Elections 2015: Trial For Democracy in Turkey
The election which would be held in 7 June 2015 was one of the most meaningful elections during the recent years for Turkey. On one hand, political parties were concentrating on their comprehensive election campaigns. While the opposition parties were trying to find out the solutions to conclude AKP’s rulership which has been continuing for 13 years, the promises of AKP’s election campaign were not aiming to come to power alone.
Second Anniversary of Gezi Park Protests on Taksim Square in Istanbul (28. May 2015).
Source: Jan Nevyhosteny
From all appearances, the establishment of AKP didn’t want to make an effort in squares for their sovereignty which has been maintaining for 13 years and to be maintained most likely. In place of this, empowering of existing rulership with presidential government presented itself as more logical option. Since therefore, the debates about presidential government which had been initiated with the election of Recep Tayyip Erdogan as President of the Republic have been centrally located during 2015 General Elections.
On the other hand, promises, confessions, accusations, insults, and in addition to all these, sarcasm have been being guest to house of public by way of television programmes, social media, demonstrations, posters, flags and many other facilities. We should accept that, without discussion about whether their decisions were constructive for Turkey’s future or not, Public of Turkey has always been at the centre of politics.
For people of Turkey, elections have meant to not only go to the polls but also host heated debates in each open public space. While some part of voters comprehend the possibility of AKP’s overthrowing as the ultimate of Turkey’s progression, the other part accepts that maintenance of AKP’s sovereignty by alone is the meaning of terminal of democratic, secular and social law Turkey.
This must be the term which has been emphasized for years in Turkey: ‘polarisation‘ as it can be observed, with simple words, these general elections would be held between AKP and other oppposition parties. For opposition parties, ensuring their own political understandings in government was subordinate to termination of non-democratic, non-secular and non-social law dominance of AKP.
At the end of road, 7 June 2015 was the time for people of Turkey to make decision after going through a phase which was spent under the discussions of freedom of press, independence of judiciary, solution process (Kurdish-Turkish peace proces), fundamental rights and freedoms, new approach to Middle East, presidential government, majority or pluralist systems in Turkey, claims and cases which couldn’t arrive at the conclusion because of certain reasons about corruptions in nearly all governance of the state, changes in economic progress, change in tutorship, attitudes of Recep Tayyip Erdogan during election process, content of New Turkey (Yeni Turkiye), change in position of HDP (Peoples‘ Democratic Party), claims and defences on religious subjects, renewed approachment to promises in squares, unfairness and provocations during the competition for elections.
It is vitally important to examine all these titles in detail to understand the conclusion of elections and to imagine the direction which Turkey is going to go towards in the forthcoming days.
BEFORE THE ELECTIONS
Freedom of Press
We have to face with the reality that it can not be thought more effective method than journalism to change the direction of each person, each country, furthermore, whole world in some situations. For the very reason, it has never been thought about politics and journalism from the totally different perspectives. Journalism has always provided not only the development but also the decline depending upon political changes.
In the circumstances, inevitably and fortunately, journalist is included in politics, contemplates about politics and write about politics all the time. As a result of all this process, a moral journalist intrinsically indicates some political view or political party. Needless to say, these indications don’t have to show always the same political view or political party. In this point, I sincerely invite you to think about the distinctness between the terms of impartiality and independency. The merit which is expected from a moral journalist first and foremost is independency rather than impartiality. It is unquestionable that the most reliable provider of independency must be State which is the most significant host of politics. In conclusion, during the 2015 general elections, one of the most vital questions should have been: "How much successful host has AKP government been for 13 years sovereignty?"
The answer of this question has come to light with the report of Freedom House which was published for 2014. The results were dispiriting. However, there is more dispiriting situation which there is no astonishment after announcement of the report. According to Freedom House, Turkey has regressed from the category of "partly free countries" to the category of "not free countries".
Freedom House, which is respected and non-profit organisation, explained the reasons of its decison with these clauses: "Journalists were harassed and assaulted while attempting to cover the Gezi Park protests that broke out in Istanbul in May, and dozens were fired or forced to resign in response to their reporting on the demonstrations. Throughout the year, other prominent journalists were fired over their coverage of sensitive issues like negotiations between the government and the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) or corruption scandals involving Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his associates that emerged in December. The firings highlighted the close relationship between the government and many media owners, and the formal and informal pressure that this places on journalists"
Besides, it is very saddening to remark that Turkey has still held the record of prisoner journalist. Cases of Ergenekon was the first important attempt to provide of detentions of journalists. Many journalists was accused by being the founder of terrorist group with the aim of overthrowing AKP government. With the words of Freedom House, these journalists have been subjected to "harassment and even death threats against the targeted journalists on social media" through of invalid evidences and uncertain accusings for years.
