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HomeHeadlineTurkish Opposition Leader Advocates for Early Elections Amid Political Shifts

Turkish Opposition Leader Advocates for Early Elections Amid Political Shifts

Is managing victory more difficult, or is managing defeat harder? On March 31, the AKP suffered a great loss, while the Turkish Opposition Party CHP achieved a significant victory. For CHP, it’s a triumph; for AKP, it’s a disaster. Despite his vast experience, Erdoğan has yet to comprehend the disaster of March 31. His confusion isn’t entirely unjustified; after all, managing defeat is exceedingly challenging. History shows that no one can stop an army fleeing from defeat. The same holds true in politics.

Erdoğan’s analysis of March 31 is far from reality, composed entirely of slogans and bombast. The coach Fatih Terim, who famously said, “It’s not over until we say it’s over,” couldn’t find a team to coach in Turkey afterwards. Everything slipped through his fingers before he could declare it over. Erdoğan has always been like this; he prefers to speak in slogans. Emotional statements serve no purpose other than to rile up the base and elicit applause.

He sees a ‘dream of conquest’ in defeat. But what he’s living is a nightmare. He is aware of this.

Numbers don’t lie, but those who want to lie use numbers to their advantage, and there are many examples of this in Turkish politics. Especially Devlet Bahçeli loves to manipulate figures. While discussing March 31, he boosted MHP’s share to 16%. Erdoğan wasn’t far behind. He summed up the votes of both parties and declared, “We are number one!” At the end of the day, the numbers assert themselves.

Sezai Karakoç’s comment about Yahya Kemal, ‘a dream of conquest in defeat’, is a correct and beautiful observation in the world of literature. However, it has no place in politics. March 31 means ‘disaster and nightmare’ for AKP. We see how difficult, indeed impossible, it is to manage a defeat in Erdoğan’s remarks.

The danger facing CHP is the intoxication of victory! Managing victory is not easy either. It intoxicates you. You won’t know what you are saying or doing. It spoils you. The term ‘intoxication of victory’ is not said in vain. March 31 is another name for CHP’s victory. Their initial target was Istanbul… they almost won all of Turkey. They brought down AKP strongholds one by one. It’s appropriate to say ‘CHP entered even the AKP’s shipyards.’

Who would have thought that CHP would win in Adıyaman, Kütahya, Balıkesir? In some of these cities, they couldn’t even win a mayorship during the multi-party period. Oltan Sungurlu from ANAP must be ringing in their ears… He summarized the 1989 election defeat succinctly: “A steamroller ran over us!” On March 31, however, ‘CHP steamrolled over AKP.’ Despite the victory, CHP’s new leadership faced the results with calm and great maturity. No trace of drunkenness or arrogance.

Moreover, they are aware of what March 31 signifies. They weren’t satisfied with just ‘local power’. They have already set their sights on 2028. They realize that the ‘floating voters’ can come and go just as easily. Therefore, leaders like Özgür Özel, Ekrem İmamoğlu, and Mansur Yavaş use a very careful, inclusive, and appealing language and style. Turkish political history has rarely recorded such maturity in the face of such great success.

I listened to CHP General President Özgür Özel’s speech at the ‘Local Governments Workshop’ just after the election. Hosting such a workshop right after an election is a step in the right direction. It’s a platform for consultation and seeking collective wisdom… This will also evolve into an institutional mechanism. An eye will be kept on behalf of the people, monitoring and overseeing mayors.

CHP leader Özel sat in the general chair under the shadow of Ekrem İmamoğlu. He highlighted the ‘Change’ slogan, but I think the concept of ‘hope’, particularly embodied by Özel and İmamoğlu, was more influential. The CHP base, dragged from defeat to defeat at the polls, knew victory with İmamoğlu. And that ‘hope of winning’ changed the party leader. Özel talked about ‘learned helplessness’ in his speech. Without hope, it’s inevitable that CHP voters will drift elsewhere. They’ve seen that keeping the ranks tight doesn’t work, as experienced when İmamoğlu’s victory marked the beginning of a new era for CHP in 2019.

