Before and after Turkey's local elections

The result of 45% of votes in favor of the AK Party shows that the doors have opened for Erdogan to become the next president.

Before and after Turkey's local elections

Ali Osman Selanikli

On 30 March 2014, Turkey voted in a local election, setting the political balance for the next one and a half years. After the local elections, the presidential and parliamentary elections will also follow. When they take place, the country's ruling bodies will change significantly.

The period in which the elections will take place in Turkey will like always bring with it major tribulations before and after they are held.

The result of the elections held on 30 March counts as a major success for the ruling AK Party, which got over 45% of Turkey’s votes. In the previous local council elections, AK Party's votes were under 40%.

Compared to the previous elections, this election went through a period of extremely exhausting and corrosive propaganda and so the results should be analysed in detail accordingly. Meanwhile, another matter that needs to be carefully examined is the great attack was made on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AK Party by the the US-based congregation leader Fethullah Gulen's Hizmet Movement, which worked with all its power to run a smear campaign against Erdogan, thus increasing the opposition CHP's votes to the same amount the AK Party got in previous elections.

In addition many of CHP’s candidates being from outside of the party is another area that needs to be looked at carefully. Mansur Yavas, a former lawmaker for the third biggest party in Turkey, the right-wing MHP, as well as the late Islamist leader Necmettin Erbakan’s nephew Sabri Erbakan, were both chosen to represent the party in the capital Ankara and Istanbul's most populated Fatih district respectively. The selection of these candidates by the staunchly seculer center-left CHP only shows us that when necessary ideologies can easily be put aside in the name of Turkish politics.

MHP leader Devlet Bahceli’s behaviour and the messages he portrayed before and after the elections are also of importance. Bahceli with great sensitivity ordered his supporters not to take part in street demonstrations during the Gezi Park riots in the summer of 2013, and also refused to base his political campaign on audio and video leaks implicating the government in a corruption scandal.

Although the MHP gained a significant percentage of votes, it did not reach the level of votes they were expecting to receive from former AK Party voters who they assumed would migrate to their party. Many pre-election think tanks also on many occasions mistakenly predicted that the MHP would see a boom in their supporters.

In this election, the two pro-Kurdish parties BDP and HDP only reached a portion of their previous votes combined. Eastern and south-eastern provinces showed that they still maintain their support base there. However, the AK Party showed that even in areas where the BDP is dominant, they still were able to gain a large percentage of votes and in some provinces missed winning the elections by a small percentage. This goes to show that the AK Party succeeded with its attempts to increase its support base in the region.

In this election, it looks like the party that lost most of its voters was the Islamist Saadet Party. In the aftermath of the loss of its late founder Necmettin Erbakan, the elections and its results shows that SP urgently needs to rethink the point on which it currently stands.

As is stated above, the most important factor in this election was the fallout between the Hizmet Movement and the AK Party, which led them to act as movement outside of politics, without a political party or politically-oriented goal of their own.

In this dispute, in which the AK Party already had a certain percentage of Turkey's general votes and was hoping to establish as many mayors as possible, the Hizmet Movement's main target was to bring down AK Party’s votes and by doing this show that the AK Party is not adequate to govern Turkey. They did this was by attempting to weaken the ever growing powerful charisma of Prime Minister Erdogan.

For this to take effect, a large non-political argument was used. Of course all the arguments that were being generated by the Hizmet Movement simply consisted of a number of accusations. The use of these non-political arguments that were brought made it clear to onlookers that the accusations were coming from the movement itself.

The Hizmet Movement did not oppose the AK Party by supporting only one political party, nor could it have done so even if it tried. Due to the fact that to this day the group was not seen as a direct player in politics, this new approach affected the group’s general image. They advised their members to support the parties that had the strongest candidate in their constituency against the AK Party. It is possible to say that the Hizmet Movement played this tactic in cities and provinces where support for opposition party CHP is widespread. It is unlikely that this tactic was used for the other opposition parties.