Issues about freedom of press come to a head during the Gezi Park protests. Many journalists who wrote about their supports on Gezi Park protests in the social media or in their own columns were fired or were warned by media proprietors or were accused in front of courts by the crime of provoking public. (Sibel Oral, Murat Aksoy, Nazli Ilicak, Can Dundar,…)
Finally, recent collapse in freedom of press came to light with the difference of opinion between AKP government and Cemaat (Gulen movement or Hizmet). The debates which has been initiated by the AKP politics targeting to close down of private teaching institutions which are castle to spread the ideas of Gulen movement has continued with the announcement of corruptions which have been explained by tapes recorded by probably Hizmet secretly. In conclusion, next move of AKP was not delayed. Senior managers of the media organization which is supporter of Gulen Movement and scenarist of television series were arrested with the claims of organism of "state within the state", corruptions in government offices and intention to overthrow AKP government.
Gulen movement was giving its support to AKP government while Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener was being on trial because of their assumed terrorist activities under the assumed Ergenekon terror organization. However, upon this AKP’s attack against Gulen movement and freedom of press, Ahmet Sik managed to stand up for freedom of press anyhow and send this message through Twitter : "The events which Cemaat is living today is also fascism". Following this, Gulen movement has showed its delayed support for Ahmet Sik and published this regret with these sentences: "Our sin is being incapable of standing up for Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener, we are sorry."
Independence of judiciary
Acquisition of independence over against legislative power and executive organ is the most significant consideration to provide full functionality of judiciary power. In this direction, access to the independency and functionality of judiciary power can be ensured by some assurances which should be presented to judges. Some of these assurances are indicated directly in the Constitution. For instance, as a securitas against legislative power, Article 138 of Constitution fortrightly refers that ‘No organ, authority, position or person can give instructions, send circular letters, give an advice or indoctrinate to courts or judges, about the application of judiciary power.’
Despite of this mandatory rule in the Constitution, among public and in judicial locality, there is skeptical approachment to some certain cases which have political content in terms of fairness and independency of their provisions. Altough there is no competent evidence which was accumulated justifiably and reveals the suspicion, explicit expressions of top government officials against independence of judiciary instigate doubts of public and judicial locality. (For instance, ‘We gave directions to jurisdiction, they will do the necessary.’)
In the second place, the assurances of judges and judiciary power must be protected also against executive organ. Because of this, some privileges are granted to judges. As it should be, these concessions are also secured by the Constitution with Article 139 and the privileges are counted with this context: irremovability, non-retirement before the age which is indicated in the Constitution unless they are wishing for, non-divestment from their rights of salary, dotation and personal rights even if a court or establishment is removed. On the other hand, as it can be realized easily, judges don’t have assurances in terms of their places of duty.
In the circumstances, especially in critical cases, there is high probability that judges can be open to some constraints or instigation. This probability have distinguished itself during the 17 December corruption cases and places of duty of many judges who are critically important for corruption cases were changed by HSYK (Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors. It is mainly criticized because of its structure which provides important authorisation to executive organ via Minister of Justice and the Undersecretary)
Fundamental Rights and Freedoms
One of most significant subject which we need to examine for the time period before the 2015 general elections must be about fundamental rights and freedoms. I sincerely believe that nearly each person feels that he/she belongs in a group which needs more credible fundamental rights and freedoms. Minority rights which some solutions are being searched with the Process of Resolution partly about, Refugee rights which arise with Syria crisis and new approachment to the circumstances in Middle East, Gender Equality problems, Employee rights which have been mainly at issue with mine accidents and deaths of employees who didn’t have necessary insurance.
