With a microphone in his hand, President Erdoğan walked slowly through the rally stage as if he were a pop star…
…waving his hand with four fingers up (Rabia) galvanizing thousands of his supporters who joined him during the local election campaign on countless occasions and singing:
“Ours is a love story,
A bit like a black and white movie
Tears, hope and passion
A bit like a flame to us…”
“Ours is a love story” is a ballad written and composed in the early 2000s by famous pop music singer, songwriter and composer Kayahan. However, the song is known to be the one chanted by Beşiktaş (Istanbul ) football club supporters during games due to the reference to its black and white jersey colors. Club’s famous leftist and anti – establishment fan club Çarşı, who also played a key role in Gezi protest in 2013 against Erdoğan, has been chanting this song for decades to show their love and commitment to the club. Therefore, it was controversial, if not disturbing, for a considerable number of people in the opposition to use this ballad as their campaign song.
What is love?
After the survival discourse, love was the metaphor most appealed in these elections by the AKP (Justice and Development Party); in addition to harsh hate speech addressed to the opposition along with its partner MHP (Nationalist Movement Party). The leaders of the Nation’s Alliance (AKP+MHP) used the rhetoric of “survival” and defined repeatedly who was a “terrorist” and “traitor” in their rallies and televised interviews. Although the President and seniors of the AKP (Justice and Development Party) frequently reiterated that they were addressing the pro – Kurdish party, the HDP (People’s Democratic Party), calling them the “terrorists and traitors” not the people; the opposition groups, felt that they were definitely being targeted with impunity. Specifically, following HDP’s announcement that it would not nominate mayoral candidates in the municipal elections in seven major municipalities, including Istanbul, Ankara and lzmir, and that it would vote in favor of candidates running against the People’s Alliance (AKP+MHP), the tough talks multiplied by representatives of the ruling party AKP and its partner – MHP.
Throughout the 31 March campaign for local elections, President Erdoğan started every rally with the ballad “Ours is a love story” and reiterated their love for the country defined by Rabia gesture: one nation, one flag, one country and one state; and identify the “other” over this explanation. If you weren’t in his love definition or their way of loving; then you definitely belong to others, if not to terrorists, traitors, or their supporters.
Throughout the local election campaign, society, but mainly opposition groups, swung between a twisted love and a sharp hate against the defined “other”; and these swaying feelings severely traumatized them. You may say, however, that love among the opposition groups was not a multicolored and pluralist love at all; it was undoubtedly based on the feeling of gathering against President Erdoğan and the things he represented. Was it love after local elections on March 31 and according to the preliminary results? Well, maybe it’s an AKP love story, but it’s obviously an unwanted one.
New Storytelling in Turkish politics
This unrequited love crystal clearly decodes the response of the society to the actors of Turkish politics: “Ladies and Gentleman; enough is enough”. Polarization, shouting, anger, demonizing people are enough. With unqualified, partisan people in politics, it’s more than enough. Again, it’s enough!
In all aspects of Turkish politics, we are witnessing a new trend of storytelling that is conciliatory, embracing, tolerant and uniting. The significant example is Ekrem Imamoğlu from the main opposition party CHP (Republican People’s Party), the mayor-to-be in Istanbul, with his persistent but cool stance. “Neither can I be unjust to anyone, nor will I allow them to treat me unjustly,” is a line that Imamoğlu reiterated in every speech on election night, and that’s what the majority of society sought for. With his pros and cons, with his motto “brotherhood of people,” Selahattin Demirtaş, the jailed former leader of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, can be named as one of the assets of Turkey in this new narrative. His aforementioned attitude, character, style, and approach appeals to many people during the 2015 general election campaign, especially the younger generation voters. There are also several local examples such as Yılmaz Büyükerşen, Eskişehir’s mayor; Mehmet Siyam Kesimoğlu, Kırklareli’s mayor; Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu, Tunceli’s mayor (Dersim).
