Everyone seems to agree that Türkiye will make a “critically important choice at a historic crossroads” on May 14. That makes us expect an election campaign where each candidate and their parties will speak their truths. Do not be fooled by the ongoing calmness, as electoral alliances have been trying to expand and negotiate candidate lists in the month of Ramadan.
We have reason to believe that things will get in motion after April 9, the submission deadline for parliamentary candidate lists, and the campaigns will pick up their pace in the three weeks remaining after Ramadan Bayram, also known as Eid al-Fitr – the home stretch of a two-year marathon contested by the People’s Alliance and the Nation Alliance, known as the “table for six.” As candidate lists and pledges become public, campaign events and rhetorical battles shall come to dominate the nation’s agenda.
I believe that undecided voters will find it more difficult to choose in this election, in terms of identity and ideological affiliation, than at any other point in Türkiye’s recent past. That is because the polarization between the two main alliances is fueled by anti-Erdoğanism as opposed to the traditional right-left or conservative-secularist divide.
Indeed, there are many politicians from the Democratic Party (DP), Felicity Party (SP), Future Party (GP) and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) who will run for Parliament on the Republican People’s Party (CHP) ticket despite opposing that movement in the past. Despite CHP Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s pledge to make amends, the main opposition party has not yet changed ideologically. It is unclear whether that movement is Kemalist (also known as Atatürkist), neo-Kemalist, leftist or nationalist. In other words, Kılıçdaroğlu has been pushing all ideological buttons in an attempt to win votes but his efforts failed to give his party a meaningful identity. Meanwhile, the pro-CHP media stick to their Kemalist and ultrasecularist approach, portraying the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and the People’s Alliance as a union of “misogynists” and “radical Islamists.”
Kılıçdaroğlu’s message to Ince
Taking a close look at Kılıçdaroğlu’s message to Muharrem Ince, the Homeland Party (MP) chairperson and a former CHP heavyweight currently running for president, however, reveals the CHP’s true ideological bearings. According to the journalist Fikret Bila, the main opposition told his opponent that “Türkiye is under occupation and the republic is under threat. That is why this election bears historic importance and requires historic responsibility.” Likewise, some columnists for the pro-CHP media do not appear to have parted ways with the radicalism of the Republican rallies of 2007.
By contrast, the country’s conservative and religious citizens do not share that view of the AK Party, which addressed all Islamic demands including the abolishment of a controversial headscarf ban. Nor do disgruntled conservatives accuse that movement of “radical Islamism.”
It remains to be seen whether conservative voters will choose the CHP over the AK Party or the New Welfare Party (Yeniden Refah Partisi) just so the SP or the GP may claim a few parliamentary seats. Will they believe Kılıçdaroğlu, who is known for breaking promises? Would Kurdish voters support the CHP candidate against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who addressed their identity-related demands?
Turkish nationalists face challenges
Turkish nationalists, too, will experience difficulties with their ideology. They will have to choose between the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Good Party (IP). Kılıçdaroğlu claims to be a true nationalist, but he and the Nation Alliance received the endorsement of the terrorist organization PKK’s military command in northern Iraq. Against the backdrop of the People’s Alliance’s crackdown on PKK terrorists and the Gulenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), the pro-PKK Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has been imposing its radical demands on the opposition bloc. In this sense, the People’s Alliance is in a better position to claim that “the republic is under threat.”
Turkish and Kurdish leftists overwhelmingly support the CHP and Kılıçdaroğlu. Yet, the Democratic Left Party’s (DSP) decision to join the People’s Alliance somewhat blurred that line. Some observers may claim that the DSP does not qualify as a leftist party, referencing its nationalist credentials. Yet, some voters are obviously confused by the late Bülent Ecevit’s party opposing the CHP candidate.
Meanwhile, Ince criticizes both alliances to attract neo-Kemalist, nationalist and ultrasecularist voters. That level of interest reflects the difficulty of choosing between the two alliances due to their members.
Ironically, both sides could argue that veteran politicians Adnan Menderes, Turgut Özal, Ecevit, Alparslan Türkeş and Necmettin Erbakan are rolling in their graves. All those points suggest that it won’t be easy for many voters to make a decision on May 14 due to their identity and ideological affiliation.
In this article
- 14 May 2023 Turkish General Election
- 2023 Turkish General Elections Presidential Candidates
- 2023 Turkish Presidential Election
- Adnan Menderes
- Alparslan Türkeş
- Daily Sabah
- Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETÖ)
- HDP-PKK Relations
- HDP-Terror Relations
- Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu
- Kurdistan Workers' Party Terrorist Organization (PKK)
- Muharrem Ince
- Necmettin Erbakan
- PKK - YPG - SDF - PYD - YPJ - SDG - HBDH - HPG - KCK - PJAK - TAK - YBŞ
- Table for Six | Turkish Opposition Alliance
- Turgut Ozal
- Türkiye's 2023 Elections
- Türkiye's Democratic Left Party (DSP)
- Türkiye's Democratic Party (DP)
- Türkiye's Felicity Party (SP)
- Türkiye's Future Party (GP)
- Türkiye's Good Party (IP)
- Türkiye's Homeland Party (MP)
- Türkiye's Homeland Party (MP) Chairperson
- Türkiye's Justice and Development Party | AK Party (AK Parti)
- Türkiye's Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP)
- Türkiye's Republican People's Party (CHP)
- Türkiye's Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson
- Türkiye’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)