Under these circumstances, the huge reflection of public has come to light with Gezi Park protests. Some part of public has chosen to perceive these events as only the protection of a few trees. On the other part, public has invaded a lot of parks around Turkey, notably Gezi Parkı to make government heard about its discomfort for intervention on fundamental rights and freedoms. (for instance, prohibition on abortion, unfair distribution of income,etc.) Suddenly, the agenda of the country has become injury and death events because of disproportionate police force (pressure water, usage of tear gas and plastic bullet from close range) and intervention of craft with authorisation of Prime-Minister. (‘Craft is also soldier and judge of the territory’)
DURING THE ELECTIONS
From the Perspective of AKP
The election campaigns of AKP during the 2015 general elections must be examined from the two aspects. One of these aspects has been managed by Ahmet Davutoğlu, who took over the portfolio of Prime Minister with support of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after the election of President of Republic. We have to accept that, instead of experience in squares for elections, Ahmet Davutoğlu has substantially academic background. Under the circumstances, with the duty of Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu had to make a decision: Either he would keep his calmness and peacefulness which are outcomes of his academic life or he would disguise fiery politician while he was addressing the nation.
While 13 years AKP sovereignty in the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was examined into, Davutoğlu apparently decided that success of elections has been intrinsically derived from fiery, angry, venturous nature. While political circles and public was expecting that exclusive manner of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan would retreat to presidential palace and would be anihilated because of symbolic position of President of Republic in parliamentary system, other version of Erdoğan has risen to the surface by means of Davutoğlu and heated debates during the elections couldn’t come to conclusion.
In addition, although any constitutional amendment could be provided for presidential system yet, in the Office of President of Republic, Erdoğan was totally ready to initiate the implementation of presidency. In this direction, he couldn’t manage to stay in presidential palace because symbolic and ineffective role of President in parliamentary system was not sufficient for him. Suddenly, election battle has acquired another dimension in squares. In every possible opening event, Erdoğan put in an appearance and defend the presidential system which is special to Turkey to death. Finally, he got reactions within the AKP and from outside of AKP.
As a matter of course, opposition parties argued that the manner of Erdoğan is against the parliamentary system which is still valid in the Constitution and open support for AKP sovereignty has been creating unduly competition. Nevertheless, he protected himself insistently by indicating that possession of a heart’s desire is totally acceptable. Moreover, Erdoğan revealed that he would take a firm stand about presidency while symbolic soldiers which belong to old Turkic dynasties stood in line in the entrance of Presidential Palace (Ak Saray, White Palace) which is in the middle of debates because of its high cost.
On the other hand, the attitude of Erdoğan has been taking some unfavorable reactions within the party overtly or muffledly. It was believed that expressions of Erdoğan have damaged the image of Davutoğlu in mind of public. After the elections, it was evaluated that the duality in election campaigns could have created a belief about deficiency for leadership spirit of Davutoğlu in public eye.
Finally, we have to examine the stamp of contradiction between Gulen movement and government on 2015 general elections. Fundamentally, before election campaigns had been initiated, AKP government had become partially successful by removing the supporters of Gulen movement from the party or the offices in State. However, this time, members of AKP were accusing each other about their connections with Gulen movement.
One of the most striking disagreement was substantiated between Bülent Arınç, emissary of government and Melih Gökçek, mayor of capital city. When Melih Gökçek has accused Bülent Arınç and his family of being supporter of Gulen movement, Bülent Arınç scandalously and explicitly confessed that Melih Gökçek had sold out every territory of Ankara and made benefits available for Gulen movement at the time. Arınç also asked public to wait until 8 June for explanation in detail. However, after the elections, the explanation has never come true.
From the Perspective of HDP
First and above all, we have to accept that HDP has become the party which changed its statements, position and promises at most according to other parties in election campaigns. Huge part of public, especially the voters of MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), approach to HDP with suspicion and reaction because HDP is accepted as continuation of PKK in the parliament. Also, activities of some members of HDP in PKK is common knowledge. However, in recent years, HDP has emerged as a significant actor of Process of Resolution by providing the communication between PKK and State.
While it was being defended that existence of HDP in parliament is certainly advantageous to reach a peaceful solution for terrorism in Turkey, some part of public has contemplated pursuit of peaceful ways with a political party which has history with battles as ‘irony’. Among those debates, before 2015 general elections, HDP was appealing only to people who are defending the life with more privileges for Kurdish people and its voting rate was about 7 %. Under the circumstances with election threshold which is 10 % in Turkey, HDP had never been successful to enter the parliament as political party.
