The Turkish government has taken several initiatives in an attempt to increase its support ahead of the general election to be held in 2023.
One initiative was Turkey’s withdrawal last week from the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. This step aims at satisfying conservative segments of the Turkish electorate that believed the convention was going too far. This withdrawal may well bring some additional votes from the conservative electorate, but it may also turn away many in the ruling party who are in favor of combating violence against women.
In an unusual move, the presidential decree announcing the withdrawal was issued after midnight. This may have been to temper the reaction expected to have been caused by another decree issued the same night. This second decree was the removal of central bank governor Naci Agbal from his post. As this was expected to cause a sudden fall in the value of the Turkish lira, the government wanted to direct public attention away from it. The government also expected that the situation would stabilize by the time the stock market reopened the following Monday morning.
Agbal was appointed to this post only four months ago. A few days before his dismissal, the central bank had increased interest rates from 17.8 percent to 19.8 percent. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan persistently claims that high interest rates are the root cause of inflation in an economy. He has, therefore, punished the economic decision-makers who were in favor of increasing interest rates.
Agbal’s successor, Sahap Kavcioglu, is a member of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) and a strong supporter of the president’s theory on the correlation between interest rates and inflation. He failed to win election during the last general election, but Erdogan wants to keep him at the forefront. Access to the text of his doctoral dissertation was blocked on the internet as soon as he was appointed as central bank governor. Analysts commented that this was because the public might see whether or not the new governor had committed the offense of plagiarism.
The president created a balanced structure within the party, where every segment of the electorate will find a representative of its clan.
The third move was a legal procedure initiated by Turkey’s Supreme Administrative Court to dissolve the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), which is Turkey’s second-biggest opposition party. One of its co-chairmen, Selahattin Demirtas, has been in jail for more than four years. The European Court of Human Rights in December revoked the prison sentence handed down to Demirtas by the Turkish Constitutional Court and called for him to be released immediately, but the Turkish government did not abide by this decision despite the fact it had officially recognized the former’s jurisdiction.
Since the pro-Kurdish HDP’s supporters are not expected to vote for the ruling party, they will now either form a new party or their votes will be dispersed among the various other opposition parties. The dissolution of the HDP will not contribute to the AKP’s votes. Furthermore, the ruling AKP’s ancestor parties were dissolved and re-established several times, so the government should know that dissolving a political party is not a solution. It is also a practice that the AKP has harshly criticized in the past, but political ethics unfortunately allows such forgetfulness.
The fourth initiative was the government stripping Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, an HDP lawmaker, of his parliamentary membership. This was for the flimsy reason of retweeting a message on Twitter. He resisted leaving the parliament building, but was arrested before dawn in his parliamentary office when he was performing ablutions for Fajr prayers.
The fifth move was the disclosure of a human rights action plan by the government. The plan includes certain improvements aimed at gaining the hearts of the electorate, but there are so many violations of human rights in the country that the public perceives this initiative to be mere window dressing. Local courts disregard the verdicts of the constitutional court and the government does not take any action on its binding obligation to implement the cassation verdicts of the European Court of Human Rights.
Sixth was the care that Erdogan took in shaping the party organs during last week’s biannual congress. This newly elected team will probably be in charge of the party for the 2023 elections. Erdogan paid special attention to creating a balanced structure within the party, where every segment of the electorate will find a representative of its clan; be it ethnic, sectarian, ideological, social class or disgruntled members of the party. He wants to secure the backing of every single potential AKP voter.
The measures that Erdogan is taking may be part of a long-term strategy in preparation for the 2023 general election, or even preparation for a surprise early election.
- Yasar Yakis