The AKP’s new homework

Etyen Mahcupyan

The Turkish original of this article was published as AKP’ye ev ödevi on 1st October 2015.

 

To judge by the figures, the June fall in the AKP vote was not due to any nationalist reaction. The prime reason behind it was the extent to which whether the HDP would be able to beat the [10 percent] barrier or not assumed historic significance for the Kurds, as well as errors committed by the AKP that rendered this big a swing psychologically possible. The same mistakes also caused a non-Kurdish slice of the electorate to stay away from the ballot box. This was further corroborated by the visit that I and Ayşe Yırcalı paid to Urfa last month, during which we heard some of the most radical critiques that AKP members and supporters have ever addressed to their own party.

 

What they have been saying with specific regard to the Solution Process can be found in the two articles that Yırcalı has posted on the Al Jazeera web site. Briefly, on one side there are the problems created by condensing this process into a purely AKP/HDP/PKK affair: the reduction of the Kurdish question into armed violence, and the exclusion of all other Kurdish groups and intellectuals. On the other side, there is the inability to prevent a political environment that enabled the PKK to achieve hegemony over the region, forcing the people to “nestle” under the organization’s wing. Yırcalı quotes an interviewee to the effect that “the AKP pushed the Kurds into the PKK’s arms.”

 

But the real critiques voiced in Urfa had to do directly with the AKP itself and how it was relating to its electorate. In turn, these can be gathered under four headings.

 

The first comprises the AKP’s ideological and political outlook. The party, it is said, has lost its former idealism and sense of mission; it is ponderously coming apart; it is drifting away from its emancipatory identity and coming more and more to represent the upper class. Hence the AKP’s regional rank-and-file are said to be moving from feeling wronged, through falling out with, to outright hostility to the party, with their present outlook hovering between feeling wronged and falling out. All in all, the people of the region have become more sensitive to negative words and deeds by the AKP.

 

The second has to do with leadership and management. There is a rapidly growing perception that Erdoğan and his circle are intervening too much in politics and appointments, and that the rallies they have held and the discourses they have utilized during the election campaign have tended to backfire. Cracks have appeared between society and the AKP, and the party leadership no longer elicits the same enthusiasm, our interlocutors have repeatedly underlined. Some AKP members are even admitting that they themselves are disturbed by their party’s reversion to classical Islamist reflexes.

 

The third point involves organizational matters. Far from being able to cope with the HDP, the AKP organization has virtually made things easier for the rival party; it hasn’t been able to get rid of people pursuing their own self-interest, and it has managed to alienate even young people of Islamic sensitivities. People are emphatic that this is tantamount to moral corruption, and that a stop has to be put to it.

 

The fourth heading covers lists of candidates. It is commonly held that the names nominated for the June elections were “wholly” wrong. There is a widespread perception that “no respect for hard work” was shown in preferring one candidate over another, that individuals not liked within the party got the nominations, and that all this was so blatant as to seem deliberate.

 

On the way to the November elections, the AKP appears to have largely overcome this last candidates’ lists problem. But all the other items point to the need for a serious self-criticism that is long overdue.