Following the double elections held on June 24 in Turkey for the presidency and the parliament, the current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan won the presidential election in the first round with 52.5 percent of the votes. In the parliamentary elections, while Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its absolute majority in the parliamentary elections with 42.5 percent of the vote and 295 seats in a 600 member parliament, they will still be able to retain power through a coalition with its junior partner — the fascist Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) which secured 49 seats with 11 percent of the vote.
On the opposition front, the main social democratic opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) presidential candidate Muharrem İnce received only 30.6 percent of the vote. Having entered the parliamentary elections as the “National Alliance” with the newly formed ultra-right Good Party (İYİ) and the far-right Islamist Felicity Party (SP), CHP got only 22.6 percent of the vote and 146 seats. CHP’s junior partner Good Party led by Meral Akşener, an open fascist, an ex-MHP deputy and former interior minister with links to unresolved political murders, cleared the 10 percent parliamentary threshold to secure 43 seats.
The main Kurdish opposition, the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP), was also able to clear the parliamentary threshold with over 11 percent of the vote for 67 seats. HDP’s imprisoned presidential candidate and former party co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş got 8.4 percent of the vote. In a statement following the elections, HDP co-chair Pervin Buldan said: “The results of the election revealed once again that the peoples of Turkey strongly believe that it is not a democracy without HDP”. The other HDP co-chair Sezai Temelli indicated that despite all the attacks HDP was subjected to during their electoral campaign, they continued with their campaign work due to their belief in democracy. Democratic rights in Turkey, however, have been under intense siege and in many cases eviscerated entirely, especially since the 2016 coup attempt that was cynically manipulated by the government to crack down on its opponents.
One of the first to congratulate Erdoğan was the Turkish Industry and Business Association (TÜSİAD). TÜSİAD represents the traditional, secular block within the capitalist class of Turkey.
“Congratulations for the election results in our country, now it is time for reforms under social reconciliation. We have left behind a very important election process for Turkey. Congratulations to Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has been re-elected as the president, and to the new parliament.”
In the same statement, TÜSİAD listed “a rational economy and financial discipline” as one of the critical items that should be on the new government’s agenda. It is not difficult to decipher TÜSİAD’s expectations expressed in double-speak: More austerity measures and a further intensified assault on the working class of Turkey.
Erdoğan consolidates his dictatorship
The elections are the follow up to a constitutional referendum held earlier in April 2017 to turn Turkey into an executive presidency. With the fascist MHP’s support, AKP was able to get a two-thirds majority in the parliament to call for the referendum. The AKP won the referendum by a very close 51-49 percent margin amid reports of fraud, including the counting of unverified ballots.
The new constitution establishes a “presidential” regime, giving the president the ability to rule by decree. This essentially means perpetual rule under state of emergency. The reforms also eliminated the office of prime minister and more or less rendered the national parliament powerless. It is a historic setback that imperils what remains of the gains of the 1923 bourgeois democratic revolution, which swept away the Ottoman Empire and established a constitutional order with some degree of respect for civil liberties along with a secular system of public education.
The elections for both parliament and the presidency following the referendum was scheduled for November 2019. In what appears to be an effort to secure another five-year term before a potential economic crisis — a development that may very well be around the corner as inflation continues to spiral out of control — the ruling AKP called in April for snap elections, again with far-right MHP’s support.
It is important to note that the overall right wing vote in the legislative election adds up to 65 percent, almost two-thirds of the popular vote. This is clearly a defeat for the parliamentary left opposition parties, CHP and HDP, which ran campaigns focused on opposition to the personality of the president: “If you don’t vote for us, Erdoğan will stay in power.”
The pressing need was to challenge the AKP on the basis of the severe economic and social problems facing the working class, including the unprecedented levels of poverty, the super-exploitation of workers by the capitalist class under a state of emergency that at times went so far to ban strikes and public demonstrations, and the Sunni-extremist AKP policies that destroyed the secular nature of the Republic of Turkey that at least on paper had guaranteed equality for women, paving the way for skyrocketing rates of sexist violence. Neither CHP nor HDP challenged the ongoing collaboration between AKP, NATO and U.S. imperialism and their overall role in the bloodbath in the region as part of efforts to overthrow the government of Syria.
The Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) was unjustly banned from participating in the elections and instead organized the platform “This Social Order Must Change” to run independent candidates. The TKP released a statement that pointed to the futility of a myopic, singular focus of anti-Erdoğan opposition in a vacuum that does not challenge the overall system:
“Anti-Erdoğan sentiments, which have been a driving force for a long time and pushed the limits of the established order as they reached a peak during the Gezi Resistance [mass anti-government protests in 2013], do not have any value on their own anymore. Quite the contrary, anti-Erdoğan sentiments have played a similar role in rendering our society powerless. What is fundamental is to take a solid stance against the established order, to put up a fight against exploitation, imperialism and reactionism”
Erdoğan and his AKP regime got a new lease on life to continue their assault on the working class of Turkey. The June 24 elections clearly demonstrate that the path to liberation for the working class can not be achieved simply through the ballot box, but through organized and determined action in the streets, in workplaces and everywhere people are suffering under the reactionary Erdoğan government and the capitalist system it represents.