By: contribution for Syrializm
The February 6th earthquake that struck Türkiye and Syria was very painful, with horrible devastation in more than 10 Turkish cities and 10 Turkish provinces, with more than 44,000 dead and hundreds of thousands of people left homeless, not to mention businesses and shops, economic facilities and others were destroyed by the earthquake.
Without a doubt, the timing of the earthquake was catastrophic for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at time when the country is approaching elections described as decisive and fateful, which will take place, according to what the Turkish president confirmed on the 14th of next May, despite the catastrophe of the earthquake.
Life in Türkiye haven’t been good for years, especially economically and people’s livelihood, which is the main factor that concerns the Turkish people.
The economy and the cost of living in the country witnessed a significant decline several years ago, with an inflation rate currently around 57%, and exchange rate of the US dollar equals 18.87 Turkish Liras.
With the catastrophe of the earthquake, the situation in the country has become more severe, with an increasing burden and grave challenges on the Turkish government and the Turkish people alike, and more than it was before the earthquake.
It’s no secret to the observer of the conditions in Türkiye, the increasing popular anger and the rising voices opposing Erdogan’s and his party’s remaining in power, with the saying that large number of Turks keep saying, “20 years in power, that’s enough… let him go and someone else come”.
The Turkish people complain a lot about their living conditions, and the refugees’ subject in the country, especially Syrians, adds a great deal of political tension.
Popular resentment over the Syrian, Afghani and others remaining in the country is well known, although these feelings may have been exaggerated, as if their presence in Türkiye is the cause of the economic decline, and may even the cause of the earthquake as well!
Most of the refugees who live in Türkiye work in type of jobs and under living conditions that most Turks cannot tolerate and don’t accept.
In addition, most Turk business owners are taking advantage of their conditions and circumstances in terms of hiring them to work for longer hours and for lower wages than the Turkish citizen would accept.
Most of the Turks won’t accept such conditions.
On the other hand, there is an elite of those “foreigners”, and let’s talk here about a percentage of Syrians, for example, who are among the elite in terms of levels of education and skills, as most of them today have obtained Turkish citizenship, and many of them during the past ten years established businesses and companies, which created more jobs opportunities.
As a summary of this part, it remains to be said that the problem of foreigners and refugees in Türkiye is part of the arguments that some Turks who are dissatisfied with the economic conditions in the country cling to, only to insinuate in terms of this issue link to some positions and political approach followed by the Turkish president and his ruling party.
Regardless of the Turkish leadership validity of political approach, it remains to say that the issue of preserving power and winning any elections in Türkiye is only determined by the economic and living cost only.
Before the events of what was known as the Arab Spring in 2011 to the failed coup attempt in July 2016, the economic situation in Türkiye remained somewhat acceptable.
However, after 2016, the economic situation in the country began to decline, as many neglect to admit that there are Western hands behind the coup attempt and they necessarily have a role in the decline of the economic situation as well, and they are the same hands that supported the Turkish economy so that it characterized the state of health that Türkiye enjoys before 2016, since the AKP came to power in 2002.
Some who oppose the Turkish president’s policies may say that he incorporates in his policies that he seeks towards “Ottomanism” approach, and between a foreign policy that follows the perspective of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the economic approach that goes in harmony with his political view, which is a factor that contributed to maintaining sufficient popularity that was reserved the power for the Justice and Development Party and Recep Tayyip Erdogan for two decades.
On the other hand, many people notice that Türkiye has involved itself in many intertwined foreign issues, as the situation is similar to the fact that an army opens 10 fronts at once, and wants to fight in all of them at once, at a time when the people are facing economic difficulties, and some security shocks which caused by opening all these external fronts at once.
The people at home are suffering from the severity of the difficult economic situation, and then the February 6 earthquake came to make matters worse.
