Türkiye elections: Identity, foreign policy and terrorism in focus
Politicians will discuss virtually everything until the May 14 elections in Türkiye. Anything from mega projects and the economy to (Kurdish and Alevi) identity issues, counterterrorism measures and imperialism are currently on the table. That is because voters attach great importance to who will be in charge for the next five years.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan harvests the fruits of his “politics of works” and pledges to oversee a “new era of progress” at campaign events. Presenting a holistic approach to foreign policy, national security and defense, he promises to keep building “the axis of Türkiye.”
No wonder the international media identified the upcoming contest as the most crucial election of 2023. Governments worldwide know that whether Erdoğan gets reelected will have serious impacts on global and regional politics.
The Nation Alliance’s presidential candidate and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, also makes campaign pledges and develops a new approach to identity-related issues. As mentioned in my previous column, he subscribes to seemingly-positive identity politics and polarization.
However, identity issues will inevitably arise as the republic enters its second century. Let there be no doubt that discrimination will lead to defeat, and inclusiveness shall pay dividends. That is precisely why all candidates and political parties accuse their respective opponents of discrimination.
It is also necessary to identify the links between the debate over foreign powers, nationalism and identity, and certain serious risks that the country faces today. Among other things, the opposition’s presidential candidate pledged to release from prison all individuals dismissed from public service by decree – a source of grave concern. Moreover, as PKK and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) terrorists endorse Erdoğan’s opponent, the Nation Alliance’s deafening silence disgruntles many.
Instead of pledging to combat the PKK and FETÖ, the opposition attempts to steer the conversation by stating, “We are sick of people saying that anyone that doesn’t vote for (the government) is a terrorist.” In truth, the opposition bloc’s decision to join forces with the Green Left Party (YSP), not the electorate’s preferences, remains under discussion.
It is what Sırrı Sakık, a heavyweight in the pro-PKK Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), demanded of Kılıçaroğlu in which voters take an interest: What have they discussed behind closed doors and what were the terms of their agreement? Those questions directly relate to the future that possibly awaits Türkiye. That is why the electorate demands answers. Likewise, another vital question is whether another reconciliation process may be possible under the current circumstances.
Ideological ground for terrorists
If the United States continues to support the PKK’s Syrian branch, the YPG, in northern Syria, whose interests would that policy serve? It would be pointless to give the terrorists an inch of political or ideological ground, at home or abroad, as the Turkish intelligence overwhelms the PKK by successfully targeting its middle and senior management.
PKK and FETÖ members do not attempt to hide the fact that their situation would improve if Kılıçdaroğlu were to win the presidential election. Accordingly, the voters have a democratic right to demand an explanation from the opposition’s presidential candidate – who cannot ignore that demand by rejecting discrimination.
Is anyone to believe that the PKK’s so-called commanders are unaware that their frequent public statements would fuel concerns over Kılıçdaroğlu’s potential victory? Yet, that does not matter to the terrorists because terrorist organizations only care about gaining political and ideological ground. They only think of the spotlight as valuable.
At the same time, they attempt to create a rhetorical framework that will enable them to strongarm Kılıçdaroğlu if he were to win the presidential race, as well as inspire hope among their sympathizers.
Terrorist organizations will become more ambitious and voters will grow more concerned unless and until Kılıçdaroğlu publicly pledges to continue the fight against terrorist groups with the same level of determination as the current government. Otherwise, he will face mounting criticism that he could not speak up against terrorists for the sake of “a handful of votes.”