Heads of the six opposition parties making up the "table for six" arrive to present their program, in Ankara, Türkiye, Jan. 30, 2023. (AFP Photo)

Turkish opposition’s road map: Still a coalition text

The 'table for six' cannot seem to stop being a coalition of unrelated parties no matter how many times they meet or how many documents they unveil

The six-party alliance, known as the “table for six,” unveiled its election program and the text of its “agreement on common policies” on Monday. That comprehensive document consists of populist promises and concrete proposals, suggesting that its authors worked on it for a considerable time. Still, they could not prevent the text from becoming a “compilation.”

Specifically, the document, on which six opposition parties with different ideologies and voters could agree by bringing together each movement’s priorities, has no identity except for an expected backlash against the presidential system of government. For example, it uses the term “values” concerning three distinct sources: Societal values, universal values, and the values of our civilization. Undefined and unconnected expressions devoid of content!

The document’s spirit encapsulates the opposition’s commitment to reversing Türkiye’s steps under the presidential system of government. That intention suits their desire to adopt an “augmented” parliamentary system. Since implementing those standard policies would require a qualified majority in Parliament, however, some of the opposition’s pledges merely amount to expressions of their intention to restore parliamentarism.

The opposition pledges to make further progress in defense, transportation, energy, health care, industry, IT and technology (areas where the ruling government has been notably successful). At the same time, the opposition bloc identifies reducing inflation to single digits as a goal without explaining exactly how.

Likewise, the document discusses the emerging need for housing in metropolitan areas concerning “ending the illness of vertical concretion” and “horizontal urbanization.” Moreover, the opposition’s pledges regarding reducing costs, promoting meritocracy and allocating public funds resemble the Nation Alliance’s campaign promises ahead of the municipal elections – which they promptly forgot.

Finally, in addition to reflecting the priorities of the six opposition parties, the document partly accommodates the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is not a member. Specifically, the opposition bloc pledges to end the practice of appointing independent trustees to municipalities and make it harder for the courts to ban political parties without mentioning the HDP’s radical demands like recognizing Kurdish as a native language and autonomy.

Foreign policy, security: Least ambitious parts

Foreign policy and national security appeared to be the least ambitious parts of the opposition bloc’s document. Accusing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government of having treated foreign policy “ideologically as opposed to rationally,” it signals the intention of its signatories to be more passive in the face of crises by pledging not to “pick sides.” One cannot find but general statements in many other areas, including the island of Cyprus, Aegean, Eastern Mediterranean, Azerbaijan and Türkiye’s relations with international organizations. Moreover, joining the European Union, developing a vision for Asia, and hosting Türkiye-Africa summits are already on the current government’s agenda.

The opposition bloc’s pledge to “create an institutionalized framework in relations with the United States based on equality,” too, has been the root cause of tensions between the two countries under the AK Party. The following sentence also describes the current state of affairs: “We will continue and strengthen our relations with the Russian Federation with a sense of equality and through a balanced and constructive dialogue on the institutional level.”

Let me add that the “table for six” also promised to launch the Diplomacy Academy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – which already exists. Last but not least, the opposition parties used a generic term, terrorism, instead of naming the terrorist organization PKK.

The “agreement on common policies” reflects the opposition’s attempt to persuade voters that a coalition government is not a terrible idea. I get the sense that they attempt to distract the electorate by producing a multitude of documents. Let us recall that the opposition’s presidential candidate, will release a document for the election, too.

However, the “table for six” cannot stop being a coalition of unrelated parties, no matter how many times they meet or how many documents they unveil. Such documents serve as points of reference. Coalition governments of the 1970s and the 1990s, too, had produced similar texts – before disagreements surfaced at the implementation stage. Even the Turkish victory in Cyprus, a rare achievement, ended up taking down a coalition government!

Releasing policy guidelines for the coalition government does not mean that the opposition could put its ideas to practice if it were to win. After all, documents cannot prevent power struggles.

[Daily Sabah, February 02 2023]

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