WIND OF CHANGE

The world is closing in
Did you ever think
That we could be so close, like brothers
The future’s in the air
I can feel it everywhere
Blowing with the wind of change

Contrary to common belief, as frequently as rock, few genres delve into political problems; and their listeners provoke an anti-establishment ideology and a rebellious and anti-conformist approach to life and political problems over thought-provoking songs. “Wind of Change” (released in 1989) is one of the biggest hits of all times, and one of the most well-known songs of the German rock band Scorpions, composed and written by lead singer Klaus Meine. It was the perfect song of Scorpions at the ideal moment — a ballad whose lyrics captured the zeitgeist at a time of huge political upheaval and turned into an anthem for the end of the Cold War. In the late summer of 1989, “Wind of Change” became the unofficial theme song of the Berlin Wall dismantling. After the redo elections and the clear defeat of the ruling party AKP (Justice and Development Party) and President Erdoğan on June 23 in Istanbul, we cannot argue that the imaginary walls between the polarized factions of society have been demolished, but at least we can see the cracks, the hope and the demand for peace, most importantly the wind of change throughout Turkey.

CHP candidate Ekrem Imamoglu headed for an easy victory in the redo of Istanbul mayoral election with a lead of nearly 800,000 votes. It was a perfectly clear response to the governing party AKP and its partner MHP’s (Nationalist Movement Party) survival discourse, harsh hate speech, “terrorist” and “traitor” claims. There are certainly additional factors other than polarization and discriminative narratives, such as economic recession, unemployment, high inflation and inconsistent political discourse.

“The wind of change blows straight into the face of time”

Everyone is attempting to image and define the apparent defeat for AKP and President Erdoğan, and its implications. So, because of the campaign and the perception created by President Erdoğan, even though he wasn’t the candidate, he lost Istanbul. Second, the will to change, discomfort of voters due to polarization and financial crisis is not just for Istanbulites, thus, predicting that this wave of discomfort has been increasing across the nation will not be incorrect. It is also essential to note that Istanbul’s election results have always been an indicator of Turkey’s general outcomes. And, perhaps the most significant problem is the refusal of discriminative and nationalist narrative used for the opposition groups. Although, President Erdoğan said “We cannot close our ears and ignore the messages given by the people,” it is clear at this point that AKP and its partner MHP did not even receive a word of the message. After re-elections in Istanbul, in just one week, Turkish society once more examined the governing party’s judicial tool against opposition groups through lawsuits of Canan Kaftancıoğlu (Istanbul Chair of CHP), Gezi demonstrations, and Meral Akşener (Chair of IYI Party)

However, although the system was not approved by the opposition in the constitutional referendum (2017) and all opposition factions commonly declared the flaws, after the elections the governing party AKP finally decided to examine and rehabilitate the Turkish version presidential system. It is not that AKP and President Erdoğan heard the opposition’s voices; on the contrary, there are complaints within AKP about the new governance system for reasons of damaging old channels of communication and shifting decision-making from party committees to a small internal circle around President Erdoğan. In a strong sign of those concerns, President Erdoğan said on June 25, “It takes time to establish such a big reform, of course,” and announced that he had ordered a review of the inadequacies, flaws and necessary improvements in the implementation of the new system.

Meanwhile, after 25 years on the basis of local administrations, this historic defeat of the AKP has fuelled the opposing groups within the AKP and the right-wing of the Turkish political arena. Former PM Ahmet Davutoğlu had already issued a written declaration on April 22, 2019, criticizing the poor result of local elections, and “The election results demonstrate that our party has been damaged by alliance politics, both in terms of voting rates and party identity,” Davutoğlu said. On the other side, it is commonly spoken in Ankara’s political circles that Ali Babacan (former Minister of State for Economic Affairs, Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs) is planning to set up a new party, backed most likely by former President Abdullah Gul, in early September. It should be noted that both Gül and Babacan were the founding members of AKP. Although it was not possible to reach either Gul or Babacan for comment, the new party’s strategies allegedly would reflect the manifesto declared in the establishment of AKP, which was a pro-Western, democratic, conservative strategy with liberal market touches. Some commentators also resemble the new party’s policies with former President Turgut Özal’s ANAP (Motherland Party), which claimed to merge and represent all divergent leanings from liberalism to conservatism, from nationalism to leftism.

