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Electorate Buries Erdoğan’s Arrogance at Polls

Friday 3 April 2009, by Ertuğrul Kürkçü

PM Erdoğan loses the referendum game he conceitedly established. People withdraw the conditional support that they gave at the July 2007 elections as a reaction to the army’s impositions.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader Tayyip Erdoğan have received a slap in the face by the electorate. If we were to summarize the local elections of March 29, 2009, this would be it. This situation holds completely new promises of possibilities for the public to rule itself.

Yes, the AKP remains the strongest party and yes, the votes of the two parties following, the CHP and MHP, do not even add up to its votes but now 60 percent of the electorate have openly declared that they do not support the AKP. It is all together a different matter that a principal part of this 60 percent is against freedoms and labor politics at least as much as the AKP. Erdoğan lost the referendum game he himself built.

From now on, he does not have the support of one in every two people in Turkey, as he said after the general elections in July 2007, when the AKP got 47 percent of the vote. In contrast, we could push this a little and say that only one in three supports the AKP now. Erdoğan cannot dismiss this result as “local elections”; he called for a referendum and he lost it.

He learned that he does not possess the power of a “sultan” and that he will never rise to that position, with a bitter experience just two years after his victory at the general polls. This result will be read as such, not only in Turkey but also around the world. Erdoğan’s claim as a regional leader has received a blow.

Just before the definitive results of 2007 elections came in, this quote analysis was published in bianet:

"AKP getting to the government for four more years with the support of nearly half of the electorate can’t be interpreted as a Islamic rise nor as approval for its policies. This is a popular response to efforts by the CHP, the army and by other so-called defenders of laicism to forcefully discipline the public by imposing the Turkish flag. The votes went to the AKP, mainly because there was no other choice that could amount to an optimal physical size to represent an effective response.

Now, the biggest threat is that the Islamism of the AKP will embrace this as approval for its mentality, groundlessly attributing a force to itself –just like it did before the presidential elections- and act like an elephant in a china store. Unfortunately, the parliamentary opposition lacks any moral superiority to control the AKP in this manner.“By leaving out its proposition for a”new, democratic constitution" after the elections and by giving in to the mistake of solving the Kurdish issue with armed forces and with contempt, attempting arrangements on the axis of Arbil-Washington-Ankara instead of forming a dialogue with its local representatives, the AKP has revealed a lack of understanding that it could only further the government through improving social and democratic rights.

Erdoğan –just like his opposition who lives on the fear of Sharia- underestimated the historical distance Turkey’s peoples have covered on secularism since the administrative reforms in the first half of the 19th century and imagined himself as a moral representative for the society, an agent of Islam. He didn’t mind that the forefront of Turkey’s multi-cultural, classified, multi-religious society, especially the women who wouldn’t give up their way of life and their freedoms, would refuse to be governed in this manner.

Possessing a mentality, handicapped by intolerance to criticism and approaching freedom of expression as a duel with himself, Erdoğan’s maneuvers to employ government’s authority to control the media further instigated a response to this would-be dictator, except for the AKP members.

One could easily sense that his ruling party -hurt by favoring anti-labor and capital friendly policies, using up public funds during times of rising unemployment and poverty as a result of the ongoing global crisis of capitalism- would suffer in this elections.

Especially in Istanbul, in Beyoğlu, Kartal, Sarıyer, Maltepe and in a total of half of the municipalities in the city, current and future victims of “urban transformation” policies of AKP’s municipalities,gathered around the strongest alternative before the AKP’s candidate and signaled a warning against the impudence on local level. The unjust Minister of Justice threatened, “You won’t receive services if you don’t vote for AKP”, but that did not stop the CHP from winning half of the municipalities in Istanbul.

Moreover, the election results have shown that the public did not award Erdoğan’s attempts to situate himself as the “jugde” of the Ergenekon case, proceeding hand-in-hand with the armed forces; nor did Deniz Baykal’s efforts to defend Ergenekon render him trustworthy. The public favored poverty-focused policies of candidates like Karayalçın and Kılıçdaroğlu, rather than Baykal’s imposition on “security”.

This election cannot be considered a victory for the labor class. Nevertheless, the risk of a one-party hegemony resting on a alliance of the army, capitalists and the government, which became apparent after the July 2007 elections has– to a great extent- been avoided; there is now a relatively large arena of politics for social struggle.

The election results also reveal that there is no alternative “people’s bloc” for the socialist left except for an alliance with the DTP. While there were no uncompromising differences policies or discourses between the DTP and the socialists before the elections, several of the most prominent socialist parties (TKP, ÖDP, EMEP) refrained from an alliance in many places and they have been left behind the Labor Party (İP) in cities like Mersin, İstanbul and Ankara, where social struggle is rampart. Let us hope that those results will be analyzed.

For the DTP, this election has been a real success in southeast. The DTP increased the 36 municipalities that DEHAP, its predecessor, won to 58. Seven among them are city municipalities; one is a metropolitan municipality (Diyarbakır).

Yet, DTP lagged behind DEHAP. In the 2002 general elections DEHAP got 1 million 933 thousand 680 votes (6.14 percent) and 287 thousand 953 votes in Istanbul (5.51 percent). As of 02.08 am, DTP’s percentage rests at around 5.30 and 4.53 in Istanbul. It is in vain to discuss that the DTP has not fulfilled its promise of “doubling the votes” in Istanbul.

One reason for this is that a party which has been speaking the language of a cultural identity for 25 years is now supposed to embrace reactions and demands rising from multi-identities; its inexperience dealing with such issues creates problems. In other words, the DTP is yet to formulate a comprehensive approach and policies stemming from it, which would deal with the hardships of not only Kurds but also millions of workers, migrants and urban poor. On the other hand, socialists remain far from providing such insight, either.

Those parts of the socialist movement, which would have an effect with their taking positions, unfortunately failed to correctly asses the possibilities put forward by this process as well as DTP’s needs. A third pole, which would mean something more than DTP, couldn’t gain visibility during the elections. Nevertheless, this is not to say that such an interest is not accumulating. Continuing to undertake the appeals of the oppressed with energetic efforts, voicing the words of the people instead of requiring media’s favor, exercising political wisdom with hope and persistence, building a leftist pole in alliance with the Kurdish movement not only in Diyarbakır but also in Istanbul would be the most important items on the leftist agenda after the elections.

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Source : Bia news center - Istanbul

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