Read­ing 2015 Turk­ish Par­lia­men­tary Elec­tions

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

The June 2015 Turk­ish Par­lia­ment (Grand Na­tional As­sem­bly) elec­tion may be one of the most im­por­tant elec­tions in re­cent Turk­ish po­lit­i­cal his­tory. In ad­di­tion to the usual elec­toral arith­metic and fore­casts, this elec­tion is sur­rounded by two ex­ten­sive de­bates.

First is the in­volve­ment and de­mands of the pres­i­dent, Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, par­tic­u­larly his ad­vo­cacy of a pres­i­den­tial sys­tem rather than the present sys­tem of par­lia­men­tary democ­racy, where the pres­i­dent holds a more sym­bolic role.

Sec­ond is whether the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Party (HDP), com­pet­ing for the first time as a party rather than with a list of in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates, will be able to pass the re­quired 10% thresh­old of popular vote. The pre­dom­i­nantly Kur­dish HDP is at­tempt­ing to move be­yond be­ing only an eth­nic rights party to be­ing a party for free­doms and lib­er­ties for all.

Their abil­ity to over­come the 10% thresh­old or not will de­ter­mine the num­ber of par­lia­men­tary seats for each party, but in ad­di­tion, many also worry about the con­se­quences of ex­clud­ing a le­git­i­mate party rep­re­sent­ing the Kur­dish move­ment from par­lia­men­tary pol­i­tics.

Th­ese is­sues are be­ing de­bated in de­tail at the na­tional and in­ter­na­tional lev­els and the dis­cus­sions seem to get more heated ev­ery day.

Po­lit­i­cal po­lar­iza­tion can be sub­di­vided into two forms: popular po­lar­iza­tion and elite po­lar­iza­tion. Popular po­lar­iza­tion refers to an opin­ion and at­ti­tude shaped solely by an in­di­vid­ual’s iden­ti­fi­ca­tion with a party (or even with a cer­tain leader).

Sim­ply, vot­ers do not an­a­lyse cases and in­stead ei­ther wholly ac­cept or re­ject an is­sue, pol­icy, or idea based solely on party lines. Stud­ies and anal­y­sis demon­strate that U.S. pol­i­tics is cur­rently go­ing through its most po­lar­ized era in its his­tory. The same can be ar­gued for Turk­ish pol­i­tics as well.

Turkey’s cur­rent elec­toral de­bates, where po­lit­i­cal fac­tions po­lar­ize all sorts of so­cial, eco­nomic, and even cul­tural is­sues, are be­ing con­structed and con­sol­i­dated around be­long­ing to a camp rather than build­ing a case on is­sues and poli­cies.

The main di­vi­sion is be­tween those sup­port­ing or op­pos­ing the rul­ing Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party (AKP). The divide be­tween pro-AKP cir­cles and those against grew wider and deeper start­ing with the anti-gov­ern­ment Gezi Park protests in May/ June 2013.

The gov­ern­ment’s re­pres­sive tac­tics in han­dling the protests and the po­lice bru­tal­ity deeply di­vided the so- ci­ety. While most AKP fol­low­ers saw the protests as a plot against the na­tional will and ap­proved the gov­ern­ment stance, the op­po­si­tion took them as an­other in­di­ca­tion of in­creas­ing au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism in Turkey.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­cent public opin­ion sur­vey by Acik To­plum Vakfı, Koc Uni­ver­si­ties, and Ohio State Uni­ver­sity, led by Prof. Ali Carkoglu, the num­ber of in­di­vid­u­als who are dis­sat­is­fied with the way democ­racy works in Turkey in­creased from 33% to 45%. In ad­di­tion, while AKP vot­ers have an av­er­age sat­is­fac­tion score of 6.6 out of 10, this fig­ure is 2.63 out of 10 (on av­er­age) for the vot­ers for op­po­si­tion par­ties.

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