Turkey after the elections: Interview with Ismail Okay, from Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI in Turkey)

Below is the translation of an interview first published on www.sozialismus.info, the website of the SAV (German section of the CWI). 

How do you read the election results for Erdoğan and his alliance with the MHP?

The referendum last year decided on a presidential system in Turkey, but it was only to be introduced after the next election. That was one reason for the early elections. An even more important reason was the alarming situation of the economy. While there is an economic upswing on paper, it looks very different in the real life for the masses. Erdoğan saw a possible economic crisis as a major threat to his preservation of power. With this election victory, the Erdoğan regime is consolidated.

On the other hand, only through the alliance with the ultra-nationalist party MHP could the AKP and Erdoğan achieve this electoral victory. That will surely have consequences. The MHP will put pressure on the AKP, for example, for an amnesty for the convicted Mafia bosses who are in prison, or for an even tougher approach against the Kurds.

Will Turkey now be a one-man dictatorship and will Erdoğan be a strong president?

Turkey has long been de facto a one-man dictatorship. This has now been given a façade of “legitimacy” and structural consolidation. In this sense, Erdoğan is quite strengthened and the the situation of the Left and other opposition forces are made even more difficult.

But that does not mean that fascism has triumphed in Turkey and that everything is hopeless. There are still functioning trade unions, left-wing parties and organizations that will have many important responsibilities in the coming period. One of the most important of these is to build a strong, independent political force of the working class.

The objective situation will develop in favour of the left in the coming period. The economy is developing in the direction of a crisis. The consequences of this crisis will severely shake the working class and poor people, some of whom still have illusions in the regime.

What do you think of the results for the HDP?

The HDP was the only party that did not participate in any electoral alliance. The ten percent electoral threshold was a potential hurdle but the HDP surpassed it. [editor’s note: the HDP got 11.5% of the vote and 68 MPs]. Had this failed, all its seats would have gone to the AKP, making the latter the strongest force ever in the parliament.

The HDP is now the third force in parliament. But more importantly, it included many left-wing forces on its list and has thus become a de facto left-wing alliance. This is of enormous importance for building a strong left-wing force that can bring together the Kurdish and Turkish working class and the poor.

In addition, the HDP has been suffering tremendous repression for three years. For many, it is considered the legal arm of the PKK (Kurdish nationalist guerrillas). Despite these circumstances, it was able to gain in the elections. That is very significant.

The HDP had some losses in Kurdistan. Perhaps because of its left-wing credentials, some more conservative and nationalist forces among the Kurds did not vote for it. But the real main reason is the military occupation under which the election in the Kurdish areas had to take place, and the ensuing electoral fraud.

In the west of Turkey, however, the HDP increased its vote. Certainly it received tactical votes from some Kemalist voters. But even that means a lot. Above all, it shows that the Turkish working class can overcome its fears of contact with a party that is wrongly equated with the PKK or with terrorism.

What are your demands and suggestions for the new situation?

Just after the announcement of the early elections, Sosyalist Alternatif (CWI in Turkey) campaigned for an alliance of the HDP and the left-wing forces, and that is what happened. Moreover, in our statements we repeatedly warned of illusions in the bourgeois opposition parties, stressing that no matter how the elections turn out, a difficult post-electoral struggle will come our way. It is now important to strengthen the left-wing alliance that emerged before the election and to transform it into a genuine socialist force that can fight against the effects of the coming crisis and the capitalist system.

The government will certainly soon decide on further action at the expense of the working class. The HDP and the left must come up with a plan in the coming days on how to link the fight in Parliament and outside Parliament. Quickly convening a conference to that effect would be an important step.

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June 2018