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Shifting Alliances and Political Strategies in Turkey: The Complex Dynamics Ahead of Local Elections

M. Ahmet Karabay

In politics, there are not only black and white, the colors are richer than a rainbow. There are fifty shades of grey alone. In politics, there is only black or white for Tayyip Erdoğan. But nobody other than Erdoğan himself knows what to call black or white, and when. Reports of Erdoğan initiating a new peace process with Kurds before the local elections indicate that many things will be different from April 1st onward.

Before New Year, it was assumed that the key parties of the March 31 local elections would be the DEM Party and the Good Party (İYİ Parti). However, Fatih Erbakan’s New Welfare Party (YRP) also made its name as the third key party among them.

Today, I will not talk about Fatih Erbakan, who has proven to be one of the greatest negotiators in our political history, as the son of Necmettin Erbakan, or about his party, YRP. Today’s topic is not about Meral Akşener and the Good Party, which will enter the election on their own.

I will only mention Akşener to share that I was mistaken in my article dated July 8, 2021, titled “Will Erdoğan replace MHP with HDP or İYİ Parti?” I thought Erdoğan would replace MHP with one of these as an alternative. The correct answer was not option A or B, but “All of the above.”

The political landscape was stirred up when Selahattin Demirtaş’s wife, who has been held hostage in prison for seven years, suddenly announced her desire to be the DEM Party’s candidate from Istanbul. Her candidacy announcement, especially popular among the younger generation, was interpreted as cooperation between the AK Party and the HDP/DEM Party.

Başak Demirtaş’s candidacy announcement was interpreted by Cem Toker, the former chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), as an offer she couldn’t refuse: “Become a candidate from Istanbul, and reunite with your husband!”

Just then, the affection between the parties reignited. Compliments flowed back and forth between the AK Party and DEM Party. Leyla Zana, a once silent symbol of the Kurdish movement, called for Erdoğan to restart the peace process.

Ahmet Türk, a veteran of Kurdish politics and a candidate for the Mardin Metropolitan Municipality, expressed skepticism towards the CHP’s ability to solve the Kurdish issue, suggesting only Erdoğan could resolve it, given his leadership.

In response to these outward steps from the DEM Party side, the AK Party could not remain silent. Ali İhsan Yavuz, memorable for his statement “Even if nothing happens, something definitely has,” asserted that the AK Party is not just a Turkish party but a party of Turkey.

It was rumored that discussions behind closed doors between the AK Party and the DEM Party had been ongoing for some time. The sudden praises for Selahattin Demirtaş from the AK Party camp were not without reason. AK Party MP Galip Ensarioğlu praised Demirtaş as a charismatic and talented politician who has won the sympathy of the youth while in prison.

Moreover, AK Party Deputy Leader Efkan Ala called for support in the elections during a candidate introduction meeting in Diyarbakır, urging not to hinder but to support solving the nation’s problems.

PKK leader Mustafa Karasu from Kandil indirectly supported this alliance by sending a message to DEM Party regarding cooperation with CHP through Murat Kurum.

SELAHATTİN DEMİRTAŞ’S STATEMENT SHIFTS THE BALANCE AGAIN

Not just in Istanbul, but in many major cities, the DEM Party, represented by its former chairman Selahattin Demirtaş from Edirne Prison, suggested that the party should converse with all parties, including the AK Party.

Demirtaş’s suggestion of his wife Başak’s candidacy was not to win or lose but to make a “third way” politics visible, aiming for reconciliation and handshake.

Recalling a statement by PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan during the outbreak of the Syrian conflict, Demirtaş emphasized a “third way,” careful not to contradict Öcalan while maintaining strong ties with his party.

Demirtaş’s communication, through Batman MP Mehmet Rüştü Tiryaki, highlighted that Başak Demirtaş’s candidacy was meant to empower the party, and her withdrawal was informed by the party’s decision, urging trust in their actions.

Demanding transparent politics, Demirtaş seeks trust from his party members without providing detailed information or reasoning.

After announcing his retirement from active politics following the May 28 elections’ second round, Demirtaş’s recent maneuvers suggest he remains deeply involved in politics.

AK PARTY PREPARES FOR A SIEGE OPERATION

While extending a hand of peace to the DEM Party base through certain figures, the government also prepares for a new security approach in Iraq, involving the head of the National Intelligence Organization, the Minister of National Defense, and the Chief of General Staff.

Following the U.S.’s announcement of potential withdrawal from Syria, the government intensified its open diplomatic efforts, aiming not for a democratic solution but to establish a security infrastructure for the Kurdish issue.

DEM Party seeks to open the door for a new process before the election, while the Erdoğan administration aims to regain lost territories, including Istanbul, to emerge stronger from the election.

The resolution of the Kurdish issue depends solely on Erdoğan’s will. Outside his support base, there is no party base that applauds both his right and wrong actions unconditionally. Dialogue between DEM Party and AK Party, including Erdoğan, is essential, but the real issue lies in Erdoğan’s reliability.

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