Four visions for the future at Turkey’s “historic crossroads”

28.10.2015666

Early elections to the Turkish parliament were called after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed, first, to win enough votes to form a single-party government in the 7 June elections, and, subsequently, to create a coalition.

The snap election will be held on 1 November, and most attention is concentrated on the four parties which passed the 10% barrier in the June elections: the Justice and Development Party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Justice and Development Party: “Road map for a peaceful and stable Turkey”

tr}akp-oThe AK Party’s electoral programme was published on 4 October. Conceptually, it is based on the idea of a “new Turkey”, elaborated upon by party leader Ahmet Davutoglu in a document published in April of this year.

The programme emphasises the party’s first place outcome in the June parliamentary elections, and the failure of attempts to create a coalition government are tied to “the irresponsible conduct of opposition parties”.

A characteristic feature of the AKP electoral programme is its concentration on the party’s achievements in each of the areas considered (democratisation, social and human development, building a stable and strong economy, science and technology, urban development and environmental protection, progressive foreign policy).

The topic of the economy received the most comprehensive treatment in the AKP electoral programme. Particularly emphasised is the impossibility of sustained economic development in conditions where political stability is absent – likewise emphasised is the AKP’s role in ensuring such stability for the past 13 years.

The strategy for economic development involves concentrating forces in five main areas: strengthening macroeconomic stability; developing human capital and activating the labour market; technology and innovation; infrastructure improvement; and enhancing the quality of institutions. Among the concrete goals mentioned are increasing goods and services exports while decreasing dependence on imports, increasing investment attractiveness in the high-tech sphere, maintaining a floating exchange rate, and ensuring Istanbul’s entry onto the list of the 25 most developed financial centres in the world as well as Turkey’s entry into the top 30 countries with the most developed financial sectors. It also describes plans for lowering the unemployment rate to 5% (currently – 9.8%) whilst simultaneously increasing the population’s employment level to 50% (now at 47.2%) by 2023. In the programme it also refers to the necessity of regulating the matter of severance pay and increasing minimum wage (to 1,300 Turkish liras in 2016, maximum currently just over 1,000).

Significant attention is paid in all four parties’ programmes to the Kurdish issue and the problem of a possible transition to a presidential form of government. The Kurdish issue is not treated as a separate topic in the AKP programme but is given consideration in the first chapter “Democratisation and the Constitutional System”. Highlighted was the role of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), whose actions “made continuation of the negotiation process impossible”, in view of “it being necessary to create a balance between freedom and security for the strengthening of social order”. This notwithstanding, the party’s intention to continue the negotiation process – on the basis of protecting democratic rights and freedoms with the aim of creating an atmosphere of unity and brotherhood in the country by “taking the force of arms off the agenda of the day” and continuing the fight against terrorism – is mentioned.

In the same section of the electoral programme is stated the need for transitioning to a new form of government, a presidential republic, which would allegedly ensure political stability and correspond to the concept of the “New Turkey, requiring effective and dynamic governance” – as distinguished from the parliamentary system, which allows for political crises to arise.

Republican People’s Party (CHP): “Turkey first”

Cumhuriyet_Halk_PartisiThe opposition parties demonstrate in the introductions to their electoral programmes that they share a common assessment of the results of the 7 June parliamentary elections. Thus, the CHP programme published on 30 September states that the country’s citizens “have put an end to one party’s 13-year rule and have demonstrated their desire for change”.

Overall, the AKP’s term in power is characterized negatively: “The AKP could not solve a single structural problem. On the contrary, what has been observed is a deepening of problems in all areas.” The situation in Turkey is depicted as being at a crisis point in all areas with full responsibility for this state of affairs placed on the AKP. The CHP sees the root of most of these problems the authoritarian regime of the power “of one man” and the AKP reluctance to solve problems through democratic methods (for example, as pertaining to resolution of the Kurdish question). Also listed among the fundamental problems are Turkey’s transformation into an epicentre of insecurity in the region, poverty and unemployment, devaluation of national currency, lack of clear prospects for business, capital flight, and a number of problems in the educational system.

A significant part of the CHP’s programme is dedicated to the economy. Stated as its goals are exiting the economic crisis, developing industrial and high-tech sectors, providing equitable rights for entrepreneurs, and creating a fair competitive environment. Among the concrete measures listed are raising the minimum wage to 1,500 Turkish liras and exempting it from income tax; providing jobs to at least 1 million people per year through increasing investments and production development; reducing unemployment to less than 5% and inflation to less than 4%; and introducing monetary payments to pensioners on each of the two main religious holidays. As part of the struggle to reduce unemployment, it is proposed to introduce 9-12 month courses during which the students will receive monthly payments equal to the minimum wage.

