The elections on June 24 have unsurprisingly resulted in Erdoğan being elected as president of the new political setup which was narrowly voted in a constitutional referendum about a year ago. Although that constitutional vote was rigged by the government and state apparatus including the Higher Election Board, the opposition failed to stand up against it. Two months ago the totalitarian regime built around Erdoğan declared snap elections to be held on June 24. The totalitarian regime needed to get ballot box approval to present itself as legitimate. But what the regime planned and organised was far from being free and fair elections. It is more than enough just to note some striking facts to understand the real nature of the June 24 elections: All state resources were employed in an unbridled and flagrant way, 90% of the media have been turned into government bulletin, the image of Erdoğan was appearing like Big Brother on every media outlet while opposition candidates were largely kept away from public view in almost every field. The media did not even cover the rally by the main opposition presidential candidate Muharrem İnce in Maltepe, İstanbul, joined by millions of people. Selahattin Demirtaş, the candidate of the Kurdish party, i.e. HDP, had to carry on his presidential campaign from inside prison. Considering all these facts, which simply show that this is not a fair election, it would not be right to make assessments based on a false assumption that this is a normal election.
The Erdoğan regime that is basically composed of the state, party, religious orders and the media with these elements merged into an organic whole, had a free hand in resorting to all kinds of lies, manipulation, and illegitimate means in order to fuel the fears of the masses and drag them behind. The masses were pushed into an eclipse of mind with the threat of crisis and chaos and the paranoia that Turkey is being torn apart, and sheer lies such as that the foreign powers are jealous of Turkey’s growth, that “headscarf will be banned again”, and that “we will be denied of the right to practice our religion” etc. Such lies and falsifications made an impact on the masses that vote the AKP in that they overrode the sense of looming economic collapse the cost of which will be paid by the working masses, increasing living costs and the anti-democratic character of the one-man regime. However the regime has failed in achieving an overwhelming vote rate, forcing HDP under the threshold level, tearing down the opposition, and scaring and pacifying the opposition. It actually could achieve majority in parliament thanks to MHP. Half of society stand against this regime, which is crucial.
We must remember how it started. Having a hard time in a number of areas, the regime made, or rather had to make, the snap election move in order to get away from these hardships, gather strength, and thus overcome its weaknesses and fragilities. Since consequences of a possible economic collapse coupled with international developments on the long road to the regular date of the elections in 2019, could put a lot more pressure on the regime, increase its weaknesses and fragilities, and perhaps the regime could face a mass movement. Having made his calculations, Erdoğan made his move by declaring snap elections in the hope of catching the opposition unprepared, lacking leadership, disorganised, that is, in a weak and low-morale state. By this way he would create a false impression that this election is a usual and normal one, leaving the masses with a fait accompli while implementing his election game. The bourgeois opposition could reject this election by declaring it illegitimate and leave the regime with a legitimacy crisis. However, they decided to break Erdoğan’s game in their own way, considering the consequences of a boycott dangerous from the standpoint of the order.
In the beginning it was obvious that what the Palace alliance declared was an election game, but it soon appeared that not everything was developing according to the government plan. With the start of the election campaigns the masses began to see the election as a means through which they can express their discontent, resulting in a wind of dissent. Some of Erdoğan’s calculations were defeated in the process resulting in a more strengthened climate of dissent, for instance, defeat of the government move to make İYİ Parti (Good Party) disqualified for the election, and establishment of an opposition alliance between Saadet Partisi (Felicity Party), İYİ Parti and the CHP (Republican People’s Party). These achievements together with erecting a candidate such as Muharrem İnce who proved skilful and energetic in connecting with the masses against Erdoğan, quickly excited and gave hope to the dissenting masses that are seeking to get rid of the one-man regime. The period of election campaigns created a political revival in the country, a climate took shape in which political argument and criticism of government acquired legitimacy. This way the election turned into a stage for the masses to express their discontent, and Erdoğan had to shift back to defence from offensive, all joining together to create a relative ease in fascist repression. This is the reason why the masses perceived this election as a normal election despite everything was happening under the state of emergency.
