Turkey: Opposition Experiences Turbulence Ahead Of Elections – OpEd
By Arab News
By Yasar Yakis*
Turkiye this month witnessed a bout of political turbulence that lasted only four days. On March 2, Meral Aksener, the leader of the Good Party, temporarily withdrew from a coalition of opposition parties called the Table of Six.
The table is composed of the Republican People’s Party, Turkiye’s main opposition party that is known as the CHP, former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s Future Party, former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan’s Democracy and Progress Party, the Democrat Party, and the Felicity Party, along with the Good Party.
In the past, cooperation around the table went through promising and less promising periods. A polite but cool cooperation developed when Aksener, the leader of the second-biggest party in the group, hinted that CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu might not be the best candidate for the upcoming presidential election.
Aksener was consistently opposed to Kilicdaroglu’s candidacy on the grounds that he was not expected to gain the highest number of votes. In fact, public opinion polls confirmed that Mansur Yavas, the mayor of Ankara, was leading the opposition camp, followed by Ekrem Imamoglu, the mayor of Istanbul. Kilicdaroglu has persistently remained in third. Aksener voiced on every possible occasion that the forthcoming elections will be a tight competition and therefore the opposition bloc should not take unnecessary risks.
This question has always been discussed indirectly at the table. On March 2, however, it was raised in plain words for the first time. Aksener repeated that the most likely winner should be designated as the presidential candidate. A “tour de table” was made and the leaders of all the five other parties supported Kilicdaroglu’s candidacy, upon which Aksener withdrew from the table. She did so with a flamboyant statement, but she also invited the two mayors — Yavas and Imamoglu — “to assume their duty,” implying that they should resign from the main opposition party and run their own campaign. However, these two mayors, in line with party discipline, stayed put.
Last week, thanks to the conciliatory efforts of the elders of the parties, the crisis was overcome and Kilicdaroglu was officially announced as the presidential candidate of the six opposition parties for the election that will take place on May 14. This closes another chapter in the preparations for the vote.
After this short-lived crisis, it was agreed that, if the candidate of the Table of Six is elected as president in the forthcoming election, he will appoint the two mayors “at a suitable time” as vice presidents of the republic with specific duties. This sentence gives the impression that an uneasy negotiation must have taken place to satisfy Aksener’s demands.
A 12-point statement was issued after the crisis was over. This statement summarizes the thousands of pages of documents that were drafted, negotiated and finalized over the course of months by the experts of the Table of Six. It states what the opposition parties aim to achieve when they come to power. They include, among others, the reinstallment of the Strengthened Parliamentary System, the distribution of the ministries and the method of appointment and dismissal of ministers.
It is unclear how this disagreement will affect the remainder of the parties’ cooperation. Some analysts believe that, if such accidents happen at this stage, similar may be expected when more concrete interests are at stake. This may be a bad omen for the future of their cooperation if the Table of Six wins the elections.
Cooperation with the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, known as the HDP, stands alone as a major issue because its support will be crucial in winning the elections. The crisis that broke out because of Aksener’s attitude brought the question of the Kurdish votes to the forefront. Co-chair Mithat Sancar stated that the HDP would like to welcome Kilicdaroglu into the party and that their door is open to negotiating an alliance with the Table of Six. In fact, this is an invitation to negotiate the terms of the HDP’s support in the forthcoming elections. However, after Aksener became a wounded lion as a result of the recent political crisis, the HDP may be trying to capitalize on this opportunity.
Kurdish votes hover around the 10 to 12 percent mark, but there is a sensitive balance between what the Kurdish voters will contribute to the success of the Table of Six and what it will cost Aksener’s party because of its cooperation with the Kurdish electorate.
The ruling Justice and Development Party will not remain idle and will aim to drive a wedge between the Kurdish and the Good Party’s electorates. The forthcoming months may produce many other surprises ahead of the elections.
• Yasar Yakis is a former foreign minister of Turkiye and founding member of the ruling AK Party.