Can Erdoğan prevent new parties?

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The President of Turkey and Chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) Erdoğan told his followers not to take new party initiatives seriously, and also declared that those who wanted to form new parties were traitors, stating that they would be punished. It is certain that Erdoğan takes these new parties seriously, but it does not seem possible that he will be able to obstruct their way. 

Broadcast date: 26 July 2019
Click CC in the bottom right corner forEnglish subtitles

Translation: Melissa Clissold / Subtitles: Egemen Gök

In the latest speech that Erdoğan made to his party members, there were very strong nationalistic points being touched upon: the S-400s issue, the  F-35 issue, the somewhat confronting attitude towards the United States of America regarding the F-35’s, the fact that they might activate the S-400s in 2020… Because as you know, in the circumstance of them not being used, Trump stated that the US may be able to negotiate a free trade agreement with Turkey – this sort of news is being spread across the American media. It looks like an agreement may be reached with the American management under the formula of “Buy the S-400s but don’t use them.” 

But Erdoğan specifically mentioned the date 2020 as the year that they would be activated – this is a clear stance against the US. On the other hand, there are harsh messages regarding the Syrian issue, especially regarding northern Syria and the west of the Euphrates river. It is not hard to predict that these sort of nationalistic harsh messages regarding domestic issues – that neo-nationalists also would like – will be given. But on the other hand, it is clear that the negotiations with the US are ongoing, and are still wanting to be continued. Another aspect of course is with regards to the people supposedly breaking away from the AKP – actually, quite a few of them have already openly broken away – and the parties they want to form. Let’s first have a look at what Erdoğan said today about all of this and then we’ll continue on.

ERDOĞAN: “My dear brothers and sisters! There are a lot of rumours going around. Members of the AKP do not act on rumours. Apparently some people are forming parties. They are doing this, doing that. Don’t worry about any of this. We have seen a lot of people leaving us and forming other parties. If I asked you today, you wouldn’t even know their names. This is how it is. Because those who betray us in such a manner, also pay a heavy price.”

Yes, it is quite conflicting, it is a contradictory way out within itself. First of all, he says “Nothing will come out of this, things like this have happened before, you don’t remember most of their names.” So, he is saying that “this is a futile effort.” But afterwards he determines this as a betrayal and stresses that they will pay a price. So, there is a dual stance. Which one is the genuine one? According to me, the second one of course. If it was unimportant, he wouldn’t even touch on it, he wouldn’t mention this issue. And if it was unimportant he wouldn’t define it as a betrayal and talk about a heavy price. He clearly finds it important, he finds it very important.

And the incidents that took place after the 3-hour live conversation broadcast between Ahmet Davutoğlu, Yavuz Oğhan, Akif Beki and İsmail Saymaz showed us how serious this issue is. It was the first time that Davutoğlu appeared on media – and this wasn’t through conventional media but via social media, via a broadcast on YouTube – it is certain that the ruling powers couldn’t stand this and will certainly want to prevent this.

What can he do? Firstly, he can block the media, create a blockade – and this has been what’s been happening for a while now. Davutoğlu himself stated at the beginning of the broadcast that he applied to a lot of places, but didn’t even get a reply. But those who are attempting this already know the situation. They are acting accordingly. They are preparing accordingly. And from what I understand they will launch themselves via social media. We shouldn’t underestimate this. We remember and know that during the Istanbul elections Ekrem İmamoğlu introduced himself mainly via social media. It was a very unequal relationship, but Ekrem İmamoğlu managed to win. The same thing was valid for the municipal elections in Ankara, Adana and Antalya. There is an Erdoğan rulership, a crushing rulership – it is said of around 90 percent – over a large part of the media. But the opposition can organise and speak up in other areas and through social media too.

Of course, Erdoğan can bring about certain limitations to social media. We have seen a lot of examples of this in the past. But in recent periods, even if we have seen that certain people are getting in trouble for their posts, for their social media posts…we have seen access being barred or Twitter being closed down etc. Yet, we have not seen or experienced incidents such as YouTube being shut down. It doesn’t mean it can’t happen. But it is certain that it’ll be a lot harder. Other than that, he may bring the judiciary to the agenda. This is one of the first thing that comes to mind. Indeed, when it came to Ali Babacan, a criminal complaint was made against him in relation to FETÖ. But due to the reactions, this was dropped. There may be a few attempts again. Perhaps the judiciary may be asked to be involved against Davutoğlu, Babacan and those acting with them. But this will most likely backfire.

Perhaps they may want to block the way for these parties and these environments to reach financial opportunities – and a serious amount of financial opportunities are needed to organise within Turkey. And we assume that both sides – when I say both sides, I’m talking about Davutoğlu and Babacan – already have known this from the start. They probably know about this the most. We hear that they are carrying out certain activities because of this. They will get over this in one way or another. They will form the party one way or another, and after they form their parties – separately most probably, that’s what it looks like -, they probably think that they will be able to easily receive certain financial opportunities in light of the later developments, through donations etc. They probably have a plan. 

In fact, here, during this breaking away from the AKP – some of them have broken away, some of them are in the process of breaking away – it is very possible to think that these people have plans, strategies and different tactics for different periods in accordance with their strategies.  We see signs of this. We already see signs of this. There is a preparation. And it looks like this will go in a planned for Babacan and his team. In the discussions we have had with people from these environments, we can see that they are taking things slow, being very careful and meticulous. But we can also see that there are almost answers for every question asked.  