Nevertheless, presidential system debates which is new aspect of elections manifested by Erdoğan submitted new position to HDP. If HDP would manage to enter parliament as political party by passing the election threshold, AKP would loss the possibility of coming to power alone and couldn’t provide the necessary number of deputy to amend Constitution for presidential system. HDP realized the opportunity and status which have been presented to itself and it did make substantial alteration in its expressions.
While HDP was reducing its statements which indicate its connection to PKK, Selahattin Demirtaş, co-president of HDP, was emphasizing the rights of women, labors, minorities and opposing influentially and intimately to AKP government. They have started out with the hashtag #wewontyoumakepresident and they have been seen as only remedy for throwing off AKP sovereignty for voters. With successful election campaign, HDP has passed the election threshold which is shame of democracy in Turkey and willingness of AKP about presidential system has come to naught.
From the Perspective of CHP and MHP
As the parties which are two of the most rooted political parties in Turkey, CHP and MHP have always addressed to nearly same voter base. For MHP(Nationalist Movement Party), with the leadership of Devlet Bahçeli, it turned from ethnic to cultural nationalism by moderating its programme. For CHP(Republican Political Party), it holds its position as centre-left and social-democratic political party. Although it tries to emphasize that CHP addresses to every section of public, CHP is accepted as the party of middle or upper-middle classes. Despite of the presence of economic difficulties in Turkey, public didn’t respond the promises of CHP and MHP about increase in salary of labors and retired people and they have reached again almost same voting rate in 2015 general election. The situation brings to mind this question: How much influential are promises in elections anymore?
AFTER THE ELECTIONS
After the elections have completed and results are explained, it shouldn’t be expected to find answer for each question. According to election results, you would have to set up an assembly and play the waiting game to discover the answers of questions which you had before the elections. And so forth, Turkey still doesn’t aware of impression of HDP’s existence in parliament for Process of Resolution. Further, Turkey still don’t have any clue about the future change in manner of Erdogan as President of Republic. Moreover, Turkey is still unfamiliar with the possible amendments in balance within AKP. And many questions are waiting for a government which will be formed.
On the other hand, election results have given direct answers for some uncertainities. For instance, Turkey knows ever after that the parliament of Turkey is going to be directed by four parties (AKP,CHP,MHP,HDP) and AKP couldn’t provide quorum for coming to power alone and constitutional amendment for passing to presidential system.
The First Responses to Election Results from Political Parties
While the election results were becoming clearer, the only party which can declare its success was HDP. This truth was accepted by each aspect of public regardless of their support or disaffection for HDP. After all, it did manage to dissolve obstacle of election threshold which is quite high according to other democratic countries and did manage to force AKP to form a coalition. Under this circumstances, the first speech after the election was given by co-presidents of HDP, Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag. In his speech, Demirtas gave preference to call that success as "common victory of left".
While HDP was promoting itself in front of public with its new stand, it had to make decision between the terms of political party of Turkey or political party of a determined territory. In the speech, Demirtas also emphasized the choice of HDP as "political party of Turkey" There was another substantial point in his speech. The reduced statements which refer to connection with PKK and Abdullah Ocalan have come back with "special thank to Abdullah Ocalan and Imrali" within the speech of Demirtas. This declaration has increased the apprehension of people who are already uncomfortable with the existence of HDP in parliament. Finally, they clearly took a stand which is against any coalition possibility with AKP.
The reaction which is primarily being waited for was from AKP. After 13 years rulership by alone, the result of election was obviously ¨coalition¨ and the subject which hang in the balance was the evaluation from AKP management. In this direction, the main question was that: "Is the speech on the balcony of the AK Party office in Ankara which has been associated with victories of AKP so far going to come true again?"
It did come true with less impassioned crowd and senior officials with sullen faces. Nonetheless, Davutoglu declared AKP as the first party of Turkey. And also, he put emphasis on its success for accession to each city of Turkey. Despite of those explanations, the loss was as plain as day and someone in the party must take the blame. This one could be Davutoglu with the claim of his deficiency in terms of leadership. Also, this one could be Erdogan with the claim of his guidance to presidential system debates. In conclusion, the explanations which are open to any possible coalition options have reached to country’s agenda from AKP management. In contrast, Recep Tayyip Erdogan preferred not to give any commentary. Moreover, therewith, social media only factor which makes agenda of Turkey bearable brought up a time counter to calculate the hours which Erdogan didn’t still make an explanation.
