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Turkey's opposition on the rise

Hilal Köylü
October 15, 2020

Turkey's largest opposition party has called for snap elections, receiving support from most parties except the ruling AKP and its coalition partner. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is under increasing pressure.

Turkish CHP opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu (r) and Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, also CHP, greet supporters
Image: Reuters/H. Aldemir

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are used to success, having dominated politics in the country for almost two decades. But they currently find themselves in an unusual situation. According to most polls, the AKP's government coalition with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is losing popularity. 

Read more: Turkey: Is mob violence undermining democracy?

The ongoing economic and currency crisis and the government's handling of it has contributed significantly to the population's waning support. The Turkish lira continues to fall, now trading at just below 8 to the US dollar — as compared to below 6 at the beginning of the year — after the Turkish central bank raised interest rates and introduced a number of other measures that have been roundly criticized.

Steve Hanke, an economist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told DW the government had also miscalculated the annual inflation rate, with Ankara claiming it was 11.75%, when in reality it is far more likely around 37%.

The Turkish population is also increasingly dissatisfied with the way in which the government has reacted to the coronavirus pandemic.

It was recently revealed that the health ministry had downplayed the impact of the virus and concealed certain facts, for instance, it only released information about positive tests when people showed symptoms. As a result, the number of new infections is considerably higher than previously declared.

Opposition resolve

At the same time, the opposition is forging ahead and a bloc of very ideologically different parties — from the social-democratic Republican People's Party (CHP) to the ultranationalist IYI and the pro-Kurdish left-wing Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) —  is showing unprecedented unity and resolve. The CHP, which is Turkey's largest opposition party, is doing everything it can to seize power with the help of its partners, even coining an official slogan: "Governing with friends." 

Read more: Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan cracks down on pro-Kurdish politicians

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has even called for elections to be moved ahead so that the opposition can capitalize on its momentum. He recently made a direct appeal to Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the MHP, who is Erdogan's coalition partner. "The salvation of this country depends on holding elections as soon as possible," Kilicdaroglu said. "To whom do I say this? To Mr. Bahceli. I say to him: If you love this country, say 'enough is enough' tomorrow morning and put Turkey on the path to snap elections.”

As CHP deputy Ozgur Ozel explained to DW, the MHP promised to "lower unemployment but was not able to," adding that the government had also created an "inflation monster." Snap elections are the only solution, says Ozel, who explains the idea of coaxing the AKP's smaller partner away: "The MHP's seeming lack of concern about the country's problems and its unconditional support for the government make no sense. If they were really nationalists and really loved their country they would pave the way for new elections." 

Read more: Generation Z puts pressure on Turkey's Erdogan

'We are ready'

Most opposition parties have rallied to Kilicdaroglu's side in support of snap elections. IYI leader Meral Aksener said: "We are ready." The CHP will surely be pleased to have the support of the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and the Future Party (Gelecek Partisi) as well. Both were formed this year by former AKP politicians  —  Ali Babacan, an economy minister, and Ahmet Davutoglu, a former prime minister.

"The current coalition government can no longer run the country. People are getting poorer and poorer. We think it is essential to hold snap elections," Gelecek deputy leader Selcuk Ozdag told DW. 

Though neither party enjoys more than about 3-5% support, they are both dangerous for the president as they could potentially win over disappointed AKP voters. They could also play key roles if they were to join the opposition bloc and a number of meetings with the CHP have already taken place.

The Turkish government is not interested in snap elections. "This debate is a waste of time," said MHP president Devlet Bahceli. "Our candidate for president is Recep Tayyip Erdogan —  in two and a half years." 

Erdogan himself has also said that elections will be held as planned, in 2023. 

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