Ecehan Balta reports from Turkey.
“These accidents are things which are always happening. Please, we should not interpret what happens in these coal mines as impossible. These are usual things. There is something called ‘work accidents’ in the literature. This does not only happen at mines, but at other workplaces too,”
That was the indescribably callous response of the Turkish prime minister at the scene of the mining disaster which has claimed the lives of unknown hundred of workers. However, despite his recent electoral success the movement against him as not been defeated.
The March local elections in Turkey were viewed as a “referendum” on the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The elections were marred by allegations of electoral fraud and violence, with both opposition and ruling party candidates refusing to recognise a number of results. Gradual post-election revelations of alleged widespread irregularities in several cities sparked pro-democracy protests after provisional results were announced. Irrespective of all the controversy, the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) declared victory winning 43.31% of the vote, with the rest divided across the three other major parties in the parliament. The opposition parties have lost against AKP in six local and national elections, as well as two referenda, since 2003. The elections have a victor and that is the prime minister himself, not even his party.
There are many reasons for Erdo?an’s electoral success. To many, AKP means financial stability. “They may steal but they also get things done,”is a frequent line from voters. Additionally, AKP’s social services and conservative values are a magnet for poor people living both in urban and rural areas.
Speaking at a victory rally in Ankara, Erdogan signaled a crackdown on opponents, especially the network of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, his former ally: “There will not be a state within the state. We will root them out,” he told the crowd. In contrast to his previous speeches, he used extremely harsh language against the “others”, including leftists, Alevites, Kurds, secularists and especially the clerical network of Gülen. Erdogan has labeled the Gulenists a “parallel state”and has taken aggressive steps to remove them from positions of influence, purging thousands of police officers and hundreds of prosecutors. He has clamped down in other ways, attracting intense international criticism for banning Twitter and YouTube and passing a law that gives the government more control over the courts. The “tape wars” began in December 2013 and open war between different factions inside the AKP began. This was presented to the public as as an international plot against the AKP government and an “issue of independence of Turkey”. Once again, the rulers portrayed the elections as an incredibly important examination over the “national interests of Turkey”and AKP succeeded to victimize itself in the eyes of the voters. And, of course, they will not hesitate to use this “legitimacy”for further steps towards a more anti-democratic society.
Election results have once more showed that Turkey continues to remain a divided and polarised society along two main axes: Secularists versus Islamists, Turkish nationalists versus the Kurdish movement. The “hidden” alliance between so-called social democrat CHP, a main opposition party in the Assembly, and the fascist MHP against the AKP government was one of the results of this polarisation.
It could be said that the other winner of the elections was the Kurdish movement. The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which is the political wing of PKK (armed Kurdish separatist movement), has reinforced its regional dominance by raising the number of cities under its control from 8 to 11 and further laid the groundwork for possible future autonomy of the Kurdish-populated areas. With those results, they guaranteed the continuum of the “peace process”, specifically the negotiations with the Government on the right to use the Kurdish mother tongue, freedom for Öcalan and other political prisoners and regional autonomy.
Another part of this picture is the mass upsurge which began in June, 2013 and gained wide support against the authoritarian practices of the ruling party. Between 2007-2010, legal oversight over the ruling party had been almost eradicated by new laws and legislation. When the uprising started Erdogan preferred to consolidate his voters; to do this, he launched an attack on the masses both literally and directly.
The election’s outcome is not the last word on Turkey’s recent turmoil. Instead, the country appears to be entering an even more uncertain period as it faces two more important votes, a presidential election in the August 2014 and parliamentary elections next year.
Both the Gezi upsurge and the “tape wars” period were obstacles to the planned change of regime to strengthen the power of Erdogan. As a result of the victory at the mayoral elections, AKP succeeded in pacifying both obstacles at least for now. But we are still in a “transitional period” and the coast is not yet clear. So, we are once again asking the question that starts the engine of the history: “What is to be done?”
First of all, we should self-criticise. As socialists in Turkey we had almost no preparations for the upsurge that occurred in the sense of strategic discussions and mass work within the social and workers’ movement. The electoral results show clearly that one historical period is over for socialists (?). What is needed today is to produce and organise daily democratic practices from below and the joint action of socialists. The two crucial elements to rebuilding the socialist movement of Turkey on a solid basis require: 1) to concretise our programmatic political line in practice and organisational levels instead of articulating an anti-AKP line out of context; 2) and to defend popular mass mobilisation instead of election politics. Our starting point should be our own self-reliance.
Ba?lang?çYaz?lar?No.7 (2014) “Önümüzdeki Döneme ve Solun Siyasi Birli?ine Dair”retrieved from: http://baslangicdergi.org/baslangic-yazilari-n-7-onumuzdeki-surece-ve-solun-birligine-dair/
Sözen, Yunus (2014) “Yerel Seçimler, Otoriterlik ve Yönetim Krizi”Perspectives, Nisan 2014, pp 4-9.
Sözen, Yunus (2014) “Otoriterlikten Tiranl??a Türkiye”retrieved from: http://yunussozen.blogspot.com.tr/2014/03/otoriterlikten-tiranlga-turkiye-bu.html
Ecehan Balta is a member of Anticapitalist Action, Turkey (www.antikapitalisteylem.org)
 These were the largest corruption scandals in the history of modern Turkey. It was demonstrated that Erdo?an and his inner circle including at least four Ministers have an illegal and hugely profitable relationship with Iranian government. It was no coincidence that the corruption scandal exploded just after the agreement between Iran and the US, Britain, Germany and France which strenghtened the embargo against Iran.