all those who live under hardship, it could become a party endorsing all of Turkey. Therefore I think it will pass the 10 percent threshold. In fact, it could even get one or two percent above the threshold. But the HDP needs to continue in the style that it adopted during the presidential elections.

In other words, what you are saying is that to the degree it criticizes the AKP and avoids targeting the CHP, it will steal votes from both the AKP and the CHP?

Yes. Let me explain. The biggest party in Turkey right now is the “AKP-must-not-win party,” the “Erdoğan-must-be-stopped party.” In a country where there is a 10 percent threshold, people don’t vote for the party they like but for the party with which they can meet at the lowest common denominator. If there was no threshold, or if the threshold was just 2 or 3 percent, the CHP would not get the votes it gets. The same is valid for the AKP and the [Nationalist Movement Party] MHP. People say, “If I don’t vote for this party, this will work in favor of the party I don’t like, so I would rather vote for this party.” The difference with these elections is that there is the possibility for a fourth party to make it into parliament.

The HDP has at least 6.5-7 percent of the votes. In the presidential election it got 9.7 percent. If it passes the threshold, it can stop the dictate of the three-party system. The worst case scenario of these elections is the HDP remaining below the threshold at 9.9 or 9.5 percent. The consequences would be terrible. So the HDP needs to target the votes of the leftists and liberals within the CHP.

But what will be the expectations of the voters? In general, pollsters say the economy remains the key determinant in voting behavior.

There are those who vote according to their political parties and those who vote according to the situation. A quarter of voters in Turkey are apolitical. Until now, the apolitical voter used to vote for the AKP. But the AKP has got Turkey involved in a war in Syria and there are over a million Syrian refugees [living in Turkey]. We are signing some international agreements that we don’t know much about. The AKP’s image as a moderate party doing good things is being eroded. Many have now started to wonder how things will end up if there is a change to a presidential system. So the election will be about which of the three parties can convince the voters. They are ready to be convinced.

You claim that the AKP’s image has been eroded, but the local and presidential elections showed otherwise.

That’s not how I read the local elections, which were chaotic. Although I said a quarter of voters are apolitical, there has been such polarization that even the apolitical ones decided to vote for the AKP for political reasons. All the leaked audio tapes, despite the fact that they were authentic, created a backlash, giving the impression that there was an international plot from outside. Some voted for the AKP saying, “I am against this outside design.” The CHP should not have used these tapes in its campaign.

Some say the MHP votes are rising in response to the rise of the HDP.

The MHP will definitely increase its votes. But there is another reason why the MHP will increase its votes: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL]. The MHP has found a third action to react to. The first was the leftists, the second was the Kurds. Today, some youth are becoming pro-ISIL in the suburbs and I know from the input of polls that others are reacting against the pro-ISIL people. There is a new dynamic that even the MHP is not aware of. The MHP has therefore found a new foe: Radical Islamists.

Why? Normally the MHP is also conservative and has no problem with religion.

Yes, but there are also youths who think radical Islamists are dragging Turkey into chaos. When you ask them, they say, “I don’t want Turkey to become like Syria.” A portion of the youth thinks that those who favor radical Islam are betraying Turkey. That’s the point where the MHP comes into the picture.

Who is Ateş İlyas Başsoy?

Ateş İlyas Başsoy was born in 1971 in Bursa. He began working in the newspaper industry in 1985.

Başsoy has written for satirical magazines as well as literary and art magazines. Since finishing university, he has also worked in the advertisement sector, and he is the author of “What is an Advertiser? How to Become an Advertiser?”

Başsoy penned a popular book in 2011 that examined why opposition political parties such as the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) could not be as successful as the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in shaping public perceptions, titled “Why the AKP Wins, Why the CHP Loses.” 

He was involved in the successful campaign that brought the CHP success in Antalya in the 2009 local elections, and he is a member of the board of the Turkey Intelligence Association.

In addition to his political analysis, Başsoy is also the author of a book of stories as well as a book on mathematics for students preparing for university entrance exams.