Turkey’s main opposition wins with love - Euronews

As Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other ruling party officials embraced fear tactics in their campaign for the country’s March 31 vote, the main opposition party embraced a radical strategy of kindness to vastly outperform expectations.

“In a bid to reach out to wider segments of society during last month's local elections, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) opted for a brand-new communication strategy, called Radical Love,” Euronews reported on Wednesday.

The strategy is based on a pamphlet by CHP campaign chief Ateş İlyas Başsoy, called the "Radical Love Book". Başsoy traveled Turkey for four months talking to citizens before putting together his book and handing it out to CHP candidates early this year.

As Erdoğan repeatedly called his political opponents terrorists and played footage of the New Zealand mosque attacks, warning of rising Islamophobia in the West, CHP candidates went in another direction.

"Whatever wounds were opened before, in order to heal them, we will meet individually with every segment of society, every ethnic identity, every religious group," CHP candidate for Istanbul mayor, Ekrem Imamoğlu, said during the campaign.

“The change in the way of communicating with the citizens appears to have paid off, especially in the big cities, like Istanbul and Ankara, which fell after being ruled by the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) for decades,” said Euronews.

Başsoy said that for too long Turkey’s opposition politicians had been taking the AKP bait.

“As long as we were getting angry, our rival was becoming much more powerful. We tried it several times and we were beaten each time. Our rival was fed by fear and anger,” he said. “You cannot prevail against fear mongers using their methods.”

The book is illustrated with colourful flowers and funny cartoons and feels like a work from the late 1960’s. "There's always fighting on this planet,” the book says. "When did the world become this loveless?”

Radical Love Book, by Bassoy
Radical Love Book, by Bassoy

Although surveys suggest one-quarter of Turkey’s most educated citizens are CHP supporters, appealing to this secular group of voters had become divisive and prevented the party from expanding its reach.

Başsoy’s strategy urges CHP candidates to weave sincere human narratives into their discourse, saying “Uncle, I will not let your produce rot on the field,” for instance, rather than more vague political promises, said Euronews.

It also demands an end to insults against leaders of other parties, and Başsoy produced a campaign video that offered a message of unity and shared purpose.   

In the past, non-CHP voters were often denigrated as “belly-scratching man”, “drum-head”, “ignorant” or compared with sheep, said Euronews. The new approach is more inclusive.

This new strategy has not yet put the CHP on top. The ruling AKP and its alliance partner the ultranationalist MHP still won the overall vote, taking 52 percent.

“CHP has a long way to go because it has not been a ruling party for about three decades. Therefore, it will have to show its difference,” said Emre Toros, a political scientist from Hacettepe University.