Within Turkey, it is not easy for the opposition to get their message across to the public.
However, a recent media campaign by the main opposition CHP that has been successful is its relentless asking ‘where did 128 billion dollars disappear’ from Central Bank reserves. The question gained traction among the Turkish public and is an example of the diverse opposition front rallying behind a unified message. But it remains to be seen if it will be easy for the opposition to remain unified.
The Turkish intelligentsia is oft in a state of heated discussion regarding whether the opposition in Turkey is ‘compatible.’ Most accuse the opposition front of being ‘too passive and incompetent.’ Some argue that the Republican Peoples’ Party (CHP), a center-left party, should be working more closely with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP); or be more agile about issues concerning HDP ops and HDP municipalities. Some argue just the opposite. Some find the leader of CHP Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu naive and weak. The Good (İYİ) Party, a center-right party, is also under fire; sometimes for not being liberal enough and sometimes for being too liberal.
It is not easy existing in a ‘competitive authoritarian regime.’ The political arena is restrictive and opposition politicians frequently face jail time. State institutions and the conventional media are controlled by the government. Thus, it is not easy for the opposition to get their message across to the public.
A recent media campaign by the CHP that has been successful is its relentless asking, ‘were 128 billion dollars disappeared’ from Central Bank reserves. Apparently, Kılıçdaroğlu proposed the campaign.
In reality, everyone knows the answer. When President Erdoğan’s son-in-law Berat Albayrak oversaw the economy, he developed a stubborn stance towards the US dollar against Turkish lira. He basically forced the Central Bank to sell all its US dollar reserves. However, the Central Bank under the command of economy genius Berat Albayrak, did not really sell the dollars. Instead the reserves were sold to some funds in London.
Now the CHP is asking, why the Central Bank reserves are now empty and who bought the Central Bank reserves at what rate; Who profited from this? The question gained traction among the Turkish public. It became daily small talk and neighborhood chit chat.
It is actually a very complicated matter, however, the CHP managed to simplify the message via asking a basic question. At first President Erdoğan answered, saying the money was spent during pandemic to help the people; then an AKP MP claimed it is in people’s pockets. AKP spokesperson Mahir Ünal, came up an explanation; however, his theory was based on the idea that the lost money was in liras not dollars. So, his theory collapsed and he had to delete a tweet where he explained his so-called theory.
A fundamental mistake the government made was removing the CHP banners displaying the question. The CHP hung banners in its city offices. Police got involved and the banners were removed and an investigation into the party officials was initiated, claiming that they were insulting the president. The matter gets messier each day.
Yunus Emre, an aide to CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, penned an article recently, called the Kılıçdaroğlu doctrine..
In it, he outlines the Kılıçdaroğlu doctrine as an antidote of Erdoğanism. He claims Erdoğanism has been based on identity politics, exclusion, and polarization. Emre writes that the Kılıçdaroğlu doctrine is based on the principle of inclusion. Kılıçdaroğlu aims to unify the opposition front. Thus, he is producing political discourse which all the opposition can stand behind. The Kılıçdaroğlu doctrine is centered around diminishing identity politics, rather than focusing on the economy or freedoms. ‘Where is the 128 billion dollars’ seem to be compatible with Kılıçdaroğlu doctrine, or rather, it is an example of how it works.
The opposition succeeded in recent local elections, which gave them a boost in popularity and support. It seems they are now trying to push on the gas a bit more. It will not be easy to keep the opposition unified, seeing as there are Kurds, Turkish nationalists, and anti-AKP Islamists within the front. However, economic downturn might give them a tail wind.