BY ZEYNEP GURCANLI
Just months before a critical election in Turkey, the strategy that will be followed by the AK Party is taking shape. This can be summarized as follows: internal tension contrasted with external normalization.
Given this, it is not a surprise that the AKP has brought back the old “survival” discourse. Following the terrorist attack on Istiklal Avenue, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu’s rapid statement that “PYD -YPG, an extension of the PKK terrorist organization, is responsible for the action,” and the immediate air attack on northern Syria and Iraq seems to be a continuation of this strategy.
Of course, it is also possible to read the ground operation in northern Syria, which seems to be “imminent,” from this perspective.
SOYLU’S CRITICAL ROLE
The role of Interior Minister Soylu in this strategy is critical. High-pitched statements accusing the opposition of supporting terrorism are guising all necessary debate between the incumbent and opposition blocs. For example, the statement given to the police by the Syrian terrorist who carried out the Istiklal attack saying that both she and her family are related to the Free Syrian Army, which is the opposition of Assad in the north of Syria, rather than the PYD-YPG, became popular in the public opinion this time, and drew suspicion about both Soylu’s claims and the event itself.
The ruling bloc has, however, succeeded in using this to consolidate its own electorate, whose loyalty has begun to weaken due to the economic crisis. Moreover, the shadow of “collaboration with terrorism” is placed on the opposition.
“NORMALIZATION” IN THE INTERNATIONAL ARENA
Outside Turkey, the “normalization wave” led by President Erdogan is the second pillar of the strategy.
In this context, Erdogan does not hesitate to shake hands with Sisi, whom he has called a “killer and putschist” for years. He also talks about meeting with Assad, who he has also called a “murderer.” He does not refrain from making phone calls to the former Prime Minister of Israel, Netanyahu, whom he once accused of “acting as a state terrorist,” because of his success in the last elections.
This “normalization” in the international arena is reflected domestically, as well, in the form of loans and swaps from Arab countries that will level the balance sheets of the Central Bank before the election and a green light for a cross-border operation from Russia against Syria. All of these are factors that will relieve the ruling bloc in terms of both the country’s economic outlook and nationalist discourse before the 2023 elections.
Moreover, this “normalization” initiated by the AK Party government is also of key importance in terms of the legitimacy sought in the international arena if there is only a small vote difference between the opposition and the ruling bloc in the 2023 elections, or allegations of meddling.
WANT A CONCRETE EXAMPLE OF THIS STRATEGY?
Just hours after Interior Minister Soylu said, “I do not accept the US’ condolences,” after the terrorist attack on Istiklal, President Erdogan personally met with President Biden and “accepted his condolences,” thanking the United States. Isn’t this the perfect example?
While increasing anti-Americanism inside was fueled by the statements by Soylu, Erdoğan personally painted a “normalized relationship” with the United States.
OPPOSITION FRONT BUSY WITH POST- ELECTION PLANS
The 6-party opposition front, on the other hand, seems to be busy with post-election plans rather than the lead up to the election.
Of course, the draft Constitution put forward by the 6-party alliance is of critical importance for Turkey’s future. However, it should not be forgotten that the draft constitution will only be put into effect if the opposition manages to win.
In the lead up to the election, citizens’ minds are preoccupied with their livelihoods, their fear of terrorism, and new problems created by Syrian, Afghan, and Middle Eastern refugees and foreigners whose numbers are increasing day by day in the country. Naturally, concrete solutions are expected from the opposition on these issues.
A possible opposition constitutional amendment after the election seems, for now, like a distant dream.