To make an accurate analysis of these local elections it will be beneficial for one to go back a few years and make a comparison. The Hizmet Movement and the AK Party once worked together to democratize Turkey from the stranglehold of the military on the constitution via a referendum which later opened the way for a number of changes in the law.

However, withing the solution process for the mainly Kurdish south-east region of the country, a number of differences arose between the strengthening movement and the government in the fields of security and intelligence.

The movement was trying to get the edge on the government. Additionally, a number of groups feeling threatened by the change in the power balance brought about by the increasing popularity of Prime Minister Erdogan were seeking the regain their gradually fading spheres of influence.

The movement and other groups came together on common ground for the first time in the Gezi Park riots. This event was an attempt to start an uprising, which the government overcame these moves with a great deal of difficulty. To add, the comments of the US ambassador to Turkey, Francis Ricciardone, who reportedly told a group of officials to prepare to see the 'fall of an empire' became etched in peoples' minds.

Prime Ministers Erdogan’s initiative to close the movement's tuition centers was brought to the forefront in 2013 and was given the evaluated by many commentators as being a wrong move. Even those who were close to him struggled to understand this initiative. When we look at the matter in more detail, we see that this provided the grounds for an inevitable dispute that was just waiting for a spark.

The movement then used this as a grounds to plan their opposition strategy against the Prime Minister. Leading individuals in the movement motivated their members by saying that the Prime Minister had signed an motion to bring an end to their activities in 2004.

The Hizmet movement believes that the Prime Minister seeks to erase them. They also claimed that the Prime minister was aiming to give the armed Kurdish rebel group PKK a portion of Turkey in the name of the solution process. On top of that, they claimed the the Prime Minister was under Iranian influence and was seeking to weaken the country.

At the same time, according to them, the Prime Mister and his inner-circle was stained with corruption and this gave them reason to do everything to bring the government down. To do this, they did everything they possibly could using all forms of technology and alliances to leak documents and urging people to vote for the strongest opposition candidates regardless of which party they came from.

Having broken off and altered path from the followers of Said Nursi, the Hizmet Movement today is using Machiavelist and pragmatist tactics in their politics, from which the police raids on government allies on December 17 and December 25 originate. The raid on the truck belonging to the Turkish MIT secret service with the help of the gendarmerie was seen as a very stragetic move.

With these moves, the movement was attemtping to expose the following three allegations:
- The government is trying to breach the sanctions set on Iran through via the state-owned Halkbank by illicit means.
- The Prime Minister, his family and his close allies were involved with bribery and corruption.
- The government was giving weapons and ammunition to support foreign terrorist groups like Al Qaede in Syria.

These were hefty accusations against the Erdogan administration and if proved true it would have been impossible for them to stay in power. Thus, Erdogan began to accuse the movement of leading an international effort to overthrow and undermine the elected government of Turkey.

Erdogan commenced an overhaul of the judiciary and security forces to overcome the allegations with just a few loyal ministers by his side.

In the framework of election campaign Erdogan went to over 50 cities. From what appears from many segments of the party were happy with not getting involved in this risky game and allowing Erdogan to take all the arrow shots himself. Some even came out and said that they had different thoughts to that of the Prime Minister. With his sweet and at the same time tough tongue, the Prime Minister was however able to maintain his stronghold.

At every opportunity, Erdogan stated that his struggle was not a matter of closing down the movement's schools or avoiding allegations of bribery and corruption, but was a struggle for Turkey's new war of independence against the government which was being spurred on by foreign forces.

The Prime Minister started to target Hizmet's leader Fetullah Gulen who he specifically held responsible for these events. Stating he too was personally was fooled by him as a victim of his own good intentions, Erdogan began to openly complain about him to the public.

Of course, Fethullah Gulen's damning of the government proved to be a handicap for the Hizment Movement. This scene was not fitting for a spiritual leader and led to a number of people splitting from his movement.

