Ali Duran Topuz

Ali Duran Topuz

The politics of blood: going to the polls with fighter jets

The opposition’s ineffectual strategy to counter Erdogan sets the stage for election loss

President Erdogan speaks:

“We cannot ignore the extensions of this organization in our parliament...”

“To this end, I think the 2023 elections are very, very important. Those who are behind the murderers of women and children who doused our country with blood are partners in the crime against humanity. How will they explain the recent terrorist attack on Istiklal Street? Did the main opposition and their offspring have anything to say about it? They have nothing to say. We should not leave the blood of our three-year-old martyr child on the ground, but let us also not forget about it at the ballot box.”

What is he saying here? I am striking via the military-police-judiciary, and if you won't vote, “we have won” and that’s it. Who is this “us”? The Erdogan-Bahceli-Soylu-Perincek bloc. In fact, he says what the opposition should say much more clearly than it does, he openly says that the target of the war is the ballot box. This is the politics of turning blood into votes. This is the politics of blood.


This is nothing new here. Erdogan had given a similar speech in Maras before the 2018 elections, complete with motifs of blood, flag, terrorism, and so on. During that speech, a theatrical arrangement took place: a little girl, dressed as a soldier and with a flag in her pocket, was brought on stage next to Erdogan. Erdogan pointed to the child, who was crying in fear, and said, "She has the flag in her pocket, which she will be covered with when she becomes a martyr." The famous slogan of those days was "Reis, lead us to Afrin."

The basic policy of the new regime, accelerated by the opportunity provided by the coup attempt, has remained the same ever since: to make war the main political instrument and to militarize society with religious and racist speeches.


The goal of militarizing society and making war and conflict the main instrument is, of course, not only due to the Kurdish question. This militarization is a natural necessity of the policy of widening and deepening economic poverty: no matter how much poverty increases, there should be no one left to be able to make a sound. The military-police apparatus of violence is breathing down the neck of every demand for rights, every struggle for rights. The treatment of women on November 25 was one of the simple outcomes of this. The truth behind the speeches adorned with terror, enmity, religion, nation, etc. is that the plundering preferences in the economy can only be maintained by establishing a dictatorship.

In short, the landscape in the run-up to the elections is not much different from the one before the 2018 elections. Back then, the way to fight this government seemed clear: Either everyone will put their flag in their pocket and join the Afrin slogans, or they will produce policies against this. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is a duck; this was the case then, and this is the case now.


But apparently it is not:

It has been clear for more than a year that the government's strategy for the 2023 elections is a repeat of what happened in the run-up to the 2018 elections. And the reason is obvious: to keep the HDP, which has become the critical party of the election because there is no good story in the economy that will bring votes, and thus keep the Kurdish votes, which have become the critical group of voters, away from the opposition (if it can't get them on its side). The aim, then, is to create an atmosphere in which politics is almost abolished by security politics, i.e., the politics or war that has been pursued since the summer of 2015. In other words, to maintain war as the only form of politics.

This opens up two paths for the opposition: either radically reject the idea of war and adopt a different policy, or buckle under the blackmail of war and wait for the government to somehow stumble at some point.

This expectation was fulfilled only once, in the local elections. While the ruling and opposition blocs balanced out at around 40 percent each, the opposition was able to prevail in the local elections, especially in the major cities, thanks to the decision of the HDP and Kurdish voters to vote against the government. However, this experience did not lead the opposition to develop policies that would make the government's war policies less effective. This lack of courage on the part of the opposition could lead to nothing other than the government's escalation of the war as its main campaign investment in the run-up to the elections.

The government intends two things with the launching of the warplanes and, as in the introductory speech, it says so openly: The main objective is to create a victory narrative on the Kurdish issue and rally the electorate around it. Even if this fails, that is, even if no victory narrative emerges, since the opposition's stance on war-based policies cannot go beyond the options of silence at worst and approval of the government's actions at best, the main objective is to weaken the Kurdish electorate's inclination toward the opposition.


This lack of courage to oppose the current formula also explains the opposition's undisguised anxiety at the possibility of a "resolution process": for the government (especially a government headed by someone like Erdogan, whose flexibility of maneuver knows no limits), the possibility of a return to the "resolution process" is by no means slim, while for the opposition (especially an opposition that includes a party like the Good Party, which sees little difference between being against the government and being its partner), the idea of such a process can, at best, cause anxiety. To put it more bluntly, it is not only the government that is Kurdophobic, but also the opposition.

In the last 15 to 20 days, we have seen all the dimensions of this strategy in the form of a concise short film:

The AKP delegation's visit to the HDP in Parliament and the lifting of a private jet so that Selahattin Demirtas can visit his ailing father have sent the opposition bloc into a panic over the "resolution process." Aksener, the leader of the second opposition party, proved that she would always help the government's plan by directly targeting the HDP, let alone presenting an alternative proposal to the government's possible solution proposal. Then, the Istiklal Avenue bombing, despite all the clouds of suspicion surrounding it, allowed the government to beat the war drums and without further delay the warplanes took off.

Let us conclude by referring to Hans Magnus Enzensberger, who died on this day: In his poem denouncing the US attack on Cuba (the Bay of Pigs landing), this German anti-war poet quotes a general at a press conference: "You prepare the pictures. The war is the easy part."

The war is the easy part, "you prepare the votes", says the president. Since the opposition has not chosen the hard way, which is to oppose the war, at this point they have to hope and pray that the government does not get the victory narrative it intends with the warplanes it launches, that the economy deteriorates little by little, that the Kurds swallow all the fancy speeches about reconciliation, brotherhood, being inseparable and so on, and that they and other voters come to vote for them. The politics of "vote for us if you don't die" versus the politics of asking for votes by killing, is the best way to lose, not to win. It’s unfortunate.

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