Ebu Masum Mucahit*
Turkey held elections on Sunday, May 14, 2023, to determine the winners of the five-year term for the country's president and deputies. The outcome of these elections raises the crucial question of who emerged victorious—the ruling party's candidates, the opposition from the West, or the will of the populace itself. Analysing the potential gains and losses for Turkey in the aftermath of these elections becomes paramount. The discussions surrounding alliances during the election campaign were extensive, with the established connections surprising many. It is essential to scrutinize whether the events reported in the media accurately reflect the reality or if there are discrepancies. Furthermore, understanding the alliances formed and their significance helps decipher the underlying implications of these political partnerships. Considering the global context, the results of these elections hold the potential to impact not only Turkey but also the entire world. Moreover, the regional consequences of these elections are significant, as Turkey's strategic position influences neighbouring countries and the broader area. Finally, the implications for personal liberties in Turkey after these elections conclude need careful examination. It is important to note that Turkey is a democratic and secular nation, where laws enacted by the parliament govern the country. However, these laws are often influenced by international powers and formulated in alignment with the suggestions and judgments of military and political organizations such as the United Nations (UN), North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the European Union (EU).
Political Formations in Turkey
In Turkey, there are numerous parties representing various political viewpoints. Most of these parties represent the development of concepts that evolved throughout the Ottoman constitutionalist era (1876–1908). Numerous forms such as nationalist conservative, core nationalist, nationalist leftist, and Islamist are powerful in Turkish politics in addition to the leftist and secular masses that support the West and embrace its viewpoints. While the nationalists and the conservatives make up 80% of Turkish voters, the remaining 20% goes to the Kemalist-left voters. Thus, even though there are share traits between the political sides, it is safe to say that Turks are generally political inclined towards Islam and Turkish nationalism.
Prior to April 16, 2017, political parties in Turkey could participate in elections independently and secure parliamentary representation with a minimum of 10% of the votes. However, a constitutional amendment introduced changes to the electoral system. Now, parties can form alliances and must collectively surpass the 10% electoral threshold to gain parliamentary seats. This amendment shifted the electoral landscape, allowing parties to join forces and achieve representation if their combined votes exceed the threshold. However, the introduction of the alliance system brought about a significant alteration to this setup. Throughout Turkey's history, there have been a total of 29 parliamentary elections, during which the participating parties may have varied, but the fundamental electoral system and legislative framework have remained unchanged.
Background of May 14 Elections
The elections in Turkey on May 14, 2023, brought significant changes to the political landscape. Parties had to form alliances to secure a majority, as they no longer relied solely on their own election platforms and lists. The new structure replaced the prime minister with a more authoritative president, who was elected by receiving over 50% of the votes. The focus of the elections shifted from party platforms to individuals. Notably, parties with a score as low as 0.01% gained significance, requiring larger parties to seek their support to reach the 50% threshold.
However, the new system had unintended consequences. Despite his party's popularity, President Erdogan lost the Istanbul elections by a narrow margin. In the 2018 municipal elections, his party received close to 50% of the vote, yet under the new rules, his failure to collaborate with a party holding just 1% of the vote must have costed him to lose in a city of 16 million people. Thus, it is apparent that representation of social groups and perspectives is limited within this new structure. Such that prominent figures like Necmettin Erbakan, known for promoting Islamic consciousness in politics, would have struggled to have a political career under this regime. This means that Erdogan, who rode on the popularity of Erbakan, would not have been able to establish a political career in this context.