The voting rates of CHP and AKP didn’t undergo substantial changes. The voting rate which was 12,9 % in 2011 general elections has become 16,3 % and Devlet Bahceli refer to the rate as success and emphasized that they certainly would not support any coalition including HDP in some way. In the side of CHP, the voting rate which was 25,9 % has become 25 % and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, president of the party, has accepted the results as success against AKP sovereignty. He interpreted the achievement of HDP as the conclusion of votes passing from CHP to HDP to conclude AKP sovereignty by alone and he called these votes as "fudiciary vote".
Coalition Scenarios and "Red Lines" after the Election
The most explicit message from the results of election was the willingness of public for more peaceful and accommodationist political life. People of Turkey is forcing political parties to form a coalition. However, according to results, many possibilities can be brought to the table. In addition, the political parties have some certain principles which they want to implement before being part of any coalition, they call these principles as "Red Lines".
First option is the coalition of AKP-MHP. However, MHP declared its Red Lines with these articles: putting Process of Resolution aside, withdrawing of President of Republic to the borders of Constitution, re-trial of cases of 17-25 December (Corruption cases) and re-trial of four Ministers at the Supreme Court about corruption claims.
Second option is the coalition of AKP-CHP. However, CHP also has some Red Lines. Some of them are withdrawing of President of Republic to the borders of Constitution and re-trial of corruption cases.
Third option is the coalition between AKP and HDP. Although HDP didn’t mention about any Red Lines, it has been clearly declaring from the beginning of election campaigns that it wouldn’t be part of any coalition option with AKP.
And final option is a government without AKP. If MHP,CHP and HDP can manage to form a government, they can reach the enough number of deputy to provide vote of confidence. However, it should be accepted that this option is remote possibility while political views of MHP and HDP are that much opposite to each other and MHP is emphasizing its opposition to any coalition including HDP.
There is one question remain: How is the process going to continue if none of the political parties can be successful to form a coalition? To prevent any dilemma in government, Article 116 of Constitution includes a solution. According to this provision, if Council of Ministers couldn’t be established in 45 days after the election of Presidency Tribunal in assembly, Presindent of Republic can decide renewal of elections by consulting to President of Assembly.
As it is seen, renewal of elections is left to the discretion of President of Republic, i tis not obligatory. However, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has explicitly stated that he is going to decide renewal of elections if necessary conditions shown in the Constitution are met. In these circumstances, opposition parties against to renewal of elections because of time loss and disrespect to national will should make an effort to form a reliable coalition.
Recent Developments En Route Coalition
While debates and negotiations are continuing to form a coalition, the election of President of Assembly was being looked forward. Possible corroboration between political parties in the election could be important sign for future coalition. Each party has shown its own candidate. Before the elections, MHP quite clearly stated that they would not be supporter of any candidate who HDP stands for. When the candidate of MHP couldn’t manage to move along fourth tour, they really didn’t support the candidate who HDP gave its support at the fourth tour. Thus, the candidate of AKP became the President of assembly.
The manner of MHP was perceived as principlism by some segments of public. On the other hand, MHP is subjected to storm of criticism because its constant manner is being interpreted as indirect support for AKP. Regardless of comments about this attitude, AKP has won the first victory in the assembly after 2015 general elections.
There has been 13 years sovereignty of AKP in Turkey. The duration is quite long and enough to reshape political, cultural and social life of a country. Undoubtedly, AK Party has left an indelible impression which is definitely going to be examined in detail and more objectively in future. I couldn’t wait for looking to these times from future. I am so curious about that look because while I am trying to look to past from these days, I and many young voters can‘t manage to examine any other rulership other than AKP. One generation in Turkey has become child, young and adult while AKP has been spending its rulership with the periods of "traineeship,semiskilled and mastership" in the words of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
After all these periods, the intention of AKP is introducing the term of "New Turkey" It is unknown whether AKP can be able to explain and application of "New Turkey" while I am breaking for my adulthood. The only certain thing my youth is looking forward to hear coalition news which is reliable and promising for Turkey.
About the Author:
Seda Karaman is a Research Assistant in Institute of International Relations, Prague. She is studying in Koc University Law Faculty in Istanbul.