I’ve written numerous times that both the Justice and Development Party (AKP’s) narrative and the party itself are on the verge of wearing out. I’ve said that the AKP has sustained a transformation to where it can no longer be considered a party. Regarding its coalition with the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), I’ve said that if any party is going to disintegrate as a result of this coalition, it will be the AKP, and that it will be finished off before the MHP. When I started to write and say these things, I wasn’t referring to a future or a possibility, but to a process that has started and is currently in progress. Of course, there have been many people that have shared the same foresights and have made similar evaluations for both the same and different reasons. Very valuable analyses have arisen, some based on the economic background in Turkey and the rest of the world, some based on the dynamics of society, and some based on international balances. Some interpretations have tried to remain objective by following available statistics and trends, others by following exceedingly optimistic expectations. Beginning from a variety of starting dates, turning points at which the AKP government has created crises for both itself and the country have been identified.
Throughout the period in which these evaluations have been made and heavily debated (the past decade) there have been a total of 11 elections including referendums, presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Those who atrribute extra significance between the number of votes a party is able to get in an election and the destruction of its political organization and the end of its existence have used the results of all of these elections to criticize the notion that the AKP was in a crisis. Factions both close to the ruling party and opposed to it—for different reasons—have said that the AKP consolidated its position. Despite occassional setbacks, due to the fact that the party protected its vote and its voter support and even solidified its voting block, there are those who have suggested that it is not the political structures but the political sphere that has changed. Those who insist that the party has a secret political Islamist agenda argue that with its changes to the system and its transformation of society, it has become an institutionalized party-state structure.
Due to the results of this year’s local elections and particularly the rerun of the Istanbul election, these discussions have gained a new dimension. Arguments that appeared to have been supported with statistical results have been retracted or reshaped. The number of those who say that the AKP government has begun to experience a crisis has increased. In particular, those close to the party have begun to agree with these evaluations. Beyond that, it appears that there are two new parties that have come from within the AKP. Well prior to the elections—we can go back to the pre-coalition election debates—the AKP’s troubles were sensed by Erdoğan and his close circles. As it may be remembered, Erdogan referring to “metal fatigue within the party” or “needing to act in accordance with political realities” is what paved the way for the coalition debate. After the election, rumors that “appropriate responses to the message received” would be undertaken were nourished as such, and were met with high interest as a result. Following a long period of inactivity, the rumors that“some things are going to happen” once again increased.
It must not be forgotten that the economic and political grounds that constitute a political party, the need for class representation and the dynamics that support that do not always coincide and most of the time do not even overlap with the party’s voter base. This is not something unique to countries like Turkey where democracy has not completely been established, it is also the case in countries with the tradition of an entrenched parliamentary system.
In terms of economic and social interests, the mass parties under the control of the dominant classes are able to gain votes from circles whose interests do not at all match with the political line they represent. This is because voting behavior exists inside a strong interaction with a number of variables apart from the dynamics that produce political actions. Also, the cyclical situation and temporary positions can create preferences that go beyond political boundaries. Most of all, for project parties like the Motherland Party (ANAP) that emerged after the 1980 military coup and the AKP, which replaced the center that collapsed in the 1990’s amid serial crises, this situation is even more apparent. Just as there is an angle between the apparent mission of these parties and the roles in the formulas presented, there are different lines and breaking points among their circles of support.
The mass parties created by representative democracy and a parliamentary system sustain their existences by creating political illusions and harmonizing internal dynamics that affix parts which are difficult to hold together and soften the structural weaknesses of the system. For this reason a party’s structural character, flexible ability, and durability are more important than how effective and in front it is. The organizational strength, weight of discourse, advantages of power, comfort of representation and even the possiblity of hegemony cannot alone but only all together create a common result. Apart from certain characterğistics like the level of internal democracy, the weight of the leader and the determinant of the ideological direction, a party’s fate is determined by whether or not it has an independent political wealth and (whether symbolic or not) it grants it permission and is open to it. The problem today—actually, for years—that the AKP has is the fact that it could not change its qualification as a project party or ensure the prevalence and effectiveness of its organization, remaining stunted in spite of its widespread base. Since it could not develop beyond the appartus of a power project, it is unable to separate itself from the crisis of power and cannot develop a solution that could result in a cure.
Lately there has been an intense debate from both within and outside of the AKP in terms of whether or not anything will come out of the party initatives arising from within the AKP. However, what most likely should be argued is whether anything will come out of the AKP at all at this point.
In fact this is the only argument that the new party initiatives are leaning on at this point. It may be thought that Erdoğan, who for some reason refuses to make revisions or innovations that appear to be postponed to the convention process, has remained inactive due to increased indeciveness resulting from a number of reasons alongside being aware of an increased sense of insolubility.The fact that the AKP still comfortably gets above 30% of the vote and that Erdoğan enjoys support of more than 40% of voters does not change this reality: A number of issues can be discussed concerning all of the existing parties, however at this point nothing can come from the AKP, which not only is unable to solve the country’s problems, it also no longer has the ability to restore itself. Just like all stunted political structures and personalities, those who are increasingly weak internally only attempt to solve their problems by projecting them externally.
*This abridged article first appeared on GazeteDuvar on September 4, 2019