Can Turkey’s opposition parties wrestle power from Erdogan?




By John SolomouNicosia [Cyprus] February 6 (ANI): The six opposition parties in Turkey called the "Table of Six," which are united against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, declared last Monday their determination to put an end to Erdogan’s rule, restrict the powers of Turkey’s president and expand democratic rights.

This, however, depends on whether they will agree to field a single candidate in the crucial May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections and on the decisions to be taken by the Kurdish HDP party, Turkey’s third largest party, which was not asked to join the six parties, but whose voters are expected to vote against Erdogan in the second round of elections.

Parliamentary and presidential elections will be held on the same day and polls suggest that both will be very tight, so quite likely there will be a second round of elections.

According to several polls, the coalition of Erdogan’s AKP and Devlet Bahceli’s MHP is expected to get 40 per cent of the vote, while the Table of Six opposition parties will get a similar percentage.

The six parties pledged to announce a joint candidate on February 13 to contest the elections that political analysts say that will be the most significant in 20 years, because they may put an end to Erdogan’s almost absolute grip on power and the resulting downgrading of democracy in Turkey. Furthermore, they committed themselves to reversing Erdogan’s economic policies and restoring the independence of the Central Bank of the country.

It should be noted that Erdogan, who started his political career as Mayor of Istanbul in 1994 and established the AKP party in 2001 won a landslide victory in 2002 and the next two elections in 2007 and 2011.

He served as Prime Minister from 2003 until 2017 when he introduced a constitutional referendum changing the country’s parliamentary system into a presidential one.

Since 2018 Erdogan is an executive President, controlling almost all the institutions in Turkey — the Army, the legislature, local government, public administration, public universities, the media as well as the judiciary- which he uses as a weapon to throw at jail tens of thousands of people who disagree with him. He also turned Turkey into a largely religious conservative country and an unruly member of NATO, gradually losing support from the West.

In the first decade of his rule, when President Erdogan was following orthodox economic policies, ordinary Turks saw a tangible improvement in their standard of the living and economic situation.

However, in the last few years, Turkey is facing runaway inflation, which last October reached a 25-year high of 85.5 per cent, and with the Turkish Lira nosediving and production costs spiking, the average Turk finds it hard to make ends meet.

This has led to a lot of resentment and dissatisfaction with the government with a resultant fall in Erdogan’s popularity.

Trying to stimulate the economy, on the one hand, and stop the free fall of his approval ratings, on the other, Erdogan recently doubled the legal minimum wage and announced pension increases and energy subsidies. He also gave the chance to two million people to retire immediately, introduced a cheap mortgage loan scheme for citizens who don’t own their own homes and issued a tax debt relief for millions of people.

Polls show that these measures have led to an improvement in popular support for Erdogan and the AKP, but this could be a short-lived one, because inflation, which now stands at about 64%, can eat into the pay rises quite quickly.

The six-party grouping united against Erdogan includes the Republican People’s Party (CHP) headed by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the nationalist Good Party (IYI) of Meral Aksener, the conservative Felicity Party of Temel Karamollaoglu, the Democrat Party of Gultekin Uysal, the Democracy and Progress Party led by Ali Babacan and the Future Party chaired by Ahmet Davutoglu.

Faik Oztrak, Deputy Leader of CHP, declared that the six-party coalition will revoke many of the powers Erdogan has amassed in 20 years and will shift to "a strengthened Parliamentary System for a strong, liberal, democratic and just system in which the separation of powers is established."However, political observers say that whether the Table of Six will manage to get enough votes to put an end to Erdogan’s rule will depend on two things: first, on agreeing on the person of their joint candidate (which is not so certain- taking into account the fact that the leader of the biggest party RTP Kemal Kilicdaroglu is generally not regarded as candidate popular enough to stand against Erdogan) and, second, on the decision of the pro-Kurdish HDP, which will probably announce its own candidate.

However, in the second round of elections, if there is one, the Kurds are expected to vote against Erdogan, who has been trying to ban the HDP.

The six coalition parties have avoided having talks with the Kurdish HDP because the nationalist IYI party of Meral Aksener has repeatedly said that it would not take part in any coalition with the participation of the HDP.

The HDP is accused of having links with the outlawed PKK party, something which the HDP denies.

To win the elections, in addition to granting wage increases and subsidies, Erdogan exploits some foreign policy issues that can be used to present himself as "a tough and proud leader" and excite the nationalistic and religious feelings of Turks.

Such issues are his constant threats against Greece, the blocking of Sweden’s accession to NATO by exploiting the burning of the Quran, a threatened attack against Washington’s Kurdish allies in Syria, his refusal to apply the Western sanctions against Russia and his refusal to heed US warnings concerning the purchase of the S-400 missile system.

As Henri Barkey pointed out in an article in the Foreign Affairs magazine: "The upcoming polls are no ordinary elections; they will decide Erdogan’s place in history. Hence, the age-old temptation to manufacture a foreign crisis to avert a loss will be high. It would divert attention from domestic problems and side-line a timid opposition." (ANI)

TOP