It can be said that luck, or if some may call it divine conciliation, plays a role in the survival of the Justice and Development Party and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in power until now, and today we find the Turkish opposition disunited and in a miserable situation, and the fact that the head of the Good Party (IYI), Meral Akışnar, announced her withdrawal from the Six Turkish opposition parties coalition (the table of six) is nothing but confirmation of the Turkish opposition fragmentation, which is in the interest of the ruling authority.
With a simple analysis, and by observing the current numbers, according to European Statistics for the largest parties in the country, we find the following:
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) ranks first with an approval rate of 33.5% as of the date of this article, followed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP) with 26.6%, then the Good Party (IYI) with 14.2%, the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with 10.6%, then the National Movement Party (MHP) which’s loyal to government, with 6.6%, and the remaining percentages don’t exceed 2.2% for DEVA Party (led by Ali Babacan), the Zafer Party (led by the controversial politician Umit Ozdag) with 2.1%, then the Future Party (led by Ahmet Davutoglu) with 1.8%, and the New Refah Party (led by Necmettin Erbakan’s son, Fatih Erbakan) with 1.6, followed by the Saadet party, the Democratic Party, the Homeland Party, and other small parties with varying small percentages.
The political blocs of the opposition forces, needs to unite if they wanna win, because the Justice and Development Party and its ally the National Movement Party have a total of 40% of the total votes (according to current statistics), and additional percentages from a group of small parties may be added to it at crucial moments, which’s not explicitly affiliated with the Turkish opposition, which adopts nationalist, Islamic and even socialist ideologies, in addition to the votes of young people who have never been participated in elections, a category that the both, authority and opposition have been seeking to gain its support.
In general, the Turkish president may be somewhat in comfortable position as he watches the disintegration of the opposition, especially with Mrs. Akşener leaving the coalition, and it may be smart for the AKP to try to co-opt her.
The real threat remains at the heart of the outcome, in one way or another, on the Democratic Peoples’ Party, which has a troubling electoral base for the ruling party, and the areas it hit by the earthquake is one of the know competing regions between AKP and HDP, and if the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s approach aim at supporting the opposition coalition, then the HDP votes are able to adjust the balance in opposition favor, but with IYI party withdrawal from the opposition coalition, things goes back to swing again, and this comes in favor of the ruling party if it makes good use of this division.
The problem of the Turkish opposition lies in the lack of clear vision, and most of its supporters are confined to only three categories, and they are:
- A Turkish group that isn’t satisfied with the economic situation, including those who were supporters of the AKP during economic prosperity times, and they change their positions according to the improvement of the economy and living conditions.
- A Turkish group that is fanatical towards the pragmatic tendencies in the country and is completely opposed Islamic approach of the AKP or any other party with Islamic approach, and most of them are considered loyal incubator of the CHP, and the core principles of the Turkish Republic that was founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
- As for the third category, it’s the most complex category, the category whose inclinations aren’t clear, and you may see it praising the glories of the Ottomans and ancient Turkish history in both Ottoman and Seljuk eras, and has conservative orientation in general in terms of roots, customs, traditions and religious commitment, but it also praises the Kemalist principles.
Here we find the battle of the opposition and the authority in the midst of a struggle to attract the votes of this third group.
Naturally, each party, whether in power or opposition, has its own loyal mass of people, most of whom are driven in their support by emotions in the first place.
Of course, we must not forget the category of beneficiaries who have personal interests, and most of them are corrupt groups that don’t care much about who in power as much as this authority guarantees them power, protection, and ensuring their interests and preserving their personal gains, and this category is the basis of corruption and spoil in every society.
The Turkish opposition limited its candidacy to a figure who will confront the Turkish president in the presidential elections to three names:
That’s where CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (the old man who still dreams of power) comes in.
The mayor of Istanbul (CHP) Ekrem Imamoglu, who is reasonably popular in Türkiye’s secular circles.
