The Heaven is Here: What 1st November Elections Should Remind Us

*Cinematographer Lisa Çalan, who lost both her legs in the bombing of the June 5th HDP rally in Diyarbakır, casting her vote (photo source: unknown)

The Heaven is Here: What 1st November Elections Should Remind Us

Abstract

After almost all elections, political scientists in Turkey half-jokingly discuss the possibilities of shutting down their department on the grounds that they could not really predict the results of the elections. This election was no exception, as the ruling Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AKP), as a surprise to even its own cadres, increased its vote from 40% to 49% compared to the 7th June elections. Apparently the AKP got the votes of those who voted for the Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (Nationalist Movement Party) (MHP) in the previous election, mainly due to the fact that the party leader Bahçeli sabotaged the coalition talks which irritated a portion of its constituency. Kurds especially in the south-east also voted for AKP, who happened to vote for the HDP in the 7th June election. The general feeling after the elections is that Kurds and Turks alike voted for stability with one very stark difference. Kurds voted for the AKP because they seem to think that the peace process under the auspices of the Halkların Demokratik Partisi (People’s Democratic Party) (HDP) did not work whereas Turks voted for the AKP because they think that the armed forces must take action against the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (PKK) more adamantly. The results of elections illustrate a very typical trend in Turkish politics, where a sticky 50%-60% of the electorate votes for the right-wing parties, which has been more polarised and shifted even more rightwards in the 1990s as the ‘security’ emerged as the first agenda of the electorate due to the end of cold war internationally and intense clashes between the PKK and armed forces domestically. The election results might add to the pessimistic psyche, which mainly emerged in the aftermath of 10 October massacre, but one should remember José Mujica’s words: ‘the heaven is here!’ and that we, the peoples of Turkey, share the same one.

***

After almost all elections, scholars in departments of political science in Turkey half-jokingly discuss the possibilities of shutting down the department on the grounds that they could not really predict the results of the elections. Leaving aside the highly philosophical question of whether it is the academics’ task to predict the election results, this frequent joke amongst academics points out to the complex and perplexing nature of the Turkish politics, Turkish society and elections, to say the least. Indeed, the results of the parliamentary elections of the 1st November were puzzling, as the ruling Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) (AKP), as a surprise to even its own cadres, increased its vote from 40% to 49% compared to the previous elections on June 7th, which had been repeated due to the stalemate in forming the coalition government. ‘One out of every two people’ rule, thus, once again became the trademark for the AKP in Turkey, a party trend since the elections of 2011. The misleading feeling after the June 7th elections that there finally emerged an opportunity of joint opposition vis-à-vis the dominant authoritarian and oppressive political climate when pro-Kurdish left-wing Halkların Demokratik Partisi (Peoples’ Democratic Party) (HDP) was able to pass the national threshold and take 80 seats in the parliament whereas the main opposition party Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi (Republican People’s Party) (CHP) showed signs of sympathy to the HDP at some instances especially in the aftermath of 10th October massacre in Ankara fostered the above mentioned fallacy within the anti-government circles. Yes, the AKP won the game once again, although pre-match atmosphere was not a very fair one. The party and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan significantly dominated the pre-election period on the country’s public television, the Türkiye Radyo ve Televizyon Kurumu (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation) (TRT). As the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Report on the Turkish elections underline, the challenging security environment, in particular in the south-east, coupled with a high number of violent incidents, including attacks against the HDP party members and campaign staff, as well as on party premises, hindered contestants’ ability to campaign freely. Within this context, the HDP and the CHP decided not to hold any election rallies in the aftermath of 10th October massacre not to jeopardise their supporters’ lives in case of an attack.

It seems that in the first place the AKP got the votes of those who voted for the Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi (Nationalist Movement Party) (MHP) in the previous election, mainly due to the fact that party leader Bahçeli sabotaged the coalition talks which irritated a portion of its constituency. Kurds especially in Turkey’s south-east also voted for the AKP, who happened to vote for the HDP in the 7th June election (although the turnout was comparatively lower among the Kurds this time). The general feeling after the elections is that Kurds and Turks alike voted for stability with one very stark difference. Kurds voted for the AKP because they seem to think that the peace process led by the HDP did not work and the clashes between the armed forces and the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistani (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) (PKK) exacerbated in the aftermath of 7th June elections and they do not want war. Turks voted for the AKP because they think that the armed forces must take action against the PKK more adamantly, which is deemed as more likely under a strong and powerful one-party rule.

Actually, a sober mind after the first round of shock after the elections would quickly tell that this picture is a very usual trend in Turkish politics, where a sticky 50%-60% of the electorate votes for the right-wing parties. During the 1990s, this electorate got even more right-wing due to a couple of reasons. According to Ersin Kalaycıoğlu, Turkish voters within the post-cold war world –surrounded by the regions of the Balkans, the Caucasus, and the Middle East– increased their support for the traditional and conservative right-wing political parties (Kalaycıoğlu, 2007). This, intertwined with the clashes between the PKK and the armed forces within the country during this period, made the notion of ‘security’ the hot topic of the electorate’s agenda. I think the most important consequence of this shift had been the disappearance of the notion of ‘tolerance’ within the daily lives of the normal people and the sharpening of the polarisation, the repercussions of which define the Turkish society today. This is the most worrying fact reminded once again by the results of 1st November elections. As Necmi Erdoğan succinctly tells, none of the societies on earth share a homogenous cultural climate; but at least there are some ethical codes and morality links that are jointly shared by the members of the society (Erdoğan, 18 October 2015). However, as we already experienced during the last decades and after the 10th October massacre in Ankara in particular, people in this country do not really empathise with others’ pains and tears. That’s what we have seen during 1990s when civil people and young soldiers died in the south-east and that’s what we have seen a couple of weeks ago after the Ankara massacre (where 102 people died and 508 people got injured) when we heard people saying, ‘what the hell were they doing there to get themselves bombed?’.

Very recently, the CHP invited Uruguay’s former President José Mujica to Turkey as the ‘poorest president of the world,’ implicitly addressing to President Erdoğan’s extravagant and luxurious palace and life style. At a meeting, Mujica said, ‘the heaven is here, you need to struggle to make your country a better place.’ This should be the motto of post-election Turkey: the heaven is here. The question is: after so many disappointments and failures, how will we remember that we share the same one?

Assistant Professor Başak Alpan, Editor at Centre for Research and Policy on Turkey (Research Turkey)

Please cite this publication as follows:

Alpan, B. (November, 2015), “The Heaven is Here: What 1st November Elections Should Remind Us” Vol. IV, Issue 11, pp.20-24, Centre for Policy and Research on Turkey (Research Turkey), London, Research Turkey (http://researchturkey.org/?p=9948)

References

Erdoğan, N. (18 October 2015) ‘Türkiye bir Toplum mu?’ BirGün.

Kalaycıoğlu, E. (2007) ‘Politics of Conservatism in Turkey,’ Turkish Studies, 8:2, pp. 233-252.

OSCE (2 November 2015) ‘International Election Observation Mission: Republic of Turkey Early Parliamentary Elections,’ [Accessed on 5th November 2015], Available at:

http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/196351?download=true

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