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HomeHeadlineÖzgür Özel's Oversight: Ignoring Critical Issues in Turkish Politics

Özgür Özel’s Oversight: Ignoring Critical Issues in Turkish Politics

It’s a cliché but undeniably true: “If you button the first button wrong, the rest will also be incorrect.”

The policies followed by CHP leader Özgür Özel, especially his ‘softening’ strategy with President Erdoğan, are exactly like the shirt story. Özel buttoned the first button wrong, and the rest followed suit. Let me explain what I mean with concrete examples…

As is well known, President Erdoğan and AKP, having suffered a heavy defeat in the March 31 elections, quickly overcame the shock and implemented a new version of the ‘Exploratory Talks’ deception of 2015. The purpose of ‘Exploratory Talks’ was to buy time and distract the opposition.

Indeed, that’s what happened. What happened afterward is well known to everyone. Erdoğan said, “Give me 400 votes, and this matter will be resolved peacefully!” Subsequently, hundreds of people lost their lives in ‘terror’ incidents, the situation turned into a bloodbath, and Erdoğan got what he wanted.

Now, we face a similar game. Erdoğan needed time to overcome the shock of the election defeat and the disarray in party organizations. Moreover, he needed to send the message, “I am still in charge.” CHP’s new leader Özgür Özel came to his rescue.

Erdoğan needs money and time! And what a rescue it was! Özel emerged victorious from the elections, but he experienced indescribable joy because Erdoğan engaged with him. Consider what happened yesterday.

One might think the American president visited the CHP. Sure, Erdoğan hadn’t visited the CHP headquarters for 18 years, but that was entirely his choice. If the results of the March 31 elections had been different, Erdoğan wouldn’t have visited at all.

For days, CHP management and media have been throwing around headlines like ‘historic meeting, critical summit,’ and giving statements. Pro-CHP journalists are analyzing what issues Özgür Özel will bring to the table.

Yet the reality is simple; under the guise of ‘softening,’ Erdoğan needs to present these images. Because he needs money and time.

Moreover, with this softening rhetoric, he has trapped CHP in such a way that Özel cannot perform tough opposition even if he wants to. Erdoğan has fulfilled a few of Özgür Özel’s demands, such as releasing the perpetrators of the February 28 coup.

Even before yesterday’s meeting, following the cable car disaster in Antalya, the newly elected CHP mayor of Kepez, Mesut Kocagöz, was released. Erdoğan is making small gestures to please Özel! Özel, feeling the ‘pleasure’ of having achieved something, is beginning to see himself as a future leader.

Erdoğan’s real target is İmamoğlu! In reality, what Erdoğan is doing is very clear; he is using AKP and the ‘Pool’ media to elevate Özgür Özel and block Ekrem İmamoğlu’s path to the presidency. At the very least, he wants a split within CHP. His main strategy is to consolidate his one-man regime established with the fake July 15 coup under the guise of a ‘new Constitution’ and remove obstacles to his renomination.

Otherwise, we all know that Erdoğan doesn’t care about the Constitution. If it weren’t for the issue of his renomination, Erdoğan wouldn’t bother with a new constitution.

There is also the matter of an ‘invisible partnership.’

CHP leader Özel, with statements like, “I will discuss this with Erdoğan, I will request that,” prepared dossiers on many topics.

He presented these to Erdoğan and requested solutions. A disastrous move in terms of communication strategy. Because if the solution lies with Erdoğan and AKP, why should the people vote for you in the elections? The people clearly showed at the ballot box that they did not want Erdoğan and AKP. But you still go to him saying, “No, the solution lies with Erdoğan.”

The debris will fall on CHP… Moreover, the ‘coalition’ appearance given will result in CHP being held responsible for the wreckage. After all, Özgür Özel listed demands on a dozen topics, from the situation of retirees to the Şenyaşar family drama, from the Sinan Ateş assassination to the Gezi trial, from wheat prices to minimum wage, and conducted negotiations.

Özgür Özel’s biggest mistake, however, is the list he prepared. Remember the shirt-button metaphor I mentioned at the beginning.

All the issues Özel considers ‘problems’ and brought to Erdoğan are the result of the July 15 regime. The TBMM was bypassed, control mechanisms were disabled, and the judiciary and security bureaucracy were entirely linked to the Palace. Özgür Özel is concerned with the consequences, not the source of the problems. In this state, he is no different from an apartment manager fussing over the colors of the balcony rails of a house built on rotten foundations.

Unfortunately, Özgür Özel’s understanding of ‘justice’ is also problematic. He makes a selective list. He shows sensitivity for the Kavala case or the Gezi trial that he does not show for the injustices done to Kurds or those affected by the KHKs.

He ignores July 15 and those affected by KHKs For instance, in yesterday’s meeting, there were even discussions on wheat prices, but the KHKs that have harmed millions were not on the agenda. There is also no agenda concerning the fake July 15 coup that changed the regime in Turkey. Yet, that supposed coup is the source of all problems. Özgür Özel cannot be unaware or not see this. However, he has bought into and accepted the coup narrative of the Erdoğan regime.

Not once did he say, “You did not send Hulusi Akar and Hakan Fidan to the TBMM, you kept them from the courts. Why? The suspicions in these cases will not be cleared until they come.” He didn’t say it, he couldn’t.

Especially not pursuing the ‘missing’ report of the TBMM Coup Investigation Commission is mind-boggling. While he’s able to meet with Erdoğan so often, he could ask, “Mr. President, AKP members won’t even eat in the parliament cafeteria without your knowledge. Where did our coup report go? Could you order it to be found?”

But that’s not quite how it happens.

Look not to Erdoğan and Özel, but to Bahçeli! It appears and is seen that CHP leader Özgür Özel has no problem with the injustices caused by illegal KHKs or the fabricated July 15 coup. He prefers to sing the regime’s tune.

However, the rule is very simple and everyone knows it; the fight against fascism starts with language. You cannot fight the oppressor using the regime’s language. Just like in the past, Erdoğan’s current plan, aimed at buying time and distracting, is going very steadily so far.

The only obstacle in front of him is Devlet Bahçeli. For now, the MHP leader is content with Ferdi Tayfur references and ring messages, but one day he might snap and say ‘let’s go to elections.’

After all, for a long time now in Turkey, Devlet Bahçeli has been determining when elections are held. In my opinion, instead of focusing on the Özel-Erdoğan meetings, we should look at Devlet Bahçeli.

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Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Arslan
Adem Yavuz Aslan is a leading Turkish investigative journalist in exile based in Washington, D.C.
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