As for the most popular name, is the mayor of the capital, Ankara, Mansur Yavash (CHP), as many sees him the best candidate, although the man didn’t hide his unfavorable position to run in the elections, which is evidence of wisdom that must be recognized, as Yavash repeatedly said that he prefers remaining in office and not entering into the political debates of the opposition to nominate a man to confront Erdogan, but he also keeps the door open, in the event that there is a consensus on him and he’s asked to do so.
On the other hand, the leader of the Zafer Party, Umit Ozdag, announced that he intends to nominate the leader of the Homeland Party, Muharram Ince, who faced Erdogan in the last presidential elections, when Ince was still a member of the Republican People’s Party.
Currently, matters are moving towards the opposition’s agreement to nominate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, which is one of the reasons for the Good Party and its leader leave the opposition coalition.
It must be said that Turkish society doesn’t accept a woman assuming the presidency, but it won’t object to the presence of a woman in the position of prime minister, for example, as was the case in the past with Mrs. Tansu Çiller.
It’s also illogical for the opposition to choose Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu to confront Erdogan, because it’s no longer appropriate for a relatively young country like Türkiye to have an old president over seventy years of age, especially when talking about the need for change in the country, as the opposition says.
Right now, with the country’s population of 84 million, of which 24% are between the ages of 0 and 14, about 68% are between the ages of 15 and 64, and about 8% are over the age of 65, fresh blood is needed to lead the country towards the second century of the republic.
With regard to foreign policy, it can be said with confidence that Turkish foreign policy in the event that opposition comes to power may change dramatically, because most of the opposition leaders are Western-oriented, and the secular group in Türkiye still dreams of Türkiye joining the European Union.
But it must be remembered that even Türkiye’s accession to NATO in the early fifties, and the participation of Turkish forces in the Korean War, was nothing but a need for which the United States and the West were forced to meet the geopolitical and geostrategic requirements of the Cold War era, and it wasn’t for love of Türkiye, as the West doesn’t forget history, and in case putting the West in a position of choice, who do you think they will choose, Greece or Türkiye???
The hidden hatred that the West doesn’t hide towards Türkiye is no secret, as it seizes any opportunity for that, and even Western contempt towards the Islamic religion and the sanctities of more than a billion Muslims around the world is one of the weapons the West uses, by insulting Islam to insult Türkiye.
No one can deny Türkiye’s important position in the Islamic world, which is something the West is aware of, so it insults Islam to insult Türkiye.
The incident of burning the Qur’an in Sweden, followed by the cartoons in the French Charlie Hebdo magazine immediately after the earthquake, which isn’t the first time that these people have offended Islam, is only a simple example.
Türkiye’s presence in NATO has become a problem for Western countries, as happened with the Sweden and Finland joining the alliance.
Türkiye’s refusal to join these two countries prompted one of them, Sweden, to turn a blind eye to the fact that insane extremists burned the Qur’an in front of the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
Here, a question must be asked, if the opposition was in power, how would they act?
The experience of the war in Cyprus in 1974 and the position of the Western powers are unforgettable, which is similar to the position of the West towards Russia on the Ukrainian issue.
With regard to Türkiye’s relations with its neighbors, especially the Arab countries and Russia, maintaining the balance of Turkish policies in the region and working to correct mistakes of the past ten years will be a wise decision that will serve Türkiye’s stability, even its economy, as it’s the best solution, and it’s an approach that may not be guaranteed in case the opposition came to power.
For this reason, the current Turkish president’s survival in power may be better than the country entering into a division, in terms of his keenness that he has shown recently towards reforming the economic situation in the country, which is a basic demand of the Turkish people, with the need to return to the zero problems policy, which was the approach of the Justice and Development Party when he came to power.
It won’t be possible to analyze all the thorny issues that Türkiye faces at home and abroad in one article, but this article can be concluded with quoting Mrs. Akışnar in her withdrawal from the opposition coalition statement, “Either we wrote history or we be history”… So which history awaits Türkiye after May 14…? Is it going to be the best future? … Will wait and see.