Translated by Melissa Clissold
After the local elections, Ekrem İmamoğlu, in many people’s eyes distinguished himself as the sole alternative to Erdoğan? Is this true? Are there no other candidates? Can İmamoğlu beat Erdoğan? If he does, what will happen?
Hello, good day. The title of this broadcast is a simple question, yet I believe that the answer is not so simple. From the moment that I asked the question of “Who can be an alternative to Erdoğan?” and declared the topic of this broadcast, we spoke of it here at Medyascope amongst friends; everyone is curious and of course everyone first seems to mention Ekrem İmamoğlu. I would like to actually express something a little different in this broadcast. The question as to who can be an alternative to Erdoğan must be a question that Erdoğan enjoys severely. Because, whenever there is a search for someone who could potentially replace Erdoğan, Erdoğan usually comes out the other end quite profitable. We saw this in the latest election with Muharrem İnce. And we saw it happening in a much easier manner with Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu. Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu never really had a chance as the central block candidate for the opposition and from the first moment on, together with the “Ekmeleddin for Bread” slogan, he had already thrown the towel.
The tables seemed to turn a little with Muharrem İnce. Supporters of Muharrem İnce, created a great excitement amongst especially the People’s Republican Party (CHP) voters. Yet, we saw that he was unable to reach the second round of the elections. Here I think that the main aspect for Muharrem İnce’s failure was to come straight up against Erdoğan. He did not question the system that Erdoğan has formed, he criticised Erdoğan instead and said “I can do better than him.” And he couldn’t convince people of this. I think the problem here was that Muharrem İnce – those who watched my broadcasts from that time will remember – that one of his greatest shortcomings was that he did not present the image of being part of a team. When asked, he stated that he would share his team during the second round or after the elections. But presumably there was no actual team.
When I say team, it does not mean the following: That there is a leader, and there are certain people who assist the leader by consulting him/her. This is what they understand by ‘team’. However, what I mean when I say team, is something entirely different. It is something like this: If you are against Erdoğan, if you are criticising Erdoğan, if you oppose Erdoğan, you can criticise him personally too; but essentially Turkey’s problem is the system that Erdoğan has established. Most of these problems are a result of the one-man system. There were certainly criticisms towards Erdoğan before the one-man system period, yet today, he is trying to form this strange presidential system or, in his own words, presidential government system. Therefore, people needed to present a pluralistic leadership or management against Erdoğan’s one-man system, his authoritarian system – and this is still needed from now on. In such an example, in the Muharrem İnce example, he tried to continually convince people that he was a better person than Erdoğan. And therefore, he entered into an argument with Erdoğan, he tried to, actually. Whereas, if had taken steps to question his system, perhaps the tables could have turned.
Now, why would Erdoğan like this question regarding who may be an alternative to him. Because, when you enter into such an investigation for a new candidate, you actually end up accepting the new constitution and system that Erdoğan has imposed upon Turkey. You walk down that path, and the person that appears the most powerful within that system is still Erdoğan. Of course things are going bad for him, he is going through a crisis; but despite all crises, within this system, it still looks more likely that Erdoğan has a higher chance to manage the job, and control the votes. What was the system he had formed? Anyone with above 50 votes, including just 1 vote, wins. This is the system that he formed. But now, during the March 31 and June 23 we saw that this system worked against him, and when he notices it working against him, he will try to change it once more. And certain people close to him, as you know, have even said “Whoever wins more than 40 percent in the first round should be chosen as president.” Because they have the feeling that Erdoğan cannot win 50+1 votes anymore.
However, the question here is very serious. Who can win the 50+1 votes that Erdoğan looks like he won’t be able to gain once more? Ekrem İmamoğlu, Meral Akşener, Ali Babacan, Ahmet Davutoğlu, Abdullah Gül or another mayor from the CHP, for example Mansur Yavaş. Mansur Yavaş’s name doesn’t pass among conversation about political leadership. However, it is clear that he is not really a contradictory figure when considering the image of the Nation Alliance that is being shaped at the moment. Of course, there is such a problem here: What do we mean when we state Nation Alliance? There are two parties that first came about: The CHP and the Good Party (İYİ Parti). But the Felicity Party (SP) is also a part of it in some manners; but essentially, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), seemed to be an important part, a component, within this unnamed alliance. Such a reality exists. Therefore, Ekrem İmamoğlu has come into prominence as someone who can receive votes from, in addition to the CHP, the İYİ Parti, the HDP, the SP and in fact from certain members within the Justice and Development Party (AKP) that are hurt by their own party.
In Mansur Yavaş’s situation, the HDP can become a problem. Therefore, such a disadvantage also exists. But we must consider that Mansur Yavaş may take on other positions in the upcoming periods, other than his position as mayor. Meaning, we may have to consider Mansur Yavaş as more than someone who’s political career is limited to the position of mayor. Because, together with, especially the fall-outs being experienced within the AKP, we must view the right-wing within Turkey, the Turkish right, as a structure that could be reshaped, designed, formed with new alliances and separations, new parties. In that respect, Mansur Yavaş, as someone who comes from the nationalist movement, but as someone who has been within the CHP for some while, may play an interesting role in terms of politics. We must at least consider this as a potential option.
So, in my opinion, we must look at it this way: Instead of searching for Erdoğan’s alternative in people, we must search in a common mind, in a collectivism. Of course, there will be a figure who will appear at the forefront of this collectivism. Let’s say there is the race for the presidency. And Ekrem İmamoğlu is the first name that comes to mind. This is not surprising. He is probably the first name that comes to mind for Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu too. I really doubt that Kılıçdaroğlu would declare himself as a candidate in an upcoming presidential election.