On the other hand, we can’t say this about Davutoğlu. Because Davutoğlu had formed an idea about himself as having a role of power within the AKP. But after being seriously alienated, it seems as if he is compelled to form a new party. But we can see that he is also prepared in a lot of ways. During the time he was the AKP Chairman and prime minister, he managed to create savings and form certain relationships, these may be carried on to the new formation.   

Therefore, we can say that certain people within the environments breaking away from the AKP have plans, strategies. But I don’t think Erdoğan has one. It is certain that he wants to block their way, that he will do anything to obstruct their way. But I truly do not think that he will be successful – just like with the Istanbul elections. How was that? Remember: The general opinion after the objections was “No matter what Erdoğan does, he won’t give up Istanbul”, “He won’t give Istanbul to the CHP or İmamoğlu.” These views were prominent in his fractions but especially in opposing factions too. With the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) cancelling the elections, this feeling truly strengthened. It was thought that “Since he has got the YSK to cancel the elections, he’s definitely got it in the bag.”

But after a little while it was seen that things weren’t going that way. And Erdoğan experienced a complete defeat at the ballot boxes. I think it’ll be realistic to look at this in the same way. Of course, Erdoğan will do whatever he can. Of course, he wants to prevent these parties from being founded. Even if they are founded, he will do anything to limit their effectiveness. He will try to prevent party members, managers, provincial heads from leaving, from people from other fractions from joining and attempt to ensure that the parties are stillborn. But I don’t think he’ll succeed. The fact that he won’t be able to succeed in this, does not mean that these parties will be very successful. 

But these parties will be formed despite Erdoğan and if they manage to achieve a certain amount of power and create an impact individually or as a whole, then Erdoğan’s image will be shaken quite harshly once more. This time his one-man power will also take a knock. Even if in his speech today he stated that there is no such thing as one-man management, we know that it’s all about this one-man regime. In Turkey, or in the party, it is all about this. And the objections are with regards to this; the reactions are about the fact that collectiveness within the movement, the party and the country management has been abolished. So, what can Erdoğan do in the following periods? We discussed this in previous broadcasts. There was a discussion regarding a change of cabinet or central executive committee (MYK). But I don’t think, as I’ve mentioned in previous broadcasts, these will be a problem. There are even speculations that the revision of the cabinet has been postponed, that there is a change of heart and that these might not even happen. 

There are no signs of this happening regarding the MYK either. To the contrary, Erdoğan stated that the ordinary congress of the party process would begin in autumn. Why is he saying this? Of course, it’ll begin. He is doing this to appease to the party members who are expecting this change. Now he will want to postpone those criticisms, reactions, disturbances to the congress process. He will promise that a lot of things will change with the congress. 

But it is certainly not clear what will come about. And how things will change. So just as Erdoğan has done in recent periods, he will try to sweep problems under the rug and postpone them. And I believe he will try and put off his defeat as much as possible. He may be successful in this. But it does not look like this absolute defeat can be prevented. Not with this tone of language and behaviour.  

When we put together the perspectives in his last speech, it does not look possible. He has returned to conflict-ridden language – but as opposed to his discourse, we see him challenging those on the outside. This will eventually turn within too. Soon someone will be blamed inside as having collaborated with someone on the outside: Of course, the opposition, but in addition the people breaking away from the AKP, let’s say Abdullah Gül, Ali Babacan, Ahmet Davutoğlu… if a serious scramble takes place, they may be blamed for collaborating with the US etc.  

We can see once again that Erdoğan is not creating anything positive here. Another conflict, disagreement…Confrontations within Syria, challenging the US and discussing national security at the forefront…this sort of language, nationalistic language. And completely waving off the issues of rule of law, democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms. And the fact that recently seen a somewhat stabilisation of the exchange rate within the economy – there are rumours that the economy is going well. The Central Bank recently gave the instruction for the latest interest discount and we can see that he is very pleased with this. 

And in this way, beyond the realities of the country, of course by using the powers in his hand, by using the power of the media, instead of bringing the realities of the country to the agenda, it looks like we will be entering a period where the realities of the country will be veiled and skewed. But if these parties are formed – firstly Ali Babacan’s, then Ahmet Davutoğlu’s – I think very serious challenges will come up against Erdoğan. And cards will be played a lot more openly. And Erdoğan wants to prevent this. But as I’ve tried to explain, I don’t think he’ll be able to do this. 

Before I finish I need to touch on another topic: The reactions I’ve received regarding the Syrian issue. I don’t want to discuss this topic for a while. The reason I don’t want to talk about it is not because I am frustrated. I don’t think that’s it. But I just honestly don’t think that there is a foundation to debate this in Turkey.  

I have seen that a majoritarian language, a patronising type of language coming to the forefront a lot…such as “We are strong we are right, we are the owners around here!” And I just don’t think it’s worth getting involved. But I would like to stress this especially: The first topic in Turkey’s political agenda in the following days – or even if it isn’t the first, it’ll be at the top -, will be with regards to the problems coming out with regards to the statuses and situations regarding the hundreds of thousands, millions  of asylum seekers, migrants, refugees, guests – say whatever you will – in Turkey who are not Republic citizens. 

And just as we were quite hopeful that Turkey would be evolving towards a period of normalisation – after March 31 and June 23 – towards democratisation, towards a rule of law, we can see that there is a high opportunity that right populism will hijack the political arena with regards to Syrians, migrants and foreigners. This is sad. But there is a high opportunity that those people, environments and groups that want democracy in Turkey can come up against this. Turkey has such a tradition. I hope I won’t be mistakes. Yes, that is all I have to say. Have a good day. 

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