Elect or Erect: 2015 Elections in Turkey

It is hard to state that majority of the Turkish citizens are equally interested in upcoming elections. AKP voters are sure that their party will win yet another election by 40 to 50 %. This confidence partially stems from the typical belief that the standard voter is inclined towards a stable future which is supposed to be associated and represented by the ruling AKP. This inclination towards stability can be mostly attributed to the economic factors such as social aids which should be the right of the citizens from a social state point of view, but instead enveloped as grants to the obeying subjects by the benevolent government and its leader. Another factor worth mentioning here is the huge debt burden pressuring millions of people in the country. This massive debt burden scares people to death which in turn provides a firm foundation for the continuity of AKP. Furthermore, unlike the preceding rulers of the country, AKP leaders try their best to stick to their posts for successive terms, as their fall means prosecutions for numerous issues such as corruption, embezzlement, misuse of political authority and public funds, unfair trials, and killings of protestors during Gezi Park demonstrations among many others. That is one of the major motives behind Erdogan’s unconstitutional moves such as asking votes for AKP. This is definitely unconstitutional as the seat of Turkish presidency is sanctioned to be impartial to political parties. Obviously, that has never been the case during the first century of the Turkish republic, but still the formal requirements were never openly breached in contrast to Erdogan’s era of presidency. It is usually stated that AKP supporters never vote for a party, but Erdogan. Future prosecution of Erdogan may start the domino prosecutions, if it would ever take place. Although Davutoglu, the incumbent prime minister has been seen to be in conflict with the ‘supreme leader’, he has mostly fulfilled his position as a seat-filler or a puppet with the de facto authority stripped from prime minister seat to the benefit of the presidency.


Then come the 3 major parties of the parliament which have been dramatically influenced by the minimum 10% rule which bars the parliamentary representation of any party with less than 10% of the votes at the country level. This ban which targeted left-wing parties with a smaller percentage of votes have not only obstructed a free election climate for those parties, but also led to disproportionate representation of the major parties, as the votes for the <10% parties have been transferred to the >10% parties. With this 10% ban which is among the dark contributions of the 1980 military coup, it is hard to say that elections are free before any other consideration such as AKP’s use of public resources for the election campaigns.


The second party as to the percentage of votes is CHP with a likely 23-28% of the votes. The party has been considered to be the only viable alternative for anti-government voters during AKP’s reign until the rise of HDP, the fourth party. CHP boasting itself as the inheritor of the founding party of the Kemalist Turkey has undergone a number of changes which have apparently led to fragmentation and regrouping of its voter base. Until recently, it was a party with full support of Kemalists and majority support from Alevis who are the greatest Muslim minority in Turkey (15-30 million out of 78 million Turkish citizens). After CHP’s alliance with MHP, the ultra nationalist party for the presidential elections (2014) and the right-leaning candidate lists for the upcoming elections, Alevi and/or pro-leftist voters felt strongly alienated. A proportion of these alienated voters either lost their interest in parliamentary elections and forgot about the ballot box, while some others voted and will vote for HDP’s candidates either because they switched to HDP or to give a lesson to CHP so that it can rely on its left-leaning wings or to lend their votes one time only without any interest in HDP. The second major development for CHP was the elimination and split of a number of leading Kemalist/nationalist cadres which ultimately led to the formation of 1-3% parties which don’t have any chance to join the parliament. CHP as a mass party oscillates between leftist and rightist discourses and practices, while the rightist tones supreme the most during the recent months.


The 3rd party is MHP which has a bloody heritage of killing hundreds and thousands of intellectuals, writers, journalist, students and before all Alevis in 1970s. AKP’s well-planned manoeuvres between Islamicism and Turkism reverberates well in MHP’s voter base, as it is an artificial Cold War era party which does not differ from, and in fact does represent the official ideology. The party had lost a significant portion of its voter base as AKP moved from being a governing party to a state party throughout its 13-year-long rule, which means light years have passed over its designation as a pro-Western Islamist splinter group by its evolution to the sole owner of the central right position. MHP’s ideology has no contradiction with AKP’s neo-liberalism or Islamism. It is a party which experienced a brief revival as a result of the nationalist reactions against the Kurdish insurgency, but AKP’s central rightist position still takes its toll in MHP’s voter base.


Finally, the 4th party is HDP which evolved from the legal wing of the Kurdish insurgents to a multifaceted all-country party harbouring candidates from labour and professional organizations, LGTBI communities, right groups, leftist organizations etc. The forecasts confirm its likely results around the 10% block with (+/-) 1 % error rate. The former election map shows that AKP and HDP are the only all-country parties, as CHP and MHP can’t win in any South-eastern and Eastern Anatolian cities -with minor exceptions, while HDP needs to expand its voter base in the Western cities of the country, moving from the image of a pro-Kurdish party to a pro-democracy party to secure accession to the parliament. It is expected in both cases (i.e. accession or exclusion of HDP) that AKP would not be able to win the sufficient number of seats that it dreams of for major changes such as a likely instalment of a presidential system merging the prime minister seat and the presidency. However, considering the fact that Erdogan has already been acting both as the president and the prime minister, another election victory would mean tightening of the regime that won’t let the anti-government people to breath, i.e. a far worse condition than the current security-oriented climate. That is why, according to many Gezi protestors, regardless of the result of the elections, the street will always be the backbone of radical political practices where AKP as well as the fake parliamentary regime will be questioned and challenged. More can be and will be added; but in one way or another, new protests are due.


While 2015 is the year of election for most of the parties, it is the year of erection for the ruling AKP which considers it as another stepping stone to build its ‘New Turkey’ which is a misnomer, as what AKP offers is a version of cold-blooded neo-liberalism with an Ottoman varnish. Elect or erect… The history will decide…