Turkiye’s political parties make preelection concessions

Yasar Yakis

The Turkish parliament has decided to hold this year’s national elections on May 14. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan supported this date because it coincides with the 77th anniversary, to the day, of the 1950 elections. The 1950 elections marked the end of the monopoly in power of the Republican People’s Party, established in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. Several negotiations took place this month between the various coalitions formed among the political parties ahead of the confirmation of the ultimate date for the parliamentary and presidential votes.
Beginning with the ruling Justice and aevelopment Party, known as the AKP, it sealed agreements with two parties. One of them is the New Welfare Party. This party is the continuation of the Welfare Party, established by the conservative leader Necmettin Erbakan. His son Fatih Erbakan established a party that he named the New Welfare Party to emphasize that it is the continuation of the party established by his late father. Fatih’s negotiations with the AKP looked as if they were going to fail at one stage. There were two critical points in the negotiations. One was the AKP’s request that the New Welfare Party should not participate in 23 constituencies because it had previously lost in these constituencies by a small margin. Therefore, it was expected that, when the New Welfare Party did not participate in these constituencies, the conservative votes would go to the AKP. How this controversy was ultimately solved has not been disclosed. Some serious exchanges of concessions must have taken place behind closed doors. The sober faces of the negotiators during the signing ceremony may be a sign that the agreement did not please everyone.
The second bone of contention was Fatih’s request to amend the law on the “Protection of the Family and the Prevention of Violence Against Women.” Public opinion will soon know the exact extent of the amendment. However, independent from the bargaining between these two parties, the disclosure of the fact that there was disagreement on this subject has led to a wider debate on the subject. It involved the deputy chairman of the AKP in charge of family affairs as well as the minister of family. They had to side with women’s rights. We will soon find out the details of this bargain. Another important agreement was made between the AKP and its successful former Finance Minister Mehmet Simsek. He had parted ways with the AKP several years ago and returned to his former job in international finance.
The third major negotiations were conducted by the AKP with HUDAPAR. This is a political party known for brutal assassinations of its opponents. Several years ago, Erdogan did not spare any blame for this party. It is mainly based in southeastern Anatolia, although it also has a presence elsewhere in Turkiye. It has no seats in parliament and received just 0.3 percent of the votes in the 2018 general election. In light of this background, it is unclear whether the AKP’s bargaining with this party will increase its votes or, on the contrary, turn undecided voters away from the AKP. Another set of negotiations were held, this time between the main opposition Republican People’s Party, known as the CHP, and the pro-Kurdish HDP (Peoples’ Democratic Party), whose nationwide political strength is estimated to be about 12 percent. These negotiations were concluded with a wide-ranging concurrence of views. So, the agreement can be considered to be sealed.
Many presidential candidates have already applied for the post. Each of them needs 100,000 signatures for their candidacy to be confirmed by the Supreme Electoral Council. It is obvious that the competition will take place between Erdogan and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP. The remainder must have applied in the expectation that, in the second round of voting, they may negotiate concessions with either of the leading two parties. Muharrem Ince has become an active player in the upcoming elections. He has decided to participate under the banner of his Homeland Party, which is a breakaway from the CHP. He ran as the CHP candidate in the last presidential election and won about 30 percent of the vote. The opposition parties tried to persuade him not to run as an independent candidate this time around, as the votes cast in his favor will be deducted from the opposition parties. The ruling AKP is doing everything it can to promote Ince so that he steals as many votes as possible from the opposition parties. There is strong pressure coming from the opposition quarters to persuade him to give up. But he still maintains his ambivalent position. If Erdogan wins again, he will have a hard time fulfilling the exaggerated promises he is currently making. For now, however, his first target is to win the elections.