And if a candidate will come out of the CHP, I think that he would prefer this to be Ekrem İmamoğlu. Meral Akşener was a candidate before. She may be a candidate once more. I don’t know if Selahattin Demirtaş will become a candidate again, but I do believe that he will play an important role in the future of Turkish politics. Despite being in prison, he is someone who has taken on many roles. In case of him leaving prison – and I hope this happens sooner rather than later – he will have more of an impact. Therefore, it will be more realistic to look at a following alternative: Let’s say Ekrem İmamoğlu is at the forefront but the alliance beside him – let’s say the National Alliance, or another name – certain other names within the alliance, as a certain power, together with the promise of being able to control some portion of the administration, to come out together with him.
Let’s open this up a bit more: Let’s say Ali Babacan formed his party, and Ahmet Davutoğlu did too. İYİ Parti already exists, the HDP is there, the SP. And let’s say that in such a scenario, the presidential election takes place when it is meant to take place, Ekrem İmamoğlu is put forward as a common candidate for an alliance – this could be someone else but Ekrem İmamoğlu is the one that first comes to mind-, if Ekrem İmamoğlu shows himself as the first among his equals together with Ali Babacan, Selahattin Demirtaş and other names from different parties – they don’t have to be the leaders of these parties -, together with names that the party and the leaders have approved, if he comes out stating that he will rule this country together with these people, then it will be a lot easier for them to remove Erdoğan from the administration. It is clear that the reason why Ekrem İmamoğlu comes to mind first is due to his successful performance during the March 31 and June 23 elections. He appears to be a surprisingly successful politician and together with his performance to date, he looks like someone who will be able to truly do things as mayor. But I am not sure about the chance that Ekrem İmamoğlu would have in a one-on-one race against Erdoğan.
Another aspect is this: I am not that hopeful of an Ekrem İmamoğlu, even if he does win against Erdoğan, that will be able to normalise Turkey. This was a difficult sentence, let me try and explain. Within the limitations that Erdoğan has drawn, a politician that will take his place within a system he has formed – whoever it is – will not really be able to impact Turkey positively. In this respect, I believe that Turkey needs a strong politician that promises to change this system, and in order to prove that this promise is genuine, that politician should work together with strong names from other parties and environments, and take the stage together with them. Ekrem İmamoğlu is someone who can do this.
The other names that could do this are Ali Babacan, Meral Akşener. What’s important here is that the people who do decide to form an alliance together, take on a pluralistic approach and agree upon the steps that must be taken in order for Turkey to be normalised, for Turkey to strengthen its democracy, fundamental rights and freedoms and most importantly rebuild the state of law, heal its wounds and the economy of course, tidy up the economy in a very serious manner, and then enter the elections together based on those agreed steps. If indeed the agreement is successful, then they must be able to take action immediately.
Consequently, one should be more concerned about the team that opposes Erdoğan, not the person. This team must be questioned, and certain suggestions must be put forward. If not, if people are entered into such a one-on-one competition, then Erdoğan – or the Erdoğan mindset, let’s say, – will win. Even if he doesn’t win himself, if he loses, in a one-on-one race, the person who wins will have to carry out politics and rule the country under Erdoğan’s shadow, within the limitations he has determined. Therefore, something completely different must be sought after.
When I say team, I stress this again, I don’t mean this as a leader and his/her consultants, I mean several leaders together, many high-end politicians working together for Turkey, to promise to serve society and the country – in this case, I believe that Turkey’s path will open up. There is of course an additional question. In the case of Erdoğan not becoming a candidate, who could he put forward as a candidate? When we look at it, the AKP is truly in a bad situation together with its partners. None of the names that appear at the forefront now look like they will be able to be successful, no matter how much Erdoğan supports them or not, or let’s say after the Erdoğan period. Or we can say this: They, the existing people, do not look like they will be able to create a common mind. If I am to say openly, I do not think that within the existing names, a collectiveness can be created to convince the Turkish public. Accordingly, Erdoğan has monopolised his administration so much, that there is no true sign or even a light as to what will happen next.
This could happen, that could happen… of course there are names that appear; but I do not think that any of these names have a chance within Turkish politics. After all, it will be necessary to observe the people who have broken away from the AKP, the parties that they will form, their discourses and what teams they will form. Especially if Ali Babacan acts together with the Nation Alliance, meaning together with the CHP and İYİ Parti and some respects the HDP, there may be a chance that a collective leadership comes out of this in Turkey.
If on the other hand, the opposite thing happens, we will witness a political squabble consisting of these people and as a result of this squabble (as with previous situations) Erdoğan may be the victorious one once more, or even if he does lose, it won’t be easy for another administration to appear in Turkey once more that will erase Erdoğan. Meaning, the game must not be accepted as Erdoğan has created it. The March 31 and June 23 CHP candidates, especially Ekrem İmamoğlu did this, managed to do this. He did not enter a struggle within Erdoğan’s limitations, with his approach etc., and he won. If he does not accept the “one person racing against another” approach regarding the Presidential position, that again has been drawn within Erdoğan’s limitations, then I believe that the opposition has a very high chance. And I believe that if they openly speak of this today, and start taking action towards this perspective today, they will be a lot more successful. We can even perhaps say that they are already late in taking action.
Yes, that’s all I have to say. Good day.