Jun 26 2018

Turkey trapped in identity politics - analyst

The results of Turkish elections on Sunday show the country is trapped in identity politics, wrote Gönül Tol, the founding director of the Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies.

It was because of this, wrote Tol on the Washington-based think-tank’s website, that opposition parties were unable to attract enough votes to cause an upset.

Whilst the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate in the presidential election, Muharrem İnce, “tried hard to shatter his party’s image as an anti-religious, nationalist party,” he ultimately failed to do so, despite evidence that many of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s traditional supporters had become disillusioned with Turkey’s trajectory.

Similarly, Tol said, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) remained, after the elections, largely a party Turkey’s Kurdish dominated southeast.

“Despite the role identity politics played in voter behaviour, Erdogan’s victory is not the victory of Islamism either. The Islamist Felicity Party polled very poorly in the elections. It was rather a mix of Turkish nationalism and religious conservatism along with enduring hope that Erdogan will still deliver economically that gave him the victory,” wrote Tol.

Despite their disappointing showing in the election, there is still hope for the opposition, she said, pointing to the reliance of the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) on the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in parliament.

“If Turkey’s economic woes worsen,” she wrote, “the alliance with the MHP might crumble and the parliament could play a role in counterbalancing Erdogan. But until then, expect more of what we have seen since 2015: polarisation along ethnic lines, anti-Western rhetoric, and a hawkish Kurdish policy both at home and in the region.”