In Election’s Home Stretch
As Turkey enters the home stretch of local elections on March 31; remembering, wrapping up, and taking note of last week’s discussions and debates on Turkish domestic politics ‘ agenda will be useful.
Like ever, the agenda of Turkey was again clearly shaped and dominated by statements made by President Erdoğan.
On February 26, in a joint interview with NTV-NTV Radio and Star TV, held at the headquarters of the Justice and Development (AK) Party in Ankara, President Erdoğan evaluated current issues. He made remarks on issues of foreign policy, i.e. Syria, the draft report of the EU Parliament on Turkey, the purchase of S-400 systems, etc., and also internal affairs.
At a rally in northeastern Turkey’s Giresun province, he criticized the EU for taking part in the League of Arab States summit in Egypt and their demands to abolish the death penalty in Turkey, while continuing to communicate with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. “Can you speak about democracy with EU states, which accepted the invitation of Sisi? Can you speak there about rights and freedoms? Can you speak there about human rights? “Erdoğan said.
Aside from foreign policy issues, as part of local elections, President Erdoğan made statements about internal affairs. He stressed at a rally in Yozgat province of Central Anatolia on February 25 that if any opportunities provided by the state were to send to Qandil, they would immediately appoint trustees. The appointments had previously been made to southeastern municipalities run by HDP (People’s Democratic Party) due to claims of aid sent to PKK activities.
The main issue to be discussed throughout the week, however, was a tweet posted by President Erdoğan claiming to be guided by terrorist groups by the opposition’s election alliance. On Wednesday, President Erdoğan shared a chart comparing the two main political alliances for the upcoming local elections in Turkey on Twitter. He posted a chart in his tweet comparing two main alliances formed for the upcoming local elections and defining the People’s Alliance as the servant of people, defender of truth, and on the side of oppressed people. Whereas he accuses the Nation Alliance with treason, and he claims that they have links terrorist organizations -PKK and Fetullah Gülen. This tweet causes enormous public debate, mainly between opposition because of the argument that a president cannot accuse 50% of his people of being terrorists.
Rumors that Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s former allies are setting up at least one party are Ankara’s favorite topic of discussion last week in February. Three names are being discussed around the topic, Abdullah Gul served as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prime Minister and President; Ahmet Davutoğlu served as Prime Minister, Ali Babacan served as Minister of State responsible for Economic Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey responsible for Economic Affairs. Although there have been no official statements regarding these allegations, Turkey is discussing the possibility of an alternative party or parties. The first name that emerges is Ahmet Davutoğlu as the new party’s leader, who is supposed to bring together four different tendencies, i.e. conservatives, liberals, center-right, and center-left. Again, the allegations have not been accepted or denied by official statements; there is a website for this platform, www.yenibirparti.org. In addition, it is said that former President Abdullah Gul and two former ministers of the economy, Ali Babacan and Mehmet Simsek, are in the process of setting up their own party.
Another item that reinforces the rumors is that President Erdoğan accused his former colleagues of treason at a campaign rally, without naming anyone. “Sadly some of our friends were perfectly happy when we started this journey together, but when we asked them to take a little break they got off our train and boarded another one. … Tomorrow, those who betrayed us today will betray others.” Erdoğan said.
Another issue that President Erdoğan raised was polling firms he said were unreliable and manipulating the public opinion. Frankly, he was the one who started using polling firms to set up his policies (since 1994), and indeed he has been successful to date. According to reliable polling firms, AKP (Justice and Development Party) has been losing grounds in Ankara, Bursa, and Adana, which may be the reason for his statements.
Since we have less than a month to go to local elections, we will definitely see more strong-worded statements, polarization, and rumors. It is quite necessary to compile recent events in order to note down and relate developments and to make healthy perceptions. Stay tuned!