The CHP indicates the following as the only method for solving the Kurdish question: social consensus and a political process, the platform for which must become the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (parliament). Of particular interest is the provision on the introduction of the principle of decentralisation into the administrative system of the country.

As opposed to the AKP, the CHP declares the necessity “of strengthening the parliamentary system” for the revitalisation of the Turkish mejlis (parliament). This refers to activation of parliamentary and public discussion of legislative projects up through the moment of their passing, limiting the influence of the country’s president to adopting and executing laws, and vesting the head of state with symbolic authority. It also envisages restricting the rights of the president to appointing judges and other high level officials.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP): “Peaceful and secure future”

MHP_Logo_050213The MHP’s assessment of the 7 June elections results, as presented in its electoral programme published on 3 October, emphasises “the end of the AKP’s solo rule” in a way similar to the Republican People’s Party’s analogous assessment. Notable, however, is the distinctive MHP rhetoric encapsulated in the slogans put forward in the party’s electoral programme: “My country and my nation above all” and “One homeland, one flag, one nation, one state, one tongue”.

Along with discussing the same goals found in the programmes of each of the parties under consideration (development, democratisation, the country’s peace and prosperity, and enhancing its international prestige), the MHP takes a number of distinctive approaches due to its ideological stance. Among them should be mentioned their calls for the preservation of the unitary state and an end to “the shameful process of the settlement” of the Kurdish issue (meaning the process initiated by AKP). The party sees the solution to the Kurdish issue (not directly named) within the war on terror and its accomplices and in punishing all persons directly or indirectly posing a threat to the unity and integrity of the nation and country.

The MHP shows a resemblance to the AKP as far as its strategic vision for Turkey’s future is concerned: it sees Turkey as a regional and global leader in the international arena (all the way through taking on a leading role in world politics, economics and diplomacy; establishing Turkey as a key player in the world energy market and subsequently disseminating the Turkish language as one of the most studied and utilised languages in the world). The position of the MHP regarding its preferred form of government is close to that of the CHP in the sense that it values the necessity of preserving the parliamentary system.

The economic element of the MHP’s election promises also shows similarities to the CHP programme: creating 700,000 jobs; guaranteeing work or cash benefits for at least one person in every family in the country; giving unemployed youth the right to use family insurance; setting minimum wage at 1,400 Turkish liras and exempting it from taxes; and providing subsidies to pensioners twice a year in the same amount. With this is indicated the necessity of developing a system of loans for young people: entrepreneurial loans of 50,000 liras for young people serving in the army (requiring repayment of only half the sum), and interest-free loans of 10,000 liras for young people getting married.

Democratic Peoples’ Party (HDP): “Great humanity. Great peace”

imagesIn assessing the results of the June elections, the HDP demonstrates a view similar to those of the other opposition parties, making mention in its electoral programme, published on 2 October, of the “historical crossroads” to which Turkey has arrived as a result of the summer parliamentary elections.

Alongside the slogans common to all parties about the necessity of establishing peace in the country, guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of citizens, and ensuring economic development, the HDP also gives special attention to women’s rights and the issue of establishing broad popular self-government as opposed to “dictatorial government”. Self-government is proposed as a means for unifying Turkey and establishing a peaceful co-existence regardless of any differences. To this purpose, it proposes the introduction of legislative amendments guaranteeing that all local leaders, including governors, be elected. Also planned is the delineation of regions in accordance with cultural, historical, social-political and other specificities with the subsequent creation in them of regional parliaments as autonomous democratic units of local governance. They will, among other things, adopt decisions regarding large projects planned for realisation in their territories as well as those like the construction of the third bridge and new airport in Istanbul.

The creation of “pyramid parliaments” is proposed to ensure the direct participation of the people in governance – starting with the smallest units (village, neighbourhood, county, city). These measures are proposed as the bases for democratising the country and resolving the Kurdish issue through negotiations in conditions of a mutual ceasefire. Such a solution to the problem involves abandonment of the “historical policy of denial and assimilation”.

The HDP demonstrates solidarity with the CHP in the issue of the need for limiting the power of the president and reducing the status of the president to that of a symbolic figure.

The economic part of the HDP’s programme includes proposals for free monthly supplies of 10 cubic metres of water and 180 kilowatt hours of electricity; provision of support for people who lack immovable property and are renting homes (250 liras); introducing the right to free travel on public transport for people under 18, people with disabilities and pensioners; credit card debt optimisation; and establishing progressive income tax rates.

It is of note that the HDP’s electoral programme covers LGBT-community issues and the need for guaranteeing their rights and freedoms.

Other materials

Comments