As the Election Draws Near in the 'New Turkey'


"The Republic of Turkey is the joint work of our nation; likewise, the Republic of Turkey is the republic of all 77 million people without exception. Each and every individual of the 77 million is the republic's own child without any exception, and owns this republic equally," President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said last year on the anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic, in the first speech he delivered as president of Turkey.

The speech came right after the Ermenek coal mine collapse in the Central Anatolian province of Karaman while 18 coal miners were still trapped. "With endless thanks to our God, today, the republic has gained a structure that keeps an equal distance from all ethnicities, faiths, languages and cultures," he continued. "We will continue building the future with this spirit of solidarity and fraternity." It was a good speech but wasn't received very well because it was a great challenge for many of us to believe Erdogan's sincerity while watching his unjust actions at the same time. Yes, the words came from the same Erdoğan whose increasingly authoritarian mode of governance has harmed state institutions, the press and civil society enormously. He is the one who blames everyone else, calling them "traitors of the nation" if they do not agree with him and the Justice and Development Party's (AKP) policies. He has not viewed his opponents as humans, equal in dignity to himself, and he has failed the test of democracy several times.

Thus, last year, when the government announced the cancelation of nationwide Republic Day celebrations, suspicions grew that this was just a pretext for the cancelation of the celebration of the Turkish Republic despite Erdogan's repeated mentioning of the "new Turkey." Honestly, in the last decade, the AKP has received much criticism for not honoring any national holiday properly. Top authorities have on several occasions not attended such celebrations, using various excuses. Nevertheless, the same Turkish government that over the last decade was reluctant to celebrate Republic Day and other national holidays has suddenly become excited about the upcoming Republic Day and Turkey will have a four-day holiday next weekend. Yes, this is the same weekend that the general election will take place.

Most surveys show that the AKP will still be the top party in the election. Many analyses have declared that Erdoğan's AKP will get the majority of the votes in the Nov. 1 election. Some even claim that the AKP will increase its number of votes by 2-3 percent in this election and that the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Party (HDP) will only maintain its 13 percent support.

Despite the Turkish political parties' failure to establish a coalition government since the June election -- increasing instability in the country -- as well as the sudden fall of Turkish currency, which is the result of an economic slowdown and political tidal flow, voters still see this picture from their point of view from two different sides: While opponents of the AKP maintain that all these circumstances occurred due to the flawed policies of the AKP government while in power, AKP supporters, on the contrary, declare that these circumstances are the result of the AKP's failure to exercise full power.

Regardless, we should remember that the problems Turkey faced after the June election are not new and not just the result of the last election. There are several interrelated reasons for Turkey's current predicament. The failing justice system and weakening strength of democracy have worsened since December 2013, when a corruption investigation was made public as Erdoğan's government and Parliament established laws and enforced them with the Turkish Judicial Reform Act of 2014, which altered the regulatory powers of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and transferred control from the HSYK to the minister of justice as a means to keep the critical media silent. Rising terrorism is the fruit of the AKP's unsuccessful policies on Syria, the Kurdish issue and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Now, we openly see how interconnected these problems have been.

It seems undecided what role voters will play in this election. Those who are openly against the AKP but who do not trust other parties, while blaming the AKP for manipulating election results, should make up their minds. Unfortunately, Turkey seems to be rolling towards uncertainty and the Nov. 1 election may be the only way out if it, resulting in a reconfiguration of political forces. The country needs an inclusive government that can bring an end to the increasing polarization and, especially, address the Kurdish issue calmly. Indecisive voters should reconsider their choices. Instead of taking a vacation over the long weekend and not being able vote, this would be a great opportunity for people to volunteer at election centers to support a fair election. It is time for us to see if Turkey is ending its path to an authoritarian and repressive society, and being reborn into a long-sought democracy.