After the annulment of local elections in Istanbul, former President Abdullah Gul had already broken ties with the AKP and stated his dissatisfaction in a tweet comparing the re-do decision to a constitutional court ruling in 2007 increasing the amount of parliamentarians needed to approve a new president, which was seen as an effort to obstruct his presidential path. Although it is not verified or rejected by the parties, it is asserted that Ali Babacan had already spoken to President Erdoğan about his resignation from AKP’s founding members and relayed his dissatisfaction with latest policies. There are many scenarios and rumors in Ankara about this meeting, such as whether President Erdoğan has invited Babacan or Mr. Babacan has requested an appointment, or President has invited him to work in AKP, etc. What we understand is the mentioned meeting neither confirmed nor denied.

“Like a stormwind that will ring the freedom bell”

After establishment of the IYI (Good) Party and witnessing the impacts of the Saadet (Felicity) Party, which has been far beyond its voting percentage, it is evident that Mr. Babacan’s new party will break AKP’s monopoly over right-wing votes.  New party is anticipated to attract AKP MPs and they are seeking to form a parliamentary group. 20 MPs are needed to form a parliamentary group, thus, losing 20 + MPs would threaten the governing capacity of AKP+MHP’s ruling alliance.

All these changes in the Turkish political arena offer not only a new perception and discourse; but also, a restatement of the classical definitions of right or left, conservative, secular, etc. It is totally beginning of a new type of storytelling; it reunites groups, embraces differences, and establishes new norms. It is, obviously, a long and difficult path with many tests and problems, but, as stated in the song; the will to change, the demand for democracy and the request for rule of law will ring the freedom bell for Turkish society:

The wind of change
Blows straight into the face of time
Like a stormwind that will ring the freedom bell
For peace of mind

 

Other highlights from past week

  • G20 Summit

Regarding S400 purchase, President Erdogan said in the first half of July the shipment of the Russian missile defense system would start. The US earlier warned that if it proceeded with the purchase, Turkey would be sanctioned.

“We learned from him (President Trump) that nothing like this (sanctions) would happen,” Erdogan told in a media conference in Osaka, Japan G20 Summit. “Such a thing happens between two strategic allies is out of the question. I think it can’t occur,” said Erdogan. However, there was no U.S. confirmation of Erdogan’s claim. But, according to Reuters, Trump voiced understanding for Turkey’s decision, but in reaction he did not rule out sanctions.

In G20 Summit, President Erdoğan also had meetings with British Prime Minister Theresa May, his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

  • Japanese-backed nuclear power plant project halted

On June 26, President Erdoğan gave an interview to Nikkei and spoke about the stop of the Japanese partner-backed Sinop nuclear energy facility and said “Our Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and our other relevant organizations have examined in detail the feasibility research study and cost analysis being prepared by the Japanese side. In terms of both cost and project calendar, we encountered an image that is not consistent with our original contract. “He stressed the willingness of Turkey to work and collaborate with Japan in the energy sector, not limited to nuclear energy alone.  “We believe that in many fields, such as clean coal, renewable power, R&D work, human resources development and transport projects, we can work with Japan,” Erdoğan said.

  • CHP Istanbul Chair charged over tweets

Canan Kaftancıoğlu, CHP Istanbul Chair, is facing up to 17 years in jail for supposedly “insulting the president” with the social media posts she posted six years earlier. The first hearing took place on 28 June on “insulting the President, publicly degrading the Republic of Turkey’s government, inciting the public to enmity, hatred and propaganda for a terrorist organization.”

  • Gezi Park protests lawsuit

On 24 June, 16 individuals came to court in Turkey, including Osman Kavala, accused of organizing anti-government protests in 2013. The prosecutor argues that the defendants, many of whom are active in civil society, “tried to overthrow the government” of then-Prime Minister Erdogan by organizing and funding an “uprising.” The next hearing is scheduled for July 18.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, Chairman of the CHP, defined the protests as one of the world’s most democratic acts, adding that the purpose of the trial was to take revenge on the youth who took part in Gezi. “Gezi is a legacy remaining to world history by Turkey. During the most oppressive era, it permitted Turkey to breathe. Our kids were those who took part in Gezi, they were young individuals of all opinions,” said Kilicdaroglu.