The election on May 14 brought unexpected developments. Turkish citizens and politically aware Muslims worldwide were taken aback by the alliances formed. SAADET, the party of the late Necmettin Erbakan, allied with the ultra-secular CHP, while the MHP, a right-wing Turkish nationalist party, formed an alliance with HUDAPAR, a Kurdish-Islamic party. Furthermore, the CHP and the IYI party, which are both west-centric and secular nationalist, formed an alliance. These alliances can be understood by examining the party platforms, which reveal a striking similarity between the political parties in Turkey. The AK Party, CHP, MHP, and IYI Party share similarities in terms of economic, political, and social issues. They all aim to align themselves with powerful entities and view establishing good connections with the UN, EU, and NATO as advantageous. These parties, including the HDP, which claims to represent the Kurdish community, have frequently endorsed Western-promoted documents without thorough scrutiny. This includes climate treaties and the Istanbul Convention, which has been severally criticised for its negative impact on family structure in Turkey. Despite occasional disagreements expressed in the president's speeches, these agreements remain in full effect. Similarly, the interest-based capitalist system will persist regardless of the election outcome. Many Muslim intellectuals have criticized the fact that this system will continue to exacerbate wealth inequality, with the rich becoming richer and the poor facing further hardships. Consequently, a significant number of Turkish citizens who prioritize Islamic values chose not to participate in the elections. They see the existing political landscape as failing to address their concerns and promote their beliefs effectively.
Nevertheless, the election witnessed significant voter participation, and the AK Party emerged as the winner. Recep Tayyip Erdogan's astute electoral strategy played a crucial role in securing victory for the AK Party, which enjoys support from a conservative voter base. During the preceding period, Erdogan formed the People's Alliance, with the Turkish nationalist MHP being its second-largest partner. The coalition also includes the Nationalist-leftist DSP and the Nationalist-conservative BBP. Moreover, the alliance welcomed the participation of Erbakan's son, who established the YRP. On the opposing side, the Nation Alliance emerged, led by the left-leaning CHP, with the nationalist-western IYI Party serving as its second-largest partner. Additionally, the alliance features the Erbakan-formed SAADET, Erdogan's former PM Davutoglu's Future Party, Ali Babacan's DEVA Party, the former right-wing Democrat Party, and the acclaimed Kurdish West-centric HDP.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Alliances
Which of the blocs had advantages and disadvantages? Erdogan's party faced numerous challenges when running for office. The economy was at its worst, with low-income levels, diminished purchasing power, and significant issues in agriculture and animal husbandry. Erdogan also had to contend with moral decay in society and high unemployment levels. However, he benefited from significant advancements in the defence industry, including the construction of armed drones, armoured vehicles, combat warships, and the country's homebuilt automobile, TOGG. Additionally, the fact that the PKK-supporting HDP was part of the opposing bloc, and the Alevi origin of Kılıçdaroğlu, the candidate of the National Alliance, provided advantages for Erdogan's chances of winning the elections.
On the other hand, the Nation Alliance had its own set of disadvantages. The fact that the candidate was from the CHP and had an Alevi origin, as well as the support from the HDP, posed challenges. Moreover, Kılıçdaroğlu's speech and behaviour, such as stepping on the prayer rug with shoes, were not favourable and did not align with the expectations of a leader. However, the Nation Alliance also had its advantages. They capitalized on being in the opposition, high levels of unemployment, the economic crisis, and the support of right-wing parties such as DEVA, Future, and Democrat, as well as the Islamist SAADET Party.
The election results demonstrated Erdogan's victory once again. However, no candidate received a majority of 50%+1 in the May 14 election. Kilicdaroglu secured 44.88% of the vote, while Erdogan received 49.52%. In the subsequent election on May 28, held 15 days later, Erdogan obtained 52.18% of the vote, while Kilicdaroglu received 47.82%. Considering the conclusion of the elections, it remains uncertain how Erdogan's policies and actions will change. It is unclear whether he will address the economy or political issues, as he did not make specific promises to the electorate. Unlike industrially developed nations, Turkey's economy relies heavily on interest and increased spending rather than production. Consequently, it is unlikely that significant changes will occur in terms of social issues.
The composition of the cabinet has been announced. Yet the family minister is a female who may continue to pursue the toxic feminist agenda influenced by the Istanbul Convention. The new Minister of Economy, Mehmet Simsek, is known for his strong connections with the globalized wealthy and the interest lobby. Nevertheless, we pray and hope that the new administration will bring benefits to the Turkish people, neighbouring countries, Islam, Muslims, and humanity as a whole.
*Translated from Turkish by Shakeeb Hasan