Turkey: Erdogan to face second round, socialists advance in Parliament

By Tilbe Akan – TIP and ISL Turkey

Presidential and parliamentary elections were held in Turkey on May 14. They were closely followed around the world as, for the first time in a decade, the possibility of ending Erdogan’s dictatorial regime is on the table.

In the end, opposition candidate Kılıçdaroğlu fell short of expectations with 45% of the vote. But Erdogan, with 49%, also failed to win. This is the first time that he has not won in the first round and will have to face a second round ballotage. And this is positive.

However, it is unlikely that the opposition will win the runoff. There is a distance of about 2 million votes between Erdogan and Kılıçdaroğlu, and the third-placed candidate is a far-right figure. He is openly racist and anti-refugee, and his party is a splinter of the MHP, a member of Erdogan’s alliance. He got more than 5% of the vote, which was a surprise, and most of those votes are likely to go to Erdogan in the second round.

But the other problem is the new parliamentary balance. The extreme right will be very strong in the new parliament. Erdogan and his allies will have a comfortable majority of 323 seats out of 600. The Nation’s Alliance spearheaded by Kılıçdaroğlu and his party, the nationalist CHP, will occupy 212 seats and our Labor and Freedom Alliance will have 65.

So, we are looking at a scenario of a probable new term for Erdogan with a parliament leaning further to the right. This means that we are going to see an intensification of oppression against Kurds, against women and LGBT people, and against workers in general. Erdogan will be in a stronger position to impose harsher austerity measures and attempt to remedy the economic crisis by increasing exploitation. We are also going to see a strengthening of repression, against the Kurdish nationalist movement in the first place, but also against the left.

However, I believe that we are also going to see a sharpening of social polarization and class struggle. Important segments of the population are already fed up with the effects of the crisis, which have destroyed the living conditions of millions of workers and merchants, and the social mood also worsened as a result of the government’s blatant disdain after the terrible earthquake that killed at least 50,000 people in the south of the country. This is why the result that our Workers’ Party of Turkey (TIP) achieved is so important.

Our alliance -which includes the Kurdish left nationalist HDP, now called Green Left Party (YSP), our party, and a few other smaller socialist groups- got almost 11% of the vote and maintained almost the same parliamentary representation that we had.

But there was an internal shift in the alliance. The YSP lost some votes, in part, because the electoral threshold used to be 10%, now it is 7% and some sectors that had previously given a solidarity vote to the HDP, now took another path. Another reason is that there were many political operations against the YSP, many of its journalists and MPs were arrested, especially in Kurdistan. And this obviously hurt his campaign. Furthermore, the YSP campaign was simply weaker than previous ones. As a whole, the Alliance has one MP less than before the elections, so there is not a great change. But the YSP has retreated a bit, and the TIP has achieved a very important breakthrough.

Our result is definitely a success, with almost a million votes, electing four MPs. Apart from the Kurdish nationalists, no socialist campaign has seen such a vote or success in the last 60 years.

The four deputies were elected for the first time on the TIP ticket. We had two MPs who were elected in the previous election, but as HDP candidates, and two others who joined the TIP after taking office. So, to have elected four MPs directly on the TIP ticket, despite the CHP’s strong propaganda against us, saying that we could not pass the 7% threshold and that voting for us would benefit the AKP, is a giant step. In addition, three other TIP candidates almost entered parliament in their districts, one of them falling short by just 200 votes. So it’s a definite success.

The consolidation of the TIP as a national socialist force in this election is an important development for the austerity, repression, polarization and struggles that we have ahead of us.