CHP did not win because of its ‘past’; it won because of ‘hope for the future’. Özel was sitting as a caretaker in the chair of CHP General Presidency… He proved his mettle in the March 31 elections. He made his temporary seat permanent. Of course, not as a ‘sole leader’ but with a team spirit… And he is aware of this. Leaders who come to power through consultation and a cadre movement often turn to ‘sole leadership’ at the first opportunity. There is a long-term danger awaiting Özel. Power corrupts. It’s hard to stay humble in office.

So far, Özel’s words and actions have been consistent and sound. Baykal and Kılıçdaroğlu tried every method, opened CHP to the right, and renewed the cadre, but they could never break the 25% barrier. Özel’s statement, ‘We shattered the 25% glass ceiling,’ expresses a reality. “We used three keys for this!” he said, anchoring it to Atatürk and the past.

But the message to the base is incorrect. It’s not about the ‘past’; it’s undeniably about the ‘hope for the future’… Baykal’s and Kılıçdaroğlu’s references were also the past, Atatürk… It’s been seen that the past has trapped CHP in a rigid ideology. If Özel continues from this point, he’ll pull CHP back to the glass ceiling he inherited.

We’re not in an era of rigid ideologies. On the contrary, it’s a time of flexibility… a time to move from where you are towards the center of society. This is true for AKP, which has turned Islam into an ideology, and even more so for CHP. Walking to power with the ideology of Kemalism is not possible. Being reconciled with the reality of Atatürk is one thing; turning it into an ideology is another…

In response to Erdoğan’s statement that “The local elections were won by the People’s Alliance!” Özel said, “It’s clear they don’t understand the message from the voters. To say ‘we won the elections’ shows an arrogance and haughtiness that has not been cleansed.” He is not wrong. If you continue to speak from a high horse despite defeat, they will say ‘Hold on a minute’, i.e., ‘One minute’. No one is obligated to understand or agree with your psychology of defeat! Especially in politics, every statement you make gets a response.

AKP’s diseases; arrogance and haughtiness! I would like to call Özel ‘the humble outsider’. But politics is, after all, an arena. Emotions don’t work well here. Exchanges happen like a duel. The accusations of ‘arrogance and haughtiness’ also reflect the street’s view of Erdoğan and AKP… One of the main reasons for the defeat on March 31. It’s okay when you’re winning, but ‘arrogance and haughtiness’ are unforgivable when losing. In politics, if you fall, you turn into wreckage.

This statement by the CHP leader is very important: “If there is going to be a call for early elections, it will be like this; Those who don’t understand the yellow card and look for a second yellow card.”

March 31 was actually a ‘red card’ but Özel softened it. How can those who don’t understand a red card understand a yellow card! Özel’s statement is directly aimed at Erdoğan… And if it continues this way, an early election is inevitable. Clearly, a ‘snap election scenario’ is on Özel’s agenda. The timing and schedule will be determined by AKP’s attitude. Özel has already drawn his line for an early election…

Turkey needs to normalize In the coming days, there will be an Erdoğan-Özel summit. Turkish politics forgot about inter-leader meetings during the AKP era. Until now, Erdoğan has not reached out to the opposition, only meeting with alliance partners. The first move came from Özel. Erdoğan also said, “We will meet soon!” One of the outcomes of March 31. Had AKP emerged victorious, such a meeting would never happen. The result of the summit will undoubtedly be significant, but the very fact that the two leaders are sitting at the same table is an event in itself.

Regarding the summit, the CHP leader expressed his expectation, saying, “I believe we will take steps to break the polarization.” Fights, divisions, and living in a constant state of emergency have cost Turkey a lot. Turkey urgently needs to normalize. No state or society can live under extraordinary conditions for long. Today’s social troubles, economic crises, and turmoil stem from this. Normalization is more crucial for the government than the opposition. AKP’s extraordinary politics is a ‘dead end.’ This painful reality was seen on March 31.

In the pendulum of ‘defeat and victory,’ there is no other option but the normalization of Turkey. Signs indicate that ‘snap elections’ will soon be on the political agenda.

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