The discontent with the one-man regime and the rage against the fact that the country is in the brink of an economic crisis, created a serious anti-regime motivation and politicisation among a broad section of the popular masses. And this was despite enormous power held by the fascist regime, particularly in the media front. Against the expectations of the government that amassed so much power in its hands, the opposition managed to take the initiative and set the agenda more than the regime front. For the first time since long the government was in a rush to answer the opposition and again for the first time was in relative disarray. All campaign period witnessed that Erdoğan had a hard time. Nonsense talk, unrestrainedly uttered lies almost on pathological level, paranoid frenzy to keep a close rein on the AKP voters, were just abject manifestations of it.
Although Erdoğan won, thanks to the state-party-order-media apparatuses, he could not mobilise the masses as before. Throughout the campaign period the rallies held by AKP and Erdoğan were generally weaker and lacking in enthusiasm. Despite all media censoring and bias, the ratings of pro-regime TV programmes were well behind those programmes that give some limited airing time for the opposition leaders, particularly Muharrem Ince. AKP and Erdoğan could not even enjoy the level of excitement enjoyed by Selahattin Demirtaş who had no choice but carrying on his campaign from inside the prison, which propelled AKP and Erdoğan to go on to the offensive with a rage.
More importantly, despite all its efforts, the regime failed to bring HDP down the threshold level. Especially after the decision to move many ballot boxes in Kurdish areas with history of overwhelming majority on behalf of HDP from their original places to other areas dominated by the state-sponsored armed Kurdish village guards, many opposition voters in the western part of Turkey decided to vote for HDP not to let it fall below threshold level, thus defeating the calculations of the regime. Most of the socialist movement supported HDP. As a result, HDP secured more votes and seats than the last election in November 1, 2015. That all opposition leaders stated that Demirtaş should be released, that Muharrem İnce visited him in prison, that the opposition parties in their election campaigns tried to stay closer to Kurds, all these had a positive effect in terms of breaking the nationalist prejudices of Turkish labourers. However we must remember that unless the Kurdish question is resolved, the rulers would not stop fuelling the unjust war and mount nationalist hostility towards Kurds, paralysing the consciousness of workers and pitting peoples against one another.
Revival in political climate and the wind that blew from the opposition side gave rise to a general tendency of coming closer and moderation between sections of society orienting towards different opposition parties coming from different lineages. This picture gives hints of the ways how to overcome the politics of false polarisation that have been pursued enthusiastically by Erdoğan. That the broad masses that attended İnce’s rallies were not only composed of CHP voters, and that İnce received much more votes than his party, CHP, reflect this reality.
Dialectical thought explains that everything exists with its opposite. As in nature reality is not one-sided, one-dimensional in the realm of society. For many years Erdoğan pursued a policy of false polarisation among toilers in order to perpetuate his power and, thanks to this, he managed to bind and drag behind the masses that voted AKP. But at the same time he gave rise to a considerable section of society amassing in the other pole, and the anger at the Erdoğan regime on the part of the dissenting masses getting deepened. Undoubtedly Erdoğan has managed to set up a totalitarian regime in which he wields all state power. However his power is not enough to crush all opposition as of now. This regime that has set up its institutions and gave itself a constitutional veil has its weaknesses and fragilities.
We must remember that under conditions of the historical crisis of capitalism, Turkish capitalism is faced with serious troubles. It is having a hard time due also to its imperialistic policies in the Middle East. On the other hand, as its level of capital accumulation is not high compared to imperialist countries, Turkish economy is highly prone to capitalist crisis. There are hints of it such as the fact that the Turkish economy is now in a bottleneck and that there are many signs of a coming economic collapse. There are many contradictions building up in the heart of the totalitarian regime. It is the task of class revolutionaries to make use of every opportunity to push forward the struggle of the working class. For instance, under conditions wherein the calculations of the Erdoğan regime have not fully come true, the opposing masses motivated by the election moved into action and, though for a brief period of time, the climate became open for the propaganda of class revolutionaries.
The period in the run-up to the election reveals that a serious potential on the part of the masses is there in the struggle against the one-man regime. At least half of society does not want this new regime and its leader. Coupled with the recent practices of the government and the conditions that point to an economic crisis, these factors may cause serious vacillations among the working masses that voted AKP. Workers and youth in the rank and file of the opposition parties are full of rage. Without buckling under possible demoralisation on the opposition front due to the declared election results, class revolutionaries will press ahead with their efforts to explain the truth to those interested workers and youth and win them over to the ranks of organised struggle against capitalism.
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