Provided they can escape the mediocrity trap

Anadolu coğrafyasının Türk-Müslüman bir kimlik çerçevesinde homojenleştirilmesi amaçlanır. Buna göre, tehcirden muaf tutulan Ermeniler, Anadolu’da gönderildikleri yerdeki Müslüman nüfusun yüzde 5’ini geçmeyecektir.


Etyen Mahçupyan


The Turkish original of this article was published as  Vasatlık tuzağından çıkılırsa  on 4th October 2015.



On the way to the November elections, AKP cadres must surely be preoccupied with the question of how they can once more increase a popular vote that has retreated to 41 percent. Clearly, not all voters that moved to the HDP are likely to stay there, but this does not necessarily mean that they will be returning to the AKP. For the first time, non-militant Kurdish voters are tending to treat not going to the ballot box as a political option. On the other hand, 4 out of the AKP’s 9-point loss cannot be explained by shifts to other parties. It is obvious that this is a matter of AKP voters who chose to abstain. If we put these two sub-groups together, even with some further “discounting” it becomes possible to conclude that the AKP is facing a “wait-and-see” group of at least 5 percent.  


So if the AKP were to win this group over, their votes would be enough to guarantee an absolute majority, but how can that be done without losing any other votes from the main bloc? The possibility of such losses, of course, should not be exaggerated. For field research suggests that the AKP’s core vote is around 38 percent. Of the remaining 3-point difference [with the 41 percent on 7th June], 2 points are likely to be connected with the MHP and 1 point with the secular democrats. If the AKP is able to pursue a strategy of democratic departures capable of appealing to those who did not vote last time, only 1 out of those 3 points is likely to be lost. Hence 45 percent is actually a minimal, easily reachable target for the AKP. But what Turkey needs is much more than that. For that is the only way to screw up the courage for constitutional change.   


Hopefully the June elections will have conveyed the following simple lesson to the AKP faithful: If they remain as no more than a mediocre sort of party, their vote is likely to be limited to the 35-40 percent interval for a few more years before probably falling yet again. But if the party can renew itself and once more embrace society-wide differences to come up yet again with a realistic and persuasive vision for the future, it can initially bounce back to 45-50 and subsequently even above 55 percent. 


There is a clear and understandable reason for such “mutability”: Turkey is on a historic threshold where it could redefine and re-produce itself, and there is no other party that is capable of addressing this question in constructive fashion. Hence unlike all other parties, for the non-militant masses it is very easy both to move close to and away from the AKP.  


If the AKP is to target 55 percent, it cannot possibly make do with just “representing,” for the upper social limit of identity politics is somewhere in the 30’s. Hence an institutionalization capable of satisfying two more constraints is needed. One of them is “carrying capacity” and the other is “legitimacy.” The AKP simply has to at least “lend an ear” to all kinds of differences, demands and preferences that are socially or culturally anchored, and to incorporate all such demands into its own society-wide vision. Furthermore, it has to internalize the fact that its own self-perception has to conform to contemporary norms and principles of governance.


On this basis, they need to look for answers and to develop strategic approaches to the following questions: (1) What kind of leadership and management; (2) what kind of cadre and organization; what kind of vision and discourse; and finally (4) what kind of intellectuals and intelligentsia. Given Turkey’s prevailing political culture, this is not at all easy. But if we are to ask where they might be any potential for this, there is still only one address. Provided they can escape the trap of mediocrity.