In recent weeks, many seem certain that the “Table of Six” (Nation Alliance) will emerge victorious in the May 14 elections—especially its sympathizers. This certainty is accompanied, furthermore, by the expectation that everything will go well under a possible Nation Alliance government, and things in the country will soon be “rosy and peaceful”.
However, there are reasons to avoid excessive optimism on both issues.
First of all, it is likely that the ‘Table of Six” may only achieve a partial victory in the elections, i.e. win only one of the legislative or executive branches, which would make the Alliance’s task more difficult.
In particular, if the ‘Table of Six’ fails to gain a sufficient majority in the legislature to amend the constitution, its plans for transitioning to a parliamentary regime are likely to be thwarted.
Moreover, if the Nation Alliance gains a legislative majority that would enable it to fulfill its ordinary legislative function, but fails to win the presidency at the same time, the potential power competition between the two wings could bring the system to a near gridlock.
The system could also be blocked, due to the same power competition, if the Nation Alliance wins the presidency only. In such a case, Erdoğan’s ruling “People’s Alliance,” which controls the legislature, would try to prevent a prospective President-elect Kılıçdaroğlu from trying to achieve results through decrees.
The second concern is whether a Nation Alliance government could pursue a coherent economic policy. This is a challenge that it may face even if it wins both elections.
This challenge has two aspects.
Firstly, it may not be easy to achieve an economic consensus among the partners.
While it is conceivable that placing this issue in the hands of technocrats could lower the possibilities of deviating from orthodox economic policies, is unrealistic to expect that the CHP in particular would be willing to give up its traditional political-economic preferences in favor of market-driven, “technical” truths.
Indeed, both among the CHP’s base and its political-bureaucratic elite, there are a considerable number of educated people who have scapegoated what they call “neoliberalism,” and are excited by what they call “a return to public economy.”
In the meantime, it should not be forgotten that Kılıçdaroğlu—who recently declared that “neoliberalism has come to an end’’—has been making lavish promises in recent weeks, which gives the impression that he does not much care for books or calculations.
The second aspect of the economic issue that signals problems for the opposition’s prospective government is the unrealistic expectation among the alliance’s base that things will immediately get better with the end of the AKP-MHP rule.
But repairing the economy after this government’s rule and putting it back on track will not happen overnight.
Therefore, even if the Nation Alliance works in harmony and follows the right economic program, it will be impossible to overcome Turkey’s current economic difficulties in a short time. This is therefore likely to lead to a decline in public support for the new administration. And, having lost power, the AKP-MHP bloc will make the government’s job even more difficult with a very tough opposition.
A third challenge will involve the lawful dismantling of the partisan cadres in the bureaucracy and the judiciary on the one hand, and—as a complementary step—the restoration of competence and merit on the other.
Cleansing the judiciary of incompetent and partisan cadres and making it independent is also necessary to ensure that the corruption and unlawful acts committed during AKP-MHP rule are held to account, and that grievances created are addressed.
But addressing these injustices without creating new ones—and within a reasonable amount of time—is perhaps the most challenging task facing a possible Nation Alliance government.
My final concern about a post-AKP period is the following: The excessive use of religion (religious abuse) to gain political advantage during the AKP-MHP rule has rightly provoked a great reaction from different segments of society.
It’s possible that this reaction may be used for the wrong purpose.
There is a strong possibility that this reaction will be channelled by the CHP (and in part by the Good Party), into the legitimization of Atatürkism, or Kemalism, as the government’s official ideology.
My concern is that Atatürkism will be seen as an antidote to the “reactionary deviation” represented by the AKP; it will be reinstated to its old throne and its immunity will be reinforced. This will put Turkey’s cause for liberation and democratization into a deadlock from the very beginning.
Treating Atatürkism as the ultimate reference of truth that will put an end to all kinds of discussions by the state will do nothing but prevent free thought, which is the engine of development and progress; and freeze minds, as it has done so far in Turkey.
The alternative to the AKP’s mentality is not Kemalism, but liberal-democratic pluralism.
The views and opinions expressed above are the author’s and do not reflect those of the Free Turkish Press.