On the other hand, the rumors on the right wing for a new party should be noted. It is claimed that the former allies of Erdogan set up at least one party after the local elections are Ankara’s favorite discussion topic. Abdullah Gul (former Foreign Minister, Prime Minister and President), Ahmet Davutoğlu (former Prime Minister), Ali Babacan (former Minister of State for Economic Affairs, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey for Economic Affairs) are the political figures in the discussion. Although no official statements have been made on these allegations, Turkey is debating the possibility of an alternative party or parties at the right wing of Turkish politics.
Following 17 years of experience of AKP rule and numerous defeats, vicious circles of hope and disappointment, the results of March 31 local elections can be described as a sign of hope, turn of luck, at least something to believe in from oppositions’ perspective. The opposition groups, however, are not homogeneous ; some follow the love of homeland, their republic, and deep love for the founding leader Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his revolutions, while some prioritize all kinds of ethnic and religious rights, and some merely seek an independent, democratic, secular state ; or different combinations of all.
After more than a decade, if pluralism, rule of law and democratic values can be put forward, there is a single ray of hope to have true love among all groups of Turkish society. The remedy is quite simple, but difficult to implement: it is necessary to accept love with all its different colors, ethnicity, religious beliefs, sects, etc. The March 31 election results gave a pinch of hope in fighting back and putting the country back on track with the goal of reaching the level of contemporary civilization. Love is not a feeling to which you can be compelled or forced to; you love with your free will. It needs effort and sacrifice to one another. Love is definitely more than words, its actions that count; if you’re unfair, saying you love doesn’t mean anything. While the current situation in Istanbul does not seem very promising, knowing that Istanbul is an obvious victory for the candidate of the opposition, the society can be encouraged to rewrite their love story. A story that isn’t just black and white; but as colorful as it can be with a love song’s harmony.
“Ours is a love story
A bit like a black and white movie
Water with fire, rose like a thorn
Ours is a bit like a novel”
Other highlights from past week
France declaration of so-called memorial day
“We condemn in the strongest terms the designation of April 24 as a “remembrance day” by the French President Macron through a Presidential decree. President Macron’s decision has deeply hurt the Turkish community of more than 700 thousand living in France.
It is inevitable that this stance of France, which is far from being amicable, will negatively affect its relations with Turkey.
Macron, although being aware of all above points and trying to ingratiate himself with Armenian circles to win votes in election campaign, will be remembered as a populist leader who politicized history,” stated Turkish MFA in a written statement April 11, 2019.
“France is the last country to be able to lecture on genocide and history to Turkey. France should be mindful of its own dark history in Rwanda and Algeria,” Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs, said in response to a statement by French deputy Sonia Krimi at a NATO parliamentary assembly in the Mediterranean province of Antalya April 12, 2019.
New economic plan unveiled on Wednesday
Speaking at a news conference to announce the action plan of the government, Berat Albayrak (Minister of Treasure) said a new set of structural reforms for 2019 were prioritized by the financial sector. Turkey will focus on structural reforms to achieve the goal of growing and becoming more powerful, the Minister stated on Wednesday, April 10, 2019. “In a four-point five-year period without election, this process of transformation and reform will decisively continue,” Berat Albayrak said.
“Turkey pledged on Wednesday to boost the capital level of banks and relieve bad debts in a sector left reeling by last year’s currency crisis, as the country moved to revive an economy plagued by inflation and recession,” Reuters reported about the new economic plan.
Several elected mayors from HDP not allowed to take posts
Turkish Supreme Election Board ruled that many elected mayors from pro-Kurdish party HDP were unable to take up their positions, as they had previously been dismissed under government decrees, according to the party statement on April 11, 2019. The ruling means that mayors from HDP will not be allowed to take their elected positions, and instead the mandate will be given to candidates running up, who are members of the AKP.
President Erdogan has repeatedly accused the pro-Kurdish HDP with ties to the PKK terrorist organization, an accusation denied by the party. HDP pointed out that the Supreme Board’s decision affects many candidates already authorized by the same electoral council to run in the ballot.
Mayoral results of Istanbul
The recount process continues no exact results yet.