Turkey polls — a gamble for Erdogan

Updated 31 Oct 2015

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Dr Hamit Bozarslan.
—White Star
Dr Hamit Bozarslan. —White Star

Hamit Bozarslan is the director of studies at Paris’s School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences and the author of several books including History of Turkey from Empire to Our Days and Revolution and State of Violence in Middle-East. He was recently in town for the talk ‘Political Crisis in Turkey and Euro-Turkish Relations’ held at Karachi University’s Area Study Centre for Europe.

Maliha Diwan interviewed him about political developments in Turkey, the country’s upcoming snap elections, and Turkey’s role in the refugee crisis.

Q. Polls have predicted similar results to the June elections for the Nov 1 elections. What do you see happening if the predictions are correct and the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi [AKP] once again doesn’t win a majority in parliament?

A. It’s very difficult to know. Some speculate that Erdogan will call new elections in February, others say he’ll declare Turkey [to be] in a state of war, or maybe he’ll create a new party. Anything we say today will be pure speculation.

Q. Following the June elections, Turkey has been thrown into domestic turmoil. In September, over a 100 offices of the Halkların Demokratik Partisi [HDP] were ransacked and in the past few months media offices have been attacked or raided. In July, Turkey initiated air strikes against the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan [PKK] camps — this has ended the ceasefire, and reignited a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people since 1984. Can you comment on these developments?

A. Erdogan needed a strategy of tension — [he wants the Turkish people to think] that without him there is no stability, that the country [will be] under siege and that he is the only one who can protect the country. He thought that if there are any victims in the army [from fighting with the PKK], the army will mobilise and so will the Turkish electorate. But that didn’t happen: during the burial of the ‘martyrs’, people shouted anti-Erdogan slogans; many said ‘the children have paid the price for Erdogan’s strategy’.

Q. One of the reasons that AKP lost its majority in parliament was due to the rising popularity of the HDP. Can you tell us more about the HDP?

A. The HDP came from a long struggle that can be traced back to the 1960s. Back then, Kurds were not even recognised [as a separate ethnic group]. Many [Kurdish] parties have been banned: a third, fourth, fifth party was banned and this [HDP] is the last such party.

The liberal left-wing movement decided to support the HDP. The party represents both the Kurdish and liberals. Many of the leaders are young and about 50 per cent are women, and in every position of the party, there is a man and a woman.

Q. On Wednesday, Oct 28, police stormed the offices of the Koza Ipek media group (which has links to the politically-connected cleric Fethullah Gülen). What do you think of this crackdown?

A. When you read the pro-AKP press, [it seems that] Erdogan is considered almost a god, that Turkey is under attack and needs to defend herself, and that to help realise her destiny as an independent power, you have to support Erdogan. Turkey is [now] divided into two: [between] those who support the nation and those who are the ‘enemy’ of the nation.

So if you shut down the other voice, this is the only voice left — which is what the regime wants. And it doesn’t work because people don’t understand such tactics. The image of Turkey in Europe worsens because of such things. I don’t think there is any rationality in the system.

Q. In return for helping out with the refugee crisis, Turkey has been demanding a number of things from Europe: three billion Euros in funding, a no-fly zone over Syria, and visa-free access to Europe for Turks etc. Would you like to comment on this?

A. This is a deadlock situation. Earlier they thought the refugee crisis could be resolved by controlling the borders, then they thought that if each country takes some refugees [it’ll resolve things] and now they think the solution is for refugees to be allowed to work in Turkey. Many of the refugees who are from the upper class have integrated but as such the Syrians are ill-treated in Turkey.

I don’t know if the US will implement a no-fly zone; now that Russia is involved, the situation has become more complicated and implementing the no-fly zone means declaring war on Syria. Europe could have done something [about the refugee crisis] in 2011 but now [it’s too late]: societies are vanishing.

Published in Dawn, October 31st, 2015

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