Turkey’s coalition of hope
The pact between Turkish opposition parties that saw them score rare wins over President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party the elections for mayors of major cities has been called a coalition of hope by political scientist Ayşen Candaş, and she is right.
Writing on the Duvar news website last week, Candaş said the coalition of hope was an alternative to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s sectarian, womanless, unequal vision of society. But, she said, there were issues dividing the coalition that had to be resolved, chiefly the Kurdish question; how to resolve a 35-year conflict between the state and Kurdish militants that has cost the lives of more than 40,000 people.
Can the solidarity created by the opposition parties ahead of the March 31 local elections form the basis of a new peace process to help end the bloodshed? Can the coalition of hope begin a new peace process based on the protection of minority rights, establishment of the rule of law and democracy in a non-sectarian, inclusive and fair way that gives women equal representation and sees equality as a principle that applies to all?
If this happens, Candaş said, there was a possibility that Turkey could reverse its fate. Otherwise crises would deepen and take decades to overcome.
We are both close and far away from the possibility of real change. We are close, because we have learned that we can win if we stand together despite our different identities, beliefs and cultural ties and prioritise the establishment of a pluralist democracy.
But we are also far away as we have a government that could dismantle the coalition using the means of repression and violence it has at hand. The ruling party has so far used every trick in the book to try to annul the opposition win in the election for mayor of Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city and the main engine of its economy. Its appeal for a rerun of the polls, on the grounds of what it said was fraud, has yet to be decided.
Meanwhile, the government has also proposed establishing what it calls a Turkey alliance with opposition parties; on the one hand it threatens the opposition parties, and on the other it tries to co-opt them.
Following an assault on the main opposition leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, at the funeral of a soldier killed by the PKK last month, ruling party politicians defended the attackers. The attack, called by many in Turkey an attempted lynching, is not something unfamiliar. Some in the mob that surrounded the house where Kılıçdaroğlu took shelter called for it to be burned down.
Turkish intellectual Tanıl Bora says in his book entitled “Turkey’s Lynch Regime” that lynching has become a means of crisis management in Turkey and therefore encouraged. Erdoğan said of the incident there had been a build up of gas beforehand, implying the mob was just letting off steam.
What holds us back as a society is that such angry crowds are always given a pat on the back on the grounds that beliefs and identities are justification for such acts. In societies where the level of urbanisation and education is low, any suggestion that “the self” is under threat is enough to justify violence.
Candaş said the local elections showed that a dynamic urban population able to establish solidarity with others and supporting democratic values was in fact in the majority in Turkey. This is an important window to a hopeful future. Urban values are crucial because urban life is polyphonic; everybody talks, everybody participates, and everybody can stand together for the same purpose without putting pressure on others. This is the reason for the success of the coalition of hope in Turkey’s major cities.
* The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.