The Hizmet Movement's and especially Fetullah Gulen's political narrative becoming identical with that of foreign forces was being emphasized. The alliances with foreign forces and the alliance with the rival CHP only proved Erdogan's accusations right. Thus, the Prime Minister gained the psychological advantage.

As the Hizmet Movement and those accompanying them brought to the surface voice recording and documents, Prime Minister Erdogan increased the dosage of his complaints which came back to like a boomerang to hit the movement and push them out of power. The picture the Prime Minister drew was as follows;

“CHP, which has constantly been behind the evil treatment of Islamists in the country during the era of the republic, has today formed an alliance with the Hizmet Movement and are working to erode the gains made by Islamists in the past 10 years. Not only have they entered into a stuggle with the classic enemy of political Islam in Turkey against a Prime Minister who saved the country’s economy from the the bankrupcy it faced during the 90s, the Hizmet Movement has also challenged a Prime Minister who is seen as the hope of the Islamic world and its oppressed peoples.”

This Hizmet Movement - which for 30 years has worked like a factory raising people in the country in the fields of education, law, security and business, as well as excelling in education and business across the world where they have spread their influence in over 100 countries - is now trembling in the face of these huge accusations made against them. The public was not pleased to discover that they had intruded on sensitive areas.

A few days before the elections, in the Foreign Affairs Ministry the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Chief of Army Staff's second in command and the MIT secret service chief had am audio recorded from a security meeting leaked on the internet. For the public, this move had overstepped the line. This had registered the movement as an element working for foreign forces in an attempt to expose the weaknesses of the state.

The Prime Minister was successful in getting nearly all the Islamist groups in Turkey to join his side. The formulas he brought forward to the public inspired a number of NGOs and other congregations. Of course we shouldn’t rule out the factor of the Hizmet Movement standing distant from other congregations and abandoning them in their times of hardship.

At this point I find it important to ask this question;

Were the masses who stood by Erdogan not effected at all by the rumors that the AK Party was involved in bribery and corruption or by the slanders made to the Prime Minister, his family and inner-circle?

I think these all have had strenuous effects on the people and in the coming days, as the heat of the moment cool, they will be brought to surface. These allegations need to be proved with physical evidence, and if proved, the necessary measures need to be taken. The right-minded majority saw the danger that the Prime Minister was being put in, but they believed in him and did what was necessary in the elections. However there some minor issues which are waiting to be taken care of.

This can be seen from a conversation between one member of the intellectual community and his mother over social media;

Mother to son: My son you’re saying that the AK Party has mistakes and I agree with some of your words, but we will overcome these shortcomings later. But if this CHP comes to power it will not be possible to overcome the damages they will bring. Come listen to your mother's words.

The wisdom of the masses is an issue that should be taken seriously. The Hizmet Movement did not take this seriously, and so despite the challenges the AK Party got 45% in the elections.

The NGOS and congregations who gave their support for the AK Party used to have a more distant relationship with them during times of calm, focusing more of serving the people. The over-politization of these types of groups only damaged their productiveness. This also diminished their ability to advise the government.

From now onwards one of the biggests tests the Prime Minister needs to tackle first is putting into place the legitimacy of the rule of law, which has been harmed greatly.

He must now expel members of the so called 'parallel state', from the judiciary and security forces and give their positions to people who will preserve the rule of law. At the same time those accused of belonging to the secret structure must be held accountable by the law. This could lead to greater battles for legitimacy in the future.

A second issue is the presidential and parliamentary elections that lie ahead.

The result of 45% of votes in favor of the AK Party shows that the doors have opened for Erdogan to become the next president. The next stage is to decide who will come after him to produce a workforce that will be able to work with him and other party members.

Turkey not only needs a leader with the credentials but also one that is in tune with its national values and understands what it means to lead country based on principles of sovreignty that will be for the benefit of all its people, the Islamic world an all humanity.

Terms:

AK Party - Justice and Development Party

CHP - Republican People's Party

MHP - National Movement Party

BDP - Peace and Democracy Party

Last Mod: 14 Nisan 2014, 15:41
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