Debates on the AK party, the center-right and identity politics

Turkey’s new electoral law has created an atmosphere that will facilitate new debates on party identities, the positioning of electoral alliances and leadership profiles. Since the number of parliamentary seats for each party depends exclusively on its level of popular support, the opposition is now required to revise its calculations.

In this sense, the lack of popular interest in the March 27 meeting of the six opposition parties was not solely due to the crisis in Ukraine. The question of what kind of alliance is needed is more crucial today than it was before. Indeed, the possibility that fringe parties will end up having to stand for election as part of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) or Good Party (IP) lists of the main opposition (or only one marginal party) must be taken into account. consideration taking into account the preferences of voters. It remains unclear what impact these monthly roundtables between opposition leaders will have on the electorate. While opposition representatives are preoccupied with examining various scenarios and engineering plans for the 2023 elections, political commentators are generating numerous arguments regarding the centre-right, the possibility of a third electoral alliance and the state of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). base.

It goes without saying that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s diplomatic activity during the Ukrainian crisis has created a positive atmosphere for the People’s Alliance. The confrontation between Russia, a great power, and the West over the former’s occupation of Ukraine certainly involves significant circumstances. The need for strong leadership has already been highlighted by issues of energy supply, price hikes, inflation, food shortages, security uncertainty, geopolitical competition, spending defence, sanctions (which could have an impact on the global economic order) and ongoing attempts to use national currencies in international transactions. This context undoubtedly reinforces Erdoğan’s popular support.

The 2023 election is 14 months away and the outcome of this race will be determined by a combination of foreign policy, economics and domestic politics. We are at a time and a place where neither the Popular Alliance nor the opposition can consider the election a done deal. The campaign will be both dynamic and full of verbal conflict.

Between and within alliances

All political parties will work hard to broaden their respective bases. This competition will take place not only between the electoral alliances but also within them. The CHP aims to attract right-wing voters by talking about “making amends”. The IP, in turn, is trying to free itself from the confines of its nationalist platform in an attempt to become the main centre-right party. Meanwhile, the fringe parties – the Felicity Party (SP), the Future Party (GP) and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) – are looking for ways to legitimize their potential decision to contest the election. as part of the HPC or PI. , while winning over AK party voters.

It is in this context that a new debate has begun on centre-right politics in an attempt to suggest that the AK party has over-emphasized ideology over the past decade and thus ceased to be a centre-right party. These people, who engage in this debate, claim that the ruling party, which is no longer a mass party, is engaging in identity politics (above the conservative lifestyle) and has limited itself to a religious-conservative base with a strong sense of ‘the other’. “This argument is clearly aimed at facilitating the flow of voters to IP and fringe parties.

Changes over time

Over the course of two decades, successive AK Party governments have overseen a multidimensional transformation of Turkish politics. The traditional left-right divide has thus become immaterial. The AK party, which has Islamic considerations, has redefined conservatism. As Turkey’s version of secularism became more democratic, certain issues — like the headscarf, the status of Hagia Sophia and religious instruction — became permanent fixtures in centrist politics. The CHP chairman’s “acknowledgment” of the achievements of conservative Muslims represents an obligatory recognition of normalization. Of course, one must bear in mind the “deep secular anger” of this social group, which they sometimes manage to conceal and reveal on other occasions.

It would be wrong to reduce the AKP party’s struggle against domestic and foreign tutelage – and the costs of its long tenure in power – to “putting ideology first”. Politicians with the power to determine Turkey’s future represent an important opportunity for democratic consolidation. Moreover, while the AKP party has certainly built up a broad base, those commentators, who believe in “identity politics” to keep this group together, are dead wrong. Since the electorate doesn’t believe the opposition can solve Turkey’s pressing problems (even after 20 years), these commentators need something better than “identity politics” talk to explain it all.

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