Erdogan sets the agenda for elections

It appears that in the coming month, Erdogan will continue to set the agenda for Turkey's politics and his competition will have to speak from within that agenda.

Erdogan sets the agenda for elections
President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the crowd during a rally of Turkey's ruling Justice And Development (AK) Party in Erzurum, Turkey on May 26, 2018. Anadolu Agency

There's only a month left until the June 24 election. Since the day of the elections was announced, the parties have been working on choosing their presidential and parliamentary candidates but have yet to begin their election campaigns. The parties will conduct their election campaigns in full force in the month to come.

In this sense, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) began its campaigning for the June 24 election by announcing its election manifesto. The Republican People's Party (CHP), as the head of the anti-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan group, is announcing its election manifesto today.

For Erdogan and the People's Alliance he leads, the campaigning period does not seem like it will be too complicated. Considering Erdogan's political performance from the day the decision to hold the election up to now, he has continued to maintain the upper hand in setting the agenda. In contrast, opposition political actors are having a difficult time establishing their own agendas.

With this in mind, the Nation Alliance between the CHP, the Good Party (İP), the Felicity Party (SP) and the Democrat Party (DP) and supported from the outside by the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) appears as if they depend on the negativity that occur from outside conditions. In this sense, they are trying to use the negative effects of the dollar's rise on the Turkish economy as a lever. But this does not make it possible for them to set their own agenda in the eyes of the public or set a political campaign for how they are going to solve the problems Turkey faces, with the loss of the Turkish lira's value being foremost among them. They are passively waiting. Their main expectation is a probable crisis in the Turkish economy which will give rise to election results in their favor.

I believe there are certain reasons behind this. Above all else, the anti-Erdogan group continues to follow a reactionary strategy. Being against Erdogan has been the CHP and HDP's main political point for a long time. However today, they do not know how to use this anti-Erdogan stance. The reason behind this is the large acceptance Erdogan has among Turkey's public in the aftermath of the July 15 attempted coup. Because of this general acceptance, they shy away from openly demonstrating their opposition to Erdoğan. However, this puts them in a vacuum.

The main difficulty facing the anti-Erdogan group is that the parts of this group are not just competing for the June 24 election. The entire anti-Erdogan group is also experiencing intraparty fighting for administrative supremacy, the CHP foremost among them. We saw the most concrete example of this in the CHP's process in choosing its presidential and parliamentary candidates. CHP head Kemal Kilicdaroglu moved by calculating his own administrative power in his party when setting out the candidates for president and members of Parliament. In other words, Kilicdaroglu's main motivation was to purge his competition and guarantee his presence as head of the party rather than to carry his party to the center of administration. In line with this, he competed with Muharrem Ince – someone who had no chance of winning – and withheld the names of the people close to İnce from the CHP's parliamentary candidate list hoping to win in the intraparty administrative struggle. This situation has revealed a half-hidden administrative struggle in the CHP on the road to the June 24 election.

The difficulties facing the anti-Erdogan group are not limited to this. Another is that the group is facing elections in a system they objected to and their inability to speak out as strongly in favor of "returning to the parliamentary system." However, the "no" front in the 2017 constitutional referendum had been motivated by this discourse on the road to June 24 and they had promised their constituency an immediate return to a parliamentary system. It appears that this promise has been forgotten and the anti-Erdoğan group has also adopted the new system.

Despite all of this, Erdogan continues to set his own agenda. The reason behind this is that Erdogan has maintained his ambitious administrative style. Erdogan continues to be strong in both domestic and international politics.

It appears that in the coming month, Erdogan will continue to set the agenda for Turkey's politics and his competition will have to speak from within that agenda.

Source: Daily Sabah

Fahrettin Altun
Fahrettin Altun is a Professor at Ibn Haldun University and the General Coordinator of SETA Foundation, Istanbul. Altun is the Editor-in-Chief of the monthly political magazine Kriter, the author of “Modernleşme Kuramı: Eleştirel Bir Giriş" and the co-author of “Freedom Press in Turkey.” Currently a columnist for Daily Sabah and Sabah newspapers, he is also a weekly analyst on “Enine Boyuna” and “Dışa Bakış” – two television series aired live on TRT 1 and TRT Haber respectively. Altun’s research areas include sociology of media and political communication, Turkish modernization and political culture.