Temel Karamollaoğlu, the leader of Saadet Partisi (Felicity Party) has been winning the hearts of some active twitter users lately.
His cry for justice and the photograph of him with his left fist up, almost like a proper lefty has grabbed attention of the young social media users. Well, of course it is not realistic to try and derive a Che Guevara from a conservative Islamist but Saadet Partisi and Karamollaoğlu can be critical actors in the upcoming elections and the future of Turkey.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan seems confident he is going to win the 2019 Presidential election. But he is one of those who would not leave it to luck. Erdoğan is trying to build a larger block on his side. Erdoğan’s party and MHP has formed the “people’s alliance”. AKP has invited Saadet Partisi into the alliance also. Karamollaoğlu has refused to take part in the alliance. It is early to call this a game changer, however next moves of Saadet Partisi is worth watching.
In November 2015 elections Saadet Partisi got only 0,7 percent of the votes. However back then, the clash between Erdoğan and Saadet Partisi was at least not visible. Thus, majority of the Saadet Partisi voter base has voted for AKP, rather than Saadet Partisi. Due to 10 percent threshold voters of small parties tend to vote for bigger parties, especially when the difference between smaller and bigger parties are not significant. This time though the scheme has changed. November election results were an answer to instability, and the clumsiness of the opposition who has not been able to form a government after the June 2015 elections. Actually the election results were a big blow to AKP, who for the first time in it’s history had not been able to gather the majority of the votes to form a government on it’s own. Though the opposition has lost the chance and Erdoğan pushed for elections and won with a landslide in November. In this process both Saadet Partisi and it’s voter base stood with Erdoğan.
When we observe the latest poll results, comparatively, both Metropoll and Konda results; one thing is significant, nearly 20 percent of voters who voted “yes” for the Presidential system in the referendum are not sure if this is the best system for Turkey, anymore. There is unease within the Turkish public about one man rule. Also nearly ten percent of AKP voters are not satisfied with the policies of their Party. They are yet loyal to their party, but they have the potential to shift.
Saadet Partisi can play a crucial role at this point. And it seems the elites of the party are aware of that. Saadet Partisi is an islamist party, with conservative values and maybe traditionally has a more islamist agenda than AKP. However, lately the party elites have been contacting some renowned liberal, center right politicians. There are ex-AKP members among them, who left the party after it shifted to authoritarianism. Apparently the party wants to renew its facade with new names. It is hard to create a banner bearer of democracy from Saadet Partisi, obviously. However, the eagerness of the party to renew itself with new names and a renewed discourse asking for justice, equality and restoration of Turkish democracy is worth watching. This step can have an affect on Turkish politics in the forthcoming period.