The good news is that Turkey’s opposition is recovering from its long-time inertia. That is not to say this will lead to an election victory on June 24, which may not happen for many reasons. But it is at least a good thing. Thanks to the resistance of nationalist İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Aksener, the opposition could not come together on the joint candidacy of ex-President Abdullah Gül, which would have been a total surrender to the ruling ideology. As a result, the parties who have formed an election alliance are now running with their own candidates.
The opposition alliance is formed on the basic principle of returning to the parliamentary system and separation of powers, so discontent with the presidential system is finding good voice. Of course it would much more democratic if the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had been included in the alliance, but the İYİ Party rejected that idea.
The reason for that is the fact that the old bad nationalist ideology could not overcome its anti-Kurdish attitude, but it was also due to the HDP’s discrediting of itself by embracing the so-called “urban armed revolt” that erupted after the June 2015 election, which overshadowed the democratic victory of the HDP in that vote. Although it became a taboo among many of Turkey’s leftist democrats to criticize misguided Kurdish politics, the truth is that this so-called revolt ruined the HDP’s legitimacy, even alienating some Kurds led alone general public opinion.
Another bit of good news is the fact that the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce has broken with the nationalist consensus on alienating the Kurdish party altogether. He has criticized the imprisonment of former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and visited him in prison, and also has good credentials as he opposed the removal of HDP MPs’ political immunities despite the CHP’s support for that move.
İnce seems to be the right candidate for the CHP after so much confusion about who its candidate would be. In the beginning he was somewhat snubbed by Turkey’s left-leaning intellectuals, as he is known as a humble man with a common touch. Those intellectuals forgot that Turkey – indeed almost all countries – have been run by “humble men” (though rarely by humble women) for many years. Their hesitation reflected a rather universal leftist elitism, but İnce’s performance so far seems to be changing their mind.
Meanwhile, the fact that the Felicity Party (SP) is included in the opposition alliance is a good chance to show that religious identity is not necessarily the sole reason to unconditionally support the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its new nationalist allies. The SP is often referred to as an Islamist party but its leader, Temel Karamollaoğlu, denounced Islamism and said “he is not an Islamist but a Muslim” at a press conference I attended on May 11. Karamollaoğlu argued that in Islamism individuals pursue their own interests through the pretext of pursuing the interests of religion. This is perhaps one of the best explanations of the shortcomings of Islamism.
So while the opposition may not be in perfect shape, it has managed to stimulate public debate and enthusiasm for the first time in many years. That is at least one good omen for the future of democracy in Turkey.