Why does Erdogan need smaller parties as allies in the election?
DENIZ WILSON- As the presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey to be held on May 14 approach, the alliances in the country have begun to crystallize. The Table of Six, formed by six opposition parties, has nominated Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which is the main opposition party. President Erdogan, on the other hand, wants to elongate his 20-year rule by being the incumbent candidate.
The inclusion of HUDA PAR, a party considered the continuation of the terrorist organization Hezbollah (unrelated to the Lebanese Hezbollah), in the ruling bloc’s People's Alliance caused great controversy. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) also recruited the New Welfare Party (YRP) into the alliance. It seems that after the earthquake and the economic crisis, Erdogan will leave no stone unturned in trying to win the election. Erdogan’s People’s Alliance is composed of his own party, the AKP, the ultra-nationalist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the nationalist-Islamist Great Unity Party (BBP), the Kurdish nationalist and Islamist HUDA PAR, and the Islamist YRP.
Who are HUDAPAR and Hezbollah?
Hezbollah, which was affected by the Islamic revolution in Iran in the 1980s and which was rumored to be supported by Iran, came to be known in the public sphere in the 90s. There were also claims that Hezbollah, which especially in the 90s conducting violent operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the clashed between the PKK and the state, was the state’s apparatus.
Attempting to spread its influence in the region with its Sharia-based and Kurdish nationalist views, Hezbollah killed the feminist Islamist writer Konca Kuris in 1998. The organization was eradicated to a large extent with the operation carried out in Istanbul in the year 2000. The documents found in the organization’s houses which revealed that many people were tortured to death, particularly using a method called the hog-tie, horrified the public. The assassination of Diyarbakir Police Chief Gaffar Okkan in 2001 became the organization’s most infamous terrorist attack.
After the organization slowly started to collapse, it began to focus on functioning as a civil society organization. While their Solidarity with the Oppressed Association (Mustazaf-Der) was closed in 2012 for being an extension of the terrorist organization, Hezbollah paved a way forward for itself as the Free Cause Party (HUDA PAR) in the same year. Votes for the HUDA PAR in the last general elections in 2018 was 0.31%.
Who is the New Welfare Party (YRP)?
Fatih Erbakan, the founder of the New Welfare Party, is the son of Necmettin Erbakan, the founder of Islamist politics in Turkey. Erbakan, who claims that the National Vision movement, which is an Islamist ideology, is not being furthered by the Felicity Party, founded the New Welfare Party (YRP) in 2018, in re Claiming that the National Vision line, which is an Islamist ideology, was not continued by the Felicity Party, Erbakan founded the Welfare Party (YRP) again in 2018, the selected name alluding to his father's Welfare Party.
The YRP, which operates along an Islamist vision, started to gather supporters by focusing on certain issues in society. Voters who were critical of the Felicity Party's participation in the Table of Six, in addition to those who held anti-vaccination views, supported abolishing alimony for divorced women, and the euthanization of street, began to shift to the YRP.
Erdogan’s political needs
Things did not go well for Erdogan, who gathered all the power in the country into his hands with a new Presidential system in 2018. The economic crisis still ongoing today hit Turkey when Erdogan had only just seized his new powers. Especially with the shock of the new exchange rate at the end of 2021, people's incomes and welfare decreased. As the inflation rate exceeded 80 percent and the real estate crisis occurred, it became difficult for people to pay rent. Another factor that compounded Erdogan’s difficulties was the most devastating earthquakes in the country's history on February 6 and the inadequacy of state institutions in that disaster. Erdogan is preparing for a more difficult election than ever before.
The newly introduced two-round presidential election has caused each and every vote to increase in importance. This is why Erdogan wants to include even smaller and more radical parties in his alliance. The difficult conditions he finds himself in leave him having to defend these radical parties.
According to pro-government Ersin Celik's article in Yeni Safak, which has essentially become the government's media organ, Fatih Erbakan and his staff view the YRP as the only party that does politics without deviating from the core values of the National Vision ideology. Founded in November 2018 as the continuation of the Welfare Party which was shut down and having established its organization in 81 provinces in the time since, the YRP gained momentum as a consequence of the Felicity Party's alliance with the CHP in the 2018 elections. The YRP’s membership numbers exceeded that of the Felicity Party and their potential was reflected in public polls. The YRP was unable to reach an agreement in the first meetings and began to collect the 100,000 signatures required to declare Fatih Erbakan a candidate for the presidency. However, in the subsequent negotiations, the YRP was persuaded to join Erdogan's ranks.
According to political scientist Zafer Yoruk, the AKP included small parties in its alliance is not only for votes but also due to personnel shortages. Yoruk says, “In the last few years, people have become AKP members and joined its cadres based on self-interest. As such, youth who have no interest in the political Islam philosophy or political history of this movement, and who — if I must caricaturize — are cocaine-sniffing mafias-to-be have joined the AKP cadres. Similarly, people who have other jobs, such as contractors, small business owners, and the mafia, have seemingly become political even though, in reality, they are not. Especially after dismissals due to FETO associations, the quality of people within the party has deteriorated. Therefore, it is not just due to a need for intimidation and violence that these men are being brought to Parliament. These are people who have tangible beliefs and ideologies. There is a need for this [in the AKP]. This need is not just Erdogan's personal need; this recruitment is perhaps necessary for political Islam to have a future in Turkey."
Political Scientist Guven Gurkan Oztan stated that Erdogan’s alliance is the most reactionary alliance in the history of the country. Oztan wrote in the leftist Birgun newspaper, “The most reactionary alliance in the history of Turkey has been established, with HUDA PAR members being candidates for parliament from the AKP lists and the YRP officially joining the People's Alliance. Even the Nationalist Front governments of the 1970s had not reached such a reactionary point. In the 100th year of the Republic, sects, gangs, those who cannot bear to hear even the first letter of the words ‘freedom’ and ‘equality,’ and those who do not allow youth and women the right to life, have come together. The only common denominator of this alliance, if any, is an animosity to the secular republic and to democracy.”
According to journalist Mehmet Tezkan, who is a columnist for the opposition Halk TV, Erdogan wants to include parties in his alliance that are pseudo-equivalents of the opposition parties. Stating that Erdogan needs votes from HUDA PAR and YRP to stay in power, Tezkan writes, “He will pit HUDA-PAR as a politically active force against the HDP in the Southeast. At the local level, these two political parties will compete on a provincial and district basis. These two parties will face each other. There will be a struggle between conservative Kurds and secular Kurds. The AKP, on the other hand, will assume the role of welcoming all conservative and secular Kurdish voters. This seems to be the plan… Now let us turn to the New Welfare Party. It makes sense for this party to join the alliance. First of all, the National Vision school now has two parties: the Felicity Party and the YRP. Erdogan will pit the YRP against the Felicity and Future parties, which appeal to the conservative / religious / bigoted segments of society. The YRP will enter their field and propagandize. YRP members will knock on every door the Felicity and Future parties have knocked on. The Muslim congregations reached by the Felicity and Future parties will also be contacted by YRP networks.”
If this alliance, founded by Erdogan and supported by radical parties, wins the election, a social and cultural crisis in Turkey is likely. The secular opposition in Turkey has been fighting against Erdogan's Islamist agenda for many years. If Erdogan wins the election on May 14, he will continue to rule the country with full authority — this time accompanied by extremist parties.