What is the root cause of Aksener’s inconsistent behavior before the election in Turkey?
I do not know if anyone fully understands the events of the past three or four days. What can we make of Aksener’s outburst shortly after signing a statement of “having come to a mutual conclusion” on the opposition’s presidential candidate that no such consensus existed? What does it mean for her to be attending the Felicity Party’s meeting at their Headquarters while I sit writing these lines? What is happening, and why?
WHAT HAPPENED AND WHY?
Aksener protested the candidacy of Kilicdaroglu, with whom she has been in close political cooperation since 2017, and castigated members of the Nation Alliance with whom she has been working for over a year. Though she opposed Kilicdaroglu’s candidacy on the grounds that “he is not the winning candidate,” she proposed the mayors of two metropolitan municipalities as potential candidates in her speech during which she talked about how the Good Party had been ensnared and forced into a decision between death and disease. Aksener went beyond a mere proposal to evaluate these names as separate from the parties to which they belong and called them to do their “duty,” and to be candidates for the presidency. Frankly, her stance was inexplicable and, as such, it left people perplexed. I was also mistaken. I was familiar with Aksener’s political career, but I had not expected her to “burn bridges” by claiming, “there is no mutual conclusion, they ensnared us” before the ink had dried on the statement “we have come to a mutual conclusion on the matter of a candidate.”
As it happens, no bridges were burned. Not two days had passed, the events of which are unknown to the public, when Aksener announced her return to the Table of Six on the condition that the two metropolitan municipality mayors Imamoglu and Yavas be given the Vice Presidency. I was again mistaken. I had not expected such a reversal after her harsh words and the justification of “Kilicdaroglu is not a winning candidate.” On the contrary, the question “Is a softening of relations with the ruling administration on the horizon?” seemed like a more probably question. In the space of three days, Aksener thrice prompted my bewilderment and the public’s.
Now, we ask, what was the reason for this return? If the cause for the departure was that “Kilicdaroglu is not a winning candidate,” well, this reason is still on the table. The plain explanation is this perhaps: No matter what we do, it is impossible for Kilicdaroglu to win! Because, in Aksener’s own words, Kilicdaroglu has a past “of losses on top of losses,” so her cited reason is not based solely on the polls or her personal observations. Whereas today, as these lines are being written, with Aksener’s return to the Table and as per the words of a high-ranking party member to the press, the discourse has shifted to “the candidate who will be made to win.” Even if Kilicdaroglu is not “the winning candidate,” he is now the “candidate who will be made to win” — at least if no last-minute surprises occur. This begs the question, why did you not approach the issue from the perspective of “a candidate who will be made to win” from the outset? A “winning candidate” will already win, with or without your support, that is what makes them a “winning candidate.” Is it not a goal of politics to make your own candidate win?
At this point, another question necessarily arises. Evidently, the reasoning “he is not the winning candidate” is highly flawed. Because in addition to the person you say “is not the winning candidate” not withdrawing from candidacy, putting forward the two important mayors of the party that that candidate leads as vice presidents is a declaration of how feeble the initial "not the winning candidate" justification was. In that case, we must ask the question: “Is the root problem something else?”
IS THERE ANOTHER PROBLEM
Truly, what reason does the Good Party and Meral Aksener have to oppose Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s candidacy for the presidency?
It should be noted that the debates around the determination of a presidential candidate have been ongoing for quite some time. Kilicdaroglu’s desire to be the candidate in contrast to the notion that Imamoglu or Yavas should be preferred due to a higher degree of support among the electorate “based on the polls” has been on the agenda. Much has been written on this matter, though it has not been discussed at the Table of Six or Nation Alliance meetings. This is truly odd. If this matter really has not been discussed, it is a massive shortcoming. If it has been discussed, but is being kept from the public, then, at the very least, it is shameful. In any case, there is another disgrace surrounding this stance that was adopted when the topic came to the forefront, and this is perhaps about the “root problem.” It is as follows:
If we look at the “polls” neither the Nation Alliance nor the People’s Alliance on their own have the requisite 50+1 percent votes to be elected President. As a result, they need the support of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the Labor and Freedom Alliance (LFA). This is not a secret. That being said, the Nation Alliance’ prioritization of ridding Turkey of the current regime, then changing the current presidential system to a parliamentary one as a “matter of life and death,” and thus excluding the HDP and the LFA is unfathomable. The primary reason for this exclusionary attitude is in Aksener’s first withdrawal statement, that is, the Good Party’s stance up until March 2. To my mind, for a party that claims to be democratic, this attitude is a shortcoming. Could the potential support of the HDP and LFA to Kilicdaroglu be behind Aksener’s declaration of leaving the Nation Alliance on March 3, contrary to her signature the day before?
When I listened to the withdrawal declaration from March 3, I had questioned whether the discomfort felt towards such a potential HDP-LFA support was behind this bridge burning on the basis of feeble reasoning. In this regard, it was a peculiar coincidence that as Aksener was making her statement, Kilicdaroglu was in a meeting with officials from the Left Party and Workers' Party of Turkey. Furthermore, wouldn’t HDP-LFA support for Kilicdaroglu make him the “winning candidate” and thus poke holes in the shallow reasoning of “he is not a winning candidate?” Then, was the true cause for their discomfort not that Kilicdaroglu is incapable of winning, but quite the opposite, that he is so close to victory?
A RETURN TO THE TABLE AND THE ROOT PROBLEM
Now that Aksener and the Good Party have rejoined the Table of Six, is this “root problem” nothing more than groundless suspicion? I do not think so.
The turmoil Aksener created, no matter the motives or other factors, should not overshadow the main problem that has left its mark on Turkish politics. The various analyzes of Aksener’s exit cite factors such as the "contractor group" that is disturbed by Kilicdaroglu’s claim that “I will take back the 418 billion dollars,” the deep bureaucracy that the state has formed in the last twenty years of AKP rule, and even Aksener’s own desire to gain prominence. There is undoubtedly truth to all of these. However, there is one point we should not overlook, and which concerns the choices made by the Nation Alliance as part of its vision for system change and common policies. A critical deficiency evident in these documents is the absence of any policy proposals that address the fundamental problems that have brought Turkey to today's oppressive environment. This deficiency coincides with the exclusion from the political process of a group in the 10-15% band, whose influence in the elections cannot be underestimated, at a time as critical and fast-paced as today.
Can Aksener’s return to the Table prevent the devastating consequences of this shortcoming in politics and exclusionary attitude? We will see. At times when things change quickly, it is not easy to predict how the political atmosphere will evolve as a result of upcoming developments. However, it has become apparent that the energy for a democratic struggle that will curb the “fascism" that resurfaced through the “love for counter-guerillas” displayed in the Bursaspor-Amedspor match two days ago cannot be generated by the Table alone. If Aksener had not returned, the democratic will put forth by the five parties left in the alliance with the HDP-LFA could have been stronger. Perhaps Aksener and the Good Party have changed their stance on this issue, who knows. But, in my opinion, events of the past days have made it clear that the main political problem in Turkey is not limited to changing the current government and transitioning to the parliamentary system, and that the root problem is eradicating “parliamentary fascism” alongside “presidential fascism.” We shall wait and see…