Local Elections in Turkey: No Change for the Working Class

Turkey has just put another election behind it. However, the screaming of the open supporters of capitalist order and the part-time internationalist bourgeois leftists has not subsided. The chauvinist-Kemalist CHP,(1) which wants to open Turkey's doors wide open to western capital, won many municipalities, while the YRP(2) won a significant share of the conservative electorate because of Erdoğan's Gaza fiasco and the economic crisis. With this election the AKP(3) has become the second party, but the reactionary violence of Turkish capitalism is stronger than ever. It is up to us internationalists to analyse the results of this election, which surprised many, with the Marxist method.

For the first time in 50 years, the CHP has managed to become the leading party and to penetrate beyond its Mediterranean coast power-base into the AKP strongholds in Anatolia and around the Black Sea. Several factors contributed to this significant change. The CHP, despite the fact that its alliance had disintegrated after its failure in last year's general elections, and that it had changed its leader, benefited from the fact that the newly formed YRP and BBP,(4) which share a similar ideological position to the AKP, took a significant number of votes from the AKP. These parties provided an alternative for voters who were disenchanted with the ruling party for economic reasons but did not want to vote for secular or leftist parties. At the same time, the lower turnout compared to previous elections(5) led to speculation that some AKP voters spent the election day at home. The CHP's success in major cities such as Istanbul and Ankara is attributed to candidates such as İmamoğlu and Yavaş, who were popular with voters from both poles. Although pre-election polls had predicted a close race, these candidates won by large margins and even managed to take districts (Beyoğlu, Keçiören, etc.) that were seen as AKP strongholds.

These results achieved by the CHP will have serious consequences in the upcoming general election. Their overwhelming majority in the municipal councils of Istanbul and Ankara, where they failed to gain a majority in the previous local elections, makes it possible for İmamoğlu or Yavaş to resign before the next general election in order to prepare as candidates for the general elections, and leave their posts to another member of their own party. In the previous general election, in order to avoid losing the municipalities to the AKP, neither of them could be candidates despite the fact that they were predicted to win against Erdoğan in the vast majority of polls, and were replaced by Kılıçdaroğlu, the (now former) CHP chairman, whose chances of winning were more questionable.

With the metropoles, other provinces and districts they won, capitalist leadership will shift from the AKP to the CHP. As a result, the AKP, which has been in power for two decades, may continue to lose its power to new alternative parties, and its internal debates about the post-Erdoğan era may also contribute to this. The CHP may also experience a similar debate within its own ranks between its chairman and the mayors of the metropolitan municipalities.

Nevertheless, the allegations of election security problems and objections in some closely contested provinces, the Erdoğan government's approval of a recount in the provinces it lost and its outright rejection of opposition objections, as well as the attempt to give victory to the AKP candidate who came second instead of the DEM(6) candidate in the municipality of Van, where DEM won by a landslide, show that even the appearance of a bourgeois democracy in this part of the world is still not a given. The AKP, which had already lost the election, was forced to back down after this attempt to steal the election in Van backfired and provoked a nationwide reaction even from its own supporters.

The political impact of all this on the working class is negligible. Even if there are more changes in the coming years, they will be no more than a changing of the guard amongst different sections of the bourgeoisie. Both the people who are looking for solutions in AKP alternatives and secular people who are voting CHP agree that the current economic crisis is unacceptable, but both poles are mistaken in seeing a single political party or leader as responsible for it and in their method of reacting to it. What needs to be done is to spread the awareness that these crises are inherent to capitalism and cannot be solved under this system, no matter what colour the electoral maps are painted. We have recently seen that the class, which has been largely silent for many years despite many things, can still react, but the direction and form of this reaction is not enough. Trying to create and strengthen this consciousness and real struggle will not be easy in the face of the false hope that people have gained after this election, but this is no reason not to try. Whichever way you look at it, the workings of the system will only emphasise the inevitability and severity of the crisis more and more over time. We must therefore continue to defend and support workers' self-organisation and struggles against all this.

Those who have chosen democracy and "democratic" efforts of the bourgeois dictatorship to give itself legitimacy, as their method of political struggle, like the bourgeois leftists who have turned the proletariat into the subject of this "democratic" struggle by distancing it from its revolutionary consciousness, have not hesitated to declare everyone "apolitical" except themselves. Faced with the results of a functioning democracy, they either drown themselves in a baseless rage against the monster of their own creation, or drunkenly celebrate the victories of their own cliques. Meanwhile, we will continue to express the reality of Anatolia.

We have a world to save!

Enternasyonalist Notlar (Internationalist Notes)
4 April 2024


Image: tr.wikipedia.org

(1) CHP (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) or Republican People’s Party was founded by Kemal Atatürk and ruled Turkey as a single party state until 1950 when it lost power in an election. It claims to be on the centre-left but is in fact strongly Turkish nationalist with an earlier record of discriminating against the Kurdish minority. In the current local elections it seems that many Kurds voted for it as the lesser evil to Erdoğan’s Islamist AKP which has held power in Turkey for the last twenty years.

(2) YRP (Yeniden Refah Partisi) or New Welfare Party is also Islamist and benefited from the exposure of corruption under AKP rule following the earthquake in February 2023, as well as inflation currently running at 70%.

(3) AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi) or Justice and Development Party, the right-wing populist party of Recep Tayyi Erdoğan which has been in power since 2003.

(4) BBP (Büyük Birlik Partisi) or Great Unity Party is a far right Islamist party which has no seats in parliament.

(5) Most Turkish elections of the last two decades have had an 88% turnout. It fell to 78% in this election.

(6) DEM (Halkların Eşitlik ve Demokrasi Partisi) or People’s Equality and Democracy Party is the main Kurdish party, currently represented in the parliament by 62 MPs.

Saturday, April 6, 2024