IYI means good in Turkish. “IYI Party will be good for Turkey!” That’s the party slogan.
IYI Party’s 1st Extraordinary Assembly was held in Ankara on Sunday, 1st of April, with tens of thousands of supporters flocking from all four corners of Turkey. On the agenda were two major items; one being the re-election of Meral Aksener as the Party Chairperson and the second to elect the Executive Committee. But more importantly, if IYI Party didn’t hold the provincial assemblies over the course of the past months, since its foundation on 25th of October, 2017 and conclude it with an extraordinary general assembly where the party leadership was elected it would not be eligible to participate in the November 2019 general elections which, according to the new system is going to be also a presidential election.
On 16th of April, 2016 Turkey went to a referendum voting to change its governance system from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential system. However, according to political scientists and veteran politicians, the checks and balances are not in place and distribution of powers are being concentrated in the hands of one man.
The age-old question of “Can democracy be abolished by a democratically elected government?” seems to be answered by current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he meticulously engineered and designed this new system called “Turkish-style Presidency” over the course of his reign of past fifteen years.
Meral Akesener, Koray Aydin, Professor Umit Ozdag, Professor Yusuf Halacoglu, Sinan Ogan, who had lead the opposition in the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with a motive to transform the party into a more centre-right political stance, had been labelled as traitors by its chairman, Devlet Bahceli who now is President Erdogan’s ally.
Devlet Bahceli had vowed to take Erdogan to the Supreme Court himself based on allegations of corruption and treason. In fact, in his parliamentary group speech held on 8th of April 2014, Bahceli had sworn not to allow Erdogan to become president. In another speech held on June 14, 2016 Bahceli warned Erdogan not to travel abroad for a while, especially not to the USA, in case he would be detained based on money laundering and breaking US sanctions accusations, referring to the Reza Zarrab case currently awaiting verdict in a New York court.
By 8th of September 2016, Meral Aksener was expelled from MHP, based on the Disciplinary Board’s decree.
Leading up to this decree the general assembly attempts, inter-party legislative efforts and other activities to rid MHP of Devlet Bahceli lead nowhere because of Erdogan’s behind the scenes “judicial help and assistance” to Bahceli. However, MHP, which had won 80 seats in parliament with 16,29% of the votes in the 7th June 2015 elections and dropped to half those seats with 11,9% of votes in the 1st of November 2015 elections, with this decree had now started to tumble down below the 10% general election threshold.
Meral Aksener didn’t stop her fight there though and together with her friends started a new political initiative, which has led to the foundation of IYI Party.
Losing a popular name such as Meral Aksener who was followed by senior nationalist figures such as Aydin, Akdag and Halacoglu forced Devlet Bahceli to seek ways of saving face and perhaps even fighting for existence.
It so happened that President Erdogan was going through his own existential war. Erdogan and Bahceli, both street smart and seasoned politicians, saw an opportunity and struck an alliance going to the November 2019 general elections.
During Sunday’s extraordinary general assembly Aksener has outlined the party principles in few yet very meaningful points. One: no one is larger than the people. Two: justice is for everyone; the law and judicial institutions are at same distance to all. Three: the republic and democracy are too valuable to be left to one person’s hand and that value is to be carried by the parliamentary system. Four: all resources of the country must be distributed equally to all members of the nation irrespective of race, ethnicity, gender, religion or sect and political orientation. Five: the weak, powerless and the ones in need of protection are entrusted to the State. Six: no projects that don’t consider the benefit of people and security of the state, can be undersigned. Seven: ethos, morality, science and accountability are the fundamental values of humanity. Eight: freedom of belief, freedom of expression and freedom of enterprise must be safeguarded by law.
During her speech, Aksener has emphasized solidarity, unity and “we, the people of Turkey” and went on to saying that “the bright youth, the future of Turkey is being handed over to the grasp of radical religious sects” referring to the Gulen Movement in the past and the newly prospering ones. She made promises to the unemployed, retired and the disenfranchised for equal opportunity and a better Turkey. She has also given the education systems in Finland and Canada as examples of a better system for the children.
Nationalist tones and patriotic narrative was prevalent but overall her speech was carefully balanced in respect of her foreign policy. At one point she called Erdogan the “minesweeper” of Israeli and Saudi interests in the Middle East, though.
In one of my opinion pieces dated 10th of October 2017 (https://sigmaturkey.com/2017/10/10/what-makes-a-political-movement-succeed-in-turkey/) I had asked ” Does the movement appeal to the 18 – 35 aged youth and young? Does it provide them with an answer to their ambitions and desires for the future? Is it all embracing? The Turks who constitute almost 80% of the population, who have felt almost guilty of being Turks over the AKP reign; the Kurds and Zaza who were so much looking forward to the continuance of the Peace Process, the patriots and nationalists who are not necessarily MHP voters, the liberals who have voted for HDP in the 7th of June elections only to be disillusioned with the post-election outbursts offending national and popular values, the religious and the conservative who have yet to see a trickle of the riches that AKP top level and their affiliates are indulging in? What is their proposed solution to socio-economic disparities, growth, and employment?”
I had gone on to say “People want hope!” and asked ”Can a new political movement give people hope of a bright new future, work, equal opportunity, a fair wealth distribution and sense of justice?”
In her speech of over an hour that is exactly what Aksener has promised. Not only that, she made all the tens of thousands promise the very same.
Taking a cautious approach to political parties and a pinch of suspicion to the many promises made, the coming days will be quite exciting. Whether or not IYI Party will be any different or good for Turkey; time will tell!
Turkey: Not a dull moment and never a boring day.