MuMTAZER – Turkey’s coming elections, and change

Turkey’s coming elections, and changeThere are seven months left before the elections, and election dynamics are already at work.One early sign of the start-up to these election dynamics are the debates under way about the 10 percent electoral threshold.

In the meantime, the political back corridors of Ankara have heated up, and those in the andldquopolitical kitchenandrdquo are hard at work. The approach of the general elections also means an increase in pressure from the people over politics.

These days, those with any sort of stake in politics are following reactions from the public much more closely than before. Political actors are wrapped up in careful calculations that will allow them to enter these elections — which will see a massive redistribution of cards — in a more aantageous position.

But a shift in the general vote tableau in these coming elections — which could take place in June 2015 or even earlier — would change everything in Turkey. The fact that no other chance for change to occur even exists only boosts the importance of these elections.

Despite the oppressive atmosphere in Turkey these days, political competition does manage to create its own unique dynamics and balances. And in fact, we are seeing new polarizations and new identities emerge during this process.

The very watered-down reactions to the prison sentence handed down to Professor Rennan Pekunsal andndash who was accused of trying to prevent a headscarved student from entering his class and thus found guilty of andldquopreventing educational freedomandrdquo — demonstrate to us that there is no political response to the secular-religious polarization in Turkey. Despite a ruling party that leans heavily on the use of religious symbolism — and which has worked hard to politicize religion in general — the lack of secular-religious clashes in this round of elections appears to be the first and most significant dynamics of these coming elections.

The Justice and Development Partyand#39s (AK Party) notable weak spot in this coming round of elections will certainly be the allegations over corruption, which refuse to drop from the agenda Some say that in order to make the AK Partyand#39s time easier in the elections, two of the four ministers currently being questioned in Parliament will be sent to the Supreme State Council, a sacrifice to keep the lions well fed, so to speak. As it stands now, the tactic the AK Party has used up until now, of trying to block and otherwise prevent the investigations into corruption, has begun to raise suspicions against it.

Revelations of the shocking costs incurred in the construction of the new presidential palace, andldquoAK Saray,andrdquo as well as ErdoIanand#39s open disdain for publicly voiced criticism against him only work to make the corruption agenda weightier than everThe sharp reactions to the corruption allegations coming from circles that up until today had provided unconditional support for ErdoIan are also another important sign that this topic will play a leading role in the coming elections.In particular, one can see this in the reactions from professor of Islamic law Hayrettin Karaman, a man I had previously labeled the party andldquomufti.

andrdquoAnother critical dynamic in these elections is set to the peace process. The AK Party may choose to move the date of the elections up based solely on fears about possible Kurdistan Workersand#39 Party (PKK) incidents, but even this precaution may not enough to stop the PKK.

And so it appears that the peace process as well as the AK Partyand#39s fate in the coming elections depends upon the stance the PKK decides to take in the near future.It is impossible to talk of a free press or a free opposition where these elections are concerned.

Outside of this paper, the media in Turkey is now devoid of voices that dare criticize ErdoIan and his acts of an arbitrary nature. And when it comes to big business interests, these all remain quiet in fear of provoking the governmentand#39s anger their financial and capital gains all now depend on ErdoIan.

The final dynamic at work, and one worth examining, is that of the inner dynamics at work in the AK Party. With so much power gathered at one focal point, in the ruling party, it was perhaps inevitable that we would begin to see cracks and competition emerging in the ranks of the AK Party.

One of the most significant recent signs of these inner clashes was the termination of the jobs of three important government-supporting journalists. It is also impossible for the power clashes within the government — between ErdoIanand#39s Ak Saray and Prime Minister Ahmet DavutoIluand#39s government — to be hidden for much longerAnd so it is that a set of elections that could change many things, first and foremost the power balances within the AK Party, is fast approaching.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman