“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” Morpheus told Neo in the Matrix movie.
The cult movie Matrix is a science fiction film written and directed by the Wachowkis brothers in 1999 in which a group of heroes are fighting a hopeless war against overlords of machines who have enslaved humanity in an incredibly advanced scheme of virtual reality. Morpheus explains the Matrix to Neo in the above-mentioned scene; it reflects the choice of security, happiness and ignorance (the blue pill) as opposed to comprehension, freedom and reality (red pill). The red pill option faces you with violent truths just like the Turkish public’s experience in the last nearly 2 months after local elections in March 31. The Turkish society had encountered the depth of the rabbit hole, but the cherry on the pie was especially the week before. It was traumatic even for the Turkish public who are accustomed and indifferent to the political shock waves.
“What happened, happened and couldn’t have happened any other way.”
On June 18 Selahattin Demirtas, jailed Former co-chair of pro-Kurdish party HDP, welcomed call of unity from Ekrem Imamoglu in a televised debate and tweeted, “I don’t believe there’s any such confusion, indecision or anything? There shouldn’t be either, in my view. Because, this election is not multiple choice. If we are to pave the way for democracy, peace, justice, equality and freedoms, the HDP’s attitude to the election is significant and meaningful. We are citizens who want to live in equality, brotherhood and peace together. We’ve all passed through and continue to go through sorrows, cruelties and injustice. We’ve never lost our hope for a beautiful future, though, because we’re fighting for it. We want to pave the way for such a future with every election. Naturally, elections are not enough in themselves to alter everything. A fight for that purpose, apart from elections, must be conducted without being undaunted and with patience, stubbornness and bravery. The beautiful Istanbul people… Vote not for opposition or enmity, not for deeper social polarization, not for grudge, revenge or hate, not for personal-interest conflicts, but for your children’s bright future. We think that for today Mr. Imamoğlu’s speech should be endorsed. Because, we are beautiful together. Nothing can be beautiful enough without the HDP, by excluding the HDP. They should understand that ‘they cannot create something beautiful by force.’ “
On June 20, Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the PKK terrorist group, called for pro-Kurdish HDP party not to join any other party in the Istanbul mayoral election rerun. “The knowledge of a democracy embodied in the HDP implies that it should not take sides or be part of the present electoral discussions. It is important for the democratic alliance not to participate in dilemmas and to insist on its neutral position in elections,” he said.
The first shock wave received was in a joint televised interview from President Erdoğan claiming there is a power struggle between the HDP and the PKK, and between Demirtaş and Öcalan, following a question about Ocalan’s letter. Claiming that Öcalan thinks he is betrayed by Demirtaş, Erdoğan said and added, “Because of this situation, he (Öcalan) has a certain stance towards them. In the declaration he made at that time, he suggests something along the lines of’ If you help me, if you’re a party behind me, you should be neutral rather than siding with any of them.‘
The striking blow, however, came from Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the ultra-nationalist party MHP, stating in a declaration on June 21 that Öcalan’s message is aimed at preventing the HDP from abusing Turkey’s political landscape. “The request of the HDP not to alter its June 23 policy despite the terrorist leader’s warnings (Ocalan) will reveal all the game being performed,” he said. Despite this move, he also reiterated his dedication to continuing the alliance of his party with the AKP. It’s quite surprising that he said the HDP should listen to the terrorist leader Ocalan, while continuously accusing the HDP of having connections with the terrorist organization.
The pro-Kurdish HDP also said in a written declaration in response to Ocalan’s letter that their Istanbul re-run approach remains compatible with Ocalan’s message.
“There is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.”
Following the week’s swaying declarations, D-Day came and the main opposition CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu headed for an easy win with a lead of almost 800,000 votes in redo of Istanbul mayoral election. According to state-run Anadolu Agency, İmamoğlu gained 54 % of votes and Binali Yıldırım, the candidate of the ruling party, 45%.
Two hours after the polls were closed and defeat Yıldırım went on national television and congratulated his rival in the redo election as preliminary results showed Imamoğlu’s lead.
Ekrem Imamoğlu said in a press conference, “You have protected our hundred-year-old tradition of democracy. Thank you, people of Istanbul,” He also thanked his family as well as the CHP politicians, representatives, and members, and the Good Party of Nation’s Alliance. He also requested to work with President Erdoğan, “I’m ready to work in harmony with you. I’m putting myself up for that, and I’m announcing it to all people in Istanbul,” said Imamoglu. He added that a new beginning starts for Istanbul with the June 23 elections, vowing extravagance, arrogance; wasteful spending and polarization will end.
Imamoglu addresses an enormous crowd in Beylikduzu after his press conference, where he was the mayor of the district until 31 March. “We are here for everyone. The youth. Females. We are going to accept everyone whatever they wear, how they’re going to live; we’re going to respect them,” he said. Referring the governing party’s allegations of being boosted by enemies, he said “Yes, I’m a project. I am the project of the Turkish Republic, the Republic of Atatürk.” He also added that he was going to begin a domestic mobilization from Istanbul and “We are going to take Istanbul to its feet all together; partisanship is over, now we have competence and morals,” he said.
President Erdoğan also gives a message on Twitter stating, “Today again the national will has emerged. According to unofficial outcomes, I congratulate Ekrem Imamoglu, who won the election.”
“You have to let it all go, Neo (Fear, doubt, and disbelief) free your mind”
You might claim the survival discourse, harsh hate speech, “terrorist” and “traitor” allegations are the losers of the Istanbul elections. Clearly the electorate said “Enough is enough” and please no more polarization. The primary concept behind President Erdoğan, the AKP, Binali Yıldırım, and MHP’s loss is their narrative and discriminative policies.
There are many other subjects, indicators to be debated and evaluated in a distinct piece about the elections, i.e. the behaviors of Kurdish electors, HDP, new party rumors, etc., but shortly, the night’s winners are Ekrem Imamoğlu, Istanbul’s mayor, and Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the pro-Kurdish HDP party. This re-election and the striking results obviously show that this is no longer about elections; a wind of change is taking impact on the perception and discourse of Turkish politics. We are experiencing a fresh trend of storytelling in all elements of Turkish politics that is conciliatory, embracing, tolerant and uniting; as in the examples above. But the path is not simple for the opposition group either. The bloc is not homogeneous; some pursue the love of homeland, their republic, and profound love for founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his revolutions, while some prioritize all sorts of ethnic and religious freedoms, and some simply seek an independent, democratic, secular state; or different combinations of all. They face the primary challenge of standing together, which can be accomplished by “letting go of fear, doubt and disbelief.” They have to remove barriers and prejudices from their minds. The primary topics to be dealt with are perception of the Kurdish issue, lifestyle decisions, and religious point of view. The opposition parties must alter the established system from top to bottom; it is necessary to bring forward pluralism, democracy and the rule of law. With the instruments available–Parliament, civil society, and alternative media channels–they urgently need to increase awareness of democracy and learn to embrace society as a whole.
It is truly a hard path and not just politicians, but individuals must embrace one another. It will most likely hurt and open up old wounds, but as Morpheus says in Matrix:
“I’m trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to walk through it.”