Continuing from here President Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan proclaimed a state of emergency on the evening of twentieth July 2016. He preceded that announcement by asking his audience, the Council of Ministers, for a round of applause for the opposition parties in the National Assembly, because they had opposed the coup. On the night of the coup (fifteenth to sixteenth July), deputies from all parties sheltering in a basement of the National Assembly, while it was under attack from fighter jets, drew up an anti-coup proclamation. Erdoğan also dropped a large number of cases for ‘insulting the President’ as a good will gesture. This generosity to the opposition did not last long, though there appears to have been at least one further disingenuous conversation. Apparently Erdoğan told the main opposition leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, about this time that he was unaware that the opposition received a fraction of the coverage on state television of that enjoyed by the government party and thought this should change. Of course the situation has not changed and the government has intensified its efforts to weaken opposition in every way. Prosecutions for insulting the President have continued and often lead to imprisonment, even for legal juveniles.
An account of the political parties in Turkey, along, with some political history, is advisable here so that readers can follow political events. The governing party is the AKP, standing for the Turkish language equivalent of Justice and Development Party. It has centre right, religious conservative, Ottomanist, and nationalist components. The first component has evidently declined over the years and the hardcore was always driven by the three other components. At one time it presented itself as more liberal, pro-EU and sympathetic to Kurdish rights than the other parties. It now clearly occupies contrary positions.
The leading opposition party is the CHP standing for the Turkish language equivalent of Republican People’s Party. It was founded by Kemal Atatürk in 1919 (though at one point as the People’s Party) and is Turkey’s oldest party. It has social democratic, left nationalist/sovereigntist and secularist components. As the party of Atatürk it is associated with the elites (Kemalist elites referring to Atatürk’s first name Kemal, which was his second name, but not family name until he instituted family names for Muslims) and maintained it as a secularist nation state until the AKP came to power in 2002. However, the CHP was only in government for ten years after 1950, so is associated more with a permanent ‘Kemalist’ state elite rather than government.
The third party in the National Assembly is the HDP, standing for the Turkish language equivalent of People’s Democratic Party. It is itself an umbrella party for an alliance of the BDP (Democratic Regions Party), which is based in the Kurdish southeast, with a number of small Turkish leftist parties and activist groups. It is very socialist and socially liberal in orientation though some of its base is non-leftist Kurds, including major land owning families who support BDP-HDP as a Kurdish party rather than a socialist or socially liberal party.
The fourth party in the National Assembly is the MHP, standing for the Turkish language equivalent of Nationalist Action (or Movement) Party. It goes back to the sixties and is largely what its name suggests, an ultranationalist party which has a an aggressive and even violent hard core base of support. It’s nationalism mixes ethnic Pan-Turkism (referring to Turkish peoples in the Middle East, Caucasus and Central Asia), Ottomanism, and Atatürkism (which on the whole bases nationalism on identity and culture rather than ethnic origin). Religious identity plays a role, but the MHP defines itself as following secularist republicanism. This is interesting tension with the party symbol, which is an Ottoman grouping of three red crescent moons, but that is in the nature of the MHP.
Both the AKP and MHP have a base in Turkish nationalism and Sunni Islam. The AKP has had Kurdish support but has largely lost this as it emphasises nationalism along with state action against Kurdish radicals more. The Sunni identity is partly promoted in contrast with the Alevi population. Alevis are the largest religious minority in Turkey. Defining Alevism is itself contentious, but it can be said to be either a branch of, or related to, Shia Islam, the main alternative to Sunnism within Islam as a whole. It maybe resembles Ismaili Islam, as in the community led by the Aga Khan. Christian and Jewish groups constitute no more than 0.2% of the population. At least since the sixties it has been identified with the left and with secularism, reinforcing traditional Sunni suspicions amongst religious conservatives of supposed heresy and deviant practices of various forms. The CHP core vote includes Alevis, who are otherwise likely to support HDP. The AKP and MHP support is concentrated in the central areas of Anatolia (the main land mass of Turkey), those parts of Istanbul where there has been most immigration from Anatolia, and the Black Sea coast. The CHP is geographically concentrated in Thrace (the Balkan part of Turkey) and the Aegean coast. These geographical distinctions, which of course conceal a great deal of detailed mixture at the local level, coincide with the political distinctions in which the AKP and MHP represent the most Turkish traditional and Muslim parts of heartland Turkey, while the HDP represents the Kurdish population of the southeast, and the CHP represents the more western and European oriented parts of Turkey.
The electoral threshold to enter the National Assembly is ten percent and all parties other than the four above get some mere fraction of one percent. The only party with some kind of classical liberal or libertarian foundation is the Liberal Democrat Party, which gets a small fraction of one percent.
I have tried to be concise in this summary of party politics in Turkey, but have still taken up the space of a reasonably sized post. I will return very soon to recent and current political events very soon, to be followed by some deeper history.