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The Dilemma of Meral Akşener

Vahap Coskun*

Alliances have a side that condemns parties to political inaction. Each party within an alliance must be cautious about the sensitive points of the other parties in the alliance and avoid engaging in issues that could harm their unity. They pass the ball around on critical issues and construct elastic sentences that can be interpreted in various ways. They try to appease everyone or, at the very least, avoid upsetting anyone within the alliance. They refrain from taking a clear stance.

If an alliance consists of parties that are close to each other in terms of their base and ideology, this political inaction can be more tolerable. Since the parties use a similar language, have similar societal views, and allow for transitions between their bases, not clearly showing their political color causes less harm to each party.

However, if an alliance is formed by relatively distant parties, each party has to be more cautious about the red lines of the others. In such alliances, parties are more likely to compromise on their own policies and speak up more to prevent harm to the unity. Therefore, political inaction in dissimilar alliances runs deeper, the parties’ ability to represent their bases diminishes further, and party identities erode even more.

Genetically Altered Parties

In fact, all parties are aware of this; alliances alter the genetics of parties. However, the need to reach 50% + 1 for power compels parties to join alliances. Since no party can achieve this ratio on its own, creating a broad umbrella and gathering as many parties as possible under it becomes a necessity. If one party forms an alliance or joins one, it inevitably leads other parties, who see themselves as competitors, to either build their own alliances or find a place within an alliance.

Therefore, the call made by Meral Akşener, the leader of the İYİ Party, on August 26th, “Let all political parties enter the elections separately. Let each of us enter the elections separately,” has no political significance. Alliances are a reality in Turkish politics today, and ignoring this reality is not a viable option. Indeed, Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), made it clear that Akşener’s call has no credibility under current conditions with the statement, “Akşener’s call is not taken seriously by us,” leaving no room for debate.

Bahçeli also warned Akşener by saying, “There is no one who supports those who want to enter the election separately, or who stands in their way,” indicating that the components of the People’s Alliance, including the MHP and AK Party, are fully committed to working together in the 2024 local elections.

However, Akşener has no cards to play against this warning. The İYİ Party currently does not control a single province or metropolitan municipality. If she enters the elections alone, the outcome will likely be the same; the İYİ Party won’t win any municipalities. Akşener won’t be able to explain this to her base.

The Lesser of Two Evils

Politics is not just about implementing ideological principles or chasing abstract ideals. Politics has a pragmatic and practical side. People also expect concrete gains from politics that will improve and facilitate their daily lives. The alliance has provided İYİ Party with this concrete benefit; it has opened up a broad field for both Akşener and İYİ Party’s base to operate in.

Akşener credited opposition-controlled municipalities to herself, even though they were under the CHP banner. She treated the opposition-held municipalities as İYİ Party municipalities and even appointed İYİ Party bureaucrats to municipal positions. İYİ Party members found it easier to resolve their issues in these municipalities and gained more visibility.

Entering the elections alone would mean giving up all of these advantages. Because Turkey’s politics still has a two-polar structure; İYİ Party doesn’t dominate any region in terms of votes, similar to the HDP. Therefore, if İYİ Party enters the elections with its own logo and fails to win any municipalities, it will suffer a major defeat. Akşener won’t have any success story to tell, and İYİ Party will be deprived of the advantages and privileges of being in power at the local level.

It will be very difficult for Akşener to convince her party of this, and she is aware of this, which is why she called for all parties to enter the elections separately. She stated, “We are working as if we are going to enter the elections alone everywhere,” but immediately afterward, she mentioned that local cooperation between parties might still be possible. She also noted that decisions would be made regarding Istanbul and Ankara, which everyone is watching closely, when the time comes. In summary, she left the door open for an alliance once again.

*After graduating from Dicle University Faculty of Law, Vahap Coşkun pursued his master’s degree at the same university. He completed his doctoral studies at Ankara University. Currently, he works as an academic staff member at Dicle University Faculty of Law. Coşkun has numerous articles published in various newspapers and magazines. He is known for his research in the areas of human rights, democracy, the Kurdish issue, and its legal implications.

This article initially was published in Serbestiyet.com and translated into English by Politurco.

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