Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu (R), the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Chair and the presidential candidate of the main opposition alliance in the May elections, meets with co-leaders of the pro-PKK Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Pervin Buldan and Mithat Sancar, Ankara, Türkiye, March 20, 2023. (Reuters Photo)

HDP’s heavy influence in the Turkish opposition’s discourse

It would seem that HDP has started dominating the opposition bloc with its radical demands as well as marginal discourse.

The simultaneous enlargement of electoral alliances in Türkiye encourages both groups to scrutinize the opposite side.

Since many people view the Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) decision not to field a presidential candidate as tacit support for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the People’s Alliance describes the Nation Alliance as the “table for seven,” asking what kind of a deal they have made with the HDP leadership.

At the same time, claims that terrorist organizations PKK and the Gulenist Terror Group (FETÖ) support the Nation Alliance have only not been made by the governing alliance. Muharrem Ince, the Homeland Party (MP) chair and CHP’s 2018 presidential candidate, and Yusuf Ağıralioğlu, the Good Party’s (IP) former spokesperson who left the movement this week, made similar accusations against “Kılıçdaroğlu’s table.”

Critics are concerned that Kılıçdaroğlu, if elected, may terminate the fight against PKK and FETÖ and allow steps to be taken that may lead to the autonomy of Türkiye’s eastern and southeastern provinces.

Meanwhile, the Nation Alliance’s supporters revived the old dichotomy, progressives versus reactionaries, with reference to the New Welfare Party (YRP) and the Free Cause Party (HÜDA-PAR) joining the People’s Alliance.

Once popular among Kemalists and leftists, that label had not been used in a long time. Traditionally, the distinction between “progressives” and “reactionaries” – an extension of the specter of “reactionarism” or “irtica”– has not served the CHP well.

The ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) reforms and development drives over the last two decades revealed the meaninglessness of such dichotomies, even highlighting that it was the authoritarian ultra-secularists that could not catch up with the modern world.

This time around, it is the HDP and leftist groups that brought the term “reactionary” back from the dead regarding the AK Party and the People’s Alliance. Specifically, Selahattin Demirtaş, the HDP’s former chairperson, described the governing alliance as the “Taliban regime” – which the pro-CHP media promptly embraced. At this rate, it won’t be a surprise to hear CHP supporters use the word “fascist” to describe others, as the PKK-HDP circles like to do.

Pro-CHP media’s manipulation

The pro-CHP media even exploited the debate on Law No. 6284, a 2012 legislation on the protection of families and preventing violence against women, to attempt to spread fear among conservative women.

The AK Party and the People’s Alliance are not bound by the ideologies and political objectives of the YRP or HÜDA-PAR.

Indeed, their endorsement did not lead to a power-sharing agreement akin to the “table for six” arrangement.

Nonetheless, some claim that those latest additions to the governing alliance will cause the AK Party to deprive women of certain rights.

In a televised interview on Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan recalled that his administration promoted women’s rights to reiterate that he won’t “allow any interference in women’s rights and dignity, starting with the issue of violence against women.”

In other words, Erdoğan’s goal of “strengthening the family” is not intended to undermine women’s status or expose them to violence. Quite the contrary, those moves are intended to consolidate women’s rights and shelter families from obscene impositions.

Case of the ‘table’

IP Chair Meral Akşener and her party, which were bullied into accepting Kılıçdaroğlu’s presidential bid, have been weakened within the opposition bloc. That development increased the influence of the CHP and HDP. Having used up the charge of “one-man rule” in all its shapes and forms, the opposition has actually been speaking the HDP’s language for some time.

The Future Party (GP) and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA), which abandoned their claim to represent the “third way” by sitting at the “table for six,” have embraced the CHP’s accusation of “authoritarianism” in their critique of Erdoğan.

Since Kılıçdaroğlu’s official endorsement, the pro-CHP media, academics and artists have assumed the responsibility of making the opposition toe the party line. Having metaphorically stoned Akşener upon leaving the alliance, they are currently accusing Ince of treason and telling him that he won’t be able to show his face in public.

That the pro-CHP circles, who ended the HDP’s marginalization, tap into that movement’s ultra-secularist-cum-leftist ideology to start talking about “progressives versus reactionaries” and “treason” is proof of their identity and concept crisis. It would seem that HDP has started dominating the opposition bloc with its radical demands as well as marginal discourse.

[Daily Sabah, April 1 2023]

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