The year 2023 means and holds a lot for Turkey. In the first place, from the perspective of world history, the Republic of Turkey has just turned one hundred – young. Second, from incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s suggestion, come 14 May, the historic date on which the country got the first elected prime minister 73 years ago, the electorate in their millions will hold parliamentary and presidential polls, poised to set and fine tune Turkey’s future after two decades of geometric progression-like terrible and horrible grip of Erdogan, the ruling Justice and Development (AKP) Party and ally Nationalist Movement (MHP) Party.
The polls project a close range contest, even when looked at from a simple mathematical view of the main contenders’ tags of Nation Alliance and Public Alliance. Along the steps of solving Algebraic simultaneous equations, after cancelling what is common, “Alliance”, we are left with the real contest taking place between “Nation” and “Public”. The Nation Alliance, also known as the “Table of Six”, is a bloc established by six opposition parties to challenge the Public Alliance, made up of Erdogan’s ruling AKP and ally MHP.
A very recent survey conducted by the ORC Research Company has shown that if the polls were to be held on 22 January, 2023, forty-two per cent of Generation Z (between 18 and 25 years) in Turkey would support the Nation Alliance. Twenty-two per cent said they would support Erdogan’s Public Alliance. The ratio of 42:22, reflecting the Nation getting almost twice as much voters’ support than the Public, tells the story.
The survey elaborates that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its ally, the nationalist Good (IY) Party would receive 21.9% and 20.1 % of GZ respectively. AKP would have received 15.4 and ally MHP’s 6.9%. It also shows that 10% GZ is made up of undecided voters. Pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), the Party for Change in Turkey (TDP), the Future Party (GP), Victory Party (ZP) and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) would receive between 2.5. and 6.5% of. Sixty-two-and-half per cent said they were not happy with the governance of their country adding that it was poorly governed by Erdogan’s AKP, while 5.9% said they were happy with its governance.
On a light historical note though, this would not have been the first time in Turkey for “nation” and “public” concepts coming face to face on the country’s development course. Chronicles show that after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the army elite, with special[p1] veneration for (actually head over heels in love with) the French Revolution, set their eyes on establishing a new state from the nation perspective. They called that state, the Republic of Turkey.
Their main target, as elites, was to educate the taken-for-granted ‘ignorant, non-elite public’ to avoid their setbacks during the implementation of new development policy programmes. The Mayor of Istanbul was quoted at one time as commenting that because the public had practically occupied the entire Istanbul beach area, the nation could not use it for having a swim in the sea. In the mayor’s mind, a development conflict equation had thus been created between the nation and public, demanding requisite solution.
The purpose of this analysis is not to deliver a political science nation-versus-public lecture. There is no cause for shaking or disturbing the bones of Socrates or Aristotle and his student Plato. Not even those of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Father of Turkey. But a nation generally consists of a distinct population of people that are bound together by a common culture, history and tradition and who are located within a specific geographic area. That is the nation.
Those who have had some access to political science studies, remember that derived from the Latin word “publicus”, the use of which is very wide and raises an equally wide range of debate and an assortment of sentiments, depending on reigning circumstances of the day. Within the context of the coming Turkish polls, the use of the word “public” to qualify a contenders’ alliance, refers to, connotes or signifies a collection of a particular group of people with a common interest, aim, target. This time round, those united around the Erdogan, AKP and MHP primary aim of staying in power, come what may.
And to them, derived from what is taking place on the ground, it doesn’t matter even if the process would violate human rights and freedoms at home, and or flout international agreements to which Turkey is party. It is the case of where the aim justifies the means. Examples of this abound, the likes of recent Turkish criminal court banning the most preferred opposition Mayor of Istanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu from politics, a jailed mother being refused to reunite with her cancer-battling son, a prisoner being refused permission to attend a mother’s funeral, closing public funding valve to the opposition. Name it.
The six parties aligned with the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) in the creation of Nation Alliance constitute the Good (iYi) Party, Felicity Party, the Democrat Party, the Future Party, and the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA). Their main focus is on Turkey’s return to a strengthened parliamentary system to clear the way for good governance and all that goes with it for putting in place a government that would be held fully accountable. The Nation Alliance respective leaders are Kemal Kilicdaroglu (CHP); Meraal Aksener, the Good (iYi ) Party); Temel Karamollaoglu, the Felicity Party (SP-SADT); Guitekin Uysal, the Democrat Party (DP); Ahmet Davutoglu, the Democratic Future Party (Gelecek); and Ali Babacan, the Democracy and Progress (DEVA) Party.
Members of the Turkey problem set were identified by Muslim scholar and morals philosopher Said Nursi (1878-1960) as ignorance, poverty and disunity. On the face value, the members of the opposition in Turkey are united. They want their country back on the good governance rails. But, united as they are, in fact they are, in essence, disunited. They fall in the African indigenous observation category of music drum instrument makers who pull strings in their own direction. They are selfish. They equally fail to learn from and appreciate another African indigenous knowledge pre-condition of “abasindika eihiga bema hamo” – meaning, those who have the common purpose of moving a fire-place stone, must put in their effort from one and the same position.
For the purpose of the coming Turkish elections, Erdogan is the sole presidential AKP-MHP candidate under the tag of Public Alliance. This boils down to MHP passing on their presidential candidacy thirst to AKP and giving Erdogan every possible support. This does not mean that AKP and MHP have no differences. They do. But, because of the challenge ahead of them, victory should come first. On their part, the six parties comprising the Nation Alliance have all along displayed symptoms, if not a disease of, fragmentation and lack of a common political agenda.
They have even vowed to distance themselves from the Labour and Freedom Alliance (LFA), the third electoral alliance (also by six left wing and socialist political parties — the Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP), the Labour Party (EMEP), the Laborer’s Movement Party (EHP) the Social Freedom Party (TOP); the Federation of Socialist Councils (SMF) and the HDP. Reason? Because of its alleged ties with the banned Turkish Workers Party (PKK). In so doing, aren’t they in support of Erdogan, the person they want to unseat? At the same time, HDP have said they are fielding their own presidential candidate. What a perfect mix for Erdogan?
Socrates said an unexamined life is not worth living. According to Warren Buffett, the ultimate test of a life well lived boils down to one simple principle. It is “the size of your heart. The more you give love away, the more you get back…Loving something we do gives us purpose…” Can’t the Turkish opposition alliances assign a purpose to their political activities? Do they want to tip over hopes of the Turkish people into the Erdogan’s sea of human rights and freedoms violations?
The people of Turkey are entitled to dignity and respect rather than social ills like mistreated prison babies and strip searches. They deserve a transparent government rather than the one that hides itself behind COVID-related jail decongestion measures leaving people with Gulen links behind to die. They need peace with neighbors rather than cross border military operations which make them poorer.
It is the Turkish opposition party alliances’ inability to work together that has kept palace gates wide open to Erdogan. They must appreciate that the future of Turkey, its people and their political activities, lies in their hands. That, enough is enough.