Turkey — Fol­low­ing the results of the local elec­tions, the same dif­fer­ences in approach as usu­al show up in the media com­men­taries and analyses.

Depend­ing on whether one emp­ties the con­cept of democ­ra­cy of all con­tent in order to reduce it to the exis­tence, or absence of elec­tions in the Euro­pean man­ner, or whether one refus­es to do an in-depth analy­sis of Turk­ish nation­alsm (tri­umphant Turci­ty) and its con­se­quences on the sub­stan­tial minori­ties in Turkey, whether one belongs to Erdoğan’s polit­i­cal inner cir­cle, or whether one stands by the side of those sub­ject­ed to mil­i­tary or stealthy repres­sion by the State – in sum­ma­ry, the points of view are dif­fer­ent, of course.

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This is obvi­ous, you will tell me but, if so, in the case of press arti­cles, it might be a bet­ter idea to clear­ly state the col­or and the nature of the bal­cony from which one expounds, and not to take refuge behind a false ‘jour­nal­is­tic objec­tiv­i­ty”, with the excuse that one is a cor­re­spon­dent for a major news out­let in Turkey.

While under­stand­ing per­fect­ly the per­ma­nent threats, whether direct or indi­rect, bear­ing down on press cor­re­spon­dents in situ, threats incit­ing them to per­ma­nent self-cen­sor­ship, this can­not serve as ali­bi for polit­i­cal align­ments akin to blind­ness in front of self-evi­dent real­i­ties of Turk­ish soci­ety and its past and recent his­to­ry, espe­cial­ly if one is a long-term res­i­dent in the country.

The kedi had once sum­ma­rized this as “the assid­u­ous atten­dance of cer­tain lay ter­races in Istan­bul”, prefer­ably ele­vat­ed ones, that col­ored the infor­ma­tion com­ing out of Turkey

In short, after this detour I con­sid­ered nec­es­sary, after read­ing and lis­ten­ing to the news for the past few days, I return to the results and the com­men­taries. And I announce my col­ors, with no men­tal reser­va­tions or cen­sor­ship and with­out play­ing the Karagöz.

In them­selves, despite the cheat­ing and  the usu­al recur­rent manip­u­la­tions against the oppo­si­tion, the results serve as a life-sized sur­vey that reflects the state of the polit­i­cal and social forces in Turkey.  One need not belong to the camp of “elec­tion fetichists” in order to con­sid­er that they some­times express a raw por­trait of reality.

A sin­gle round, a fair­ly mas­sive turnout (even if the oblig­a­tion to vote has­n’t been sanc­tioned in a long time), manip­u­la­tions that were a bit more restrained than usu­al, rein­force the fact that this con­sul­ta­tion can serve as a basis for analy­sis, espe­cial­ly since the stakes were heav­i­ly guid­ed by “any­thing but Erdoğan” on one side, and “Erdoğan is the Nation” on the other.

The regime’s warmest sup­port­ers insist of course on the glob­al result at 52% and minorize the elec­toral upsets in Ankara and Istan­bul as signs of demo­c­ra­t­ic vital­i­ty. They do not answer when ques­tioned about the Prime Min­is­ter’s hasty dec­la­ra­tions after he was beat­en in Istab­ul and the quick removal of the “thank you” ads the AKP had plac­ard­ed for the vot­ers’ intention.

Despite even mar­gin­al elec­toral manip­u­la­tions, this 52% is far from rep­re­sent­ing a pro­gres­sion, giv­en the nov­el­ty of autho­rized alliances, intro­duced in the pres­i­den­tial con­sti­tu­tion. The per­cent­age is high­er for the AKP/MHP coali­tion in those dis­tricts and provinces where such alliances did not exist. And it shows a pro­gres­sion in favor of the ultra-nation­al­ist MHP, even if this does not trans­late into local pow­er grabs. The low-water mark of the Pres­i­den­tial elec­tion remains more or less the same, with a nation­al­ist dimen­sion show­ing a progression.

This same nation­al­ist dimen­sion is also seen in the oppo­si­tion coali­tion made up of CHP/IYI which con­quered Istan­bul and Ankara, among oth­ers, and con­sol­i­dat­ed tra­di­tion­al strong­holds such as Izmir. The IYI Par­ty, which has noth­ing pro­gres­sive, serves more as a rein­forcer of the “any­thing except Erdoğan” movement.

Fol­low­ing Sun­day’s results, two things are to be feared at the insti­tu­tion­al lev­el. The first is hid­den in Erdoğan’s reforms. These allow the State greater con­trol over the bud­getary choic­es of local gov­ern­ments. One can eas­i­ly guess that Erdoğan’s sen­tence on the theme “I wish them a lot of fun” con­cerns upcom­ing pow­er plays. The sec­ond was clear­ly stat­ed before Sun­day and has already demon­strat­ed its harm­ful­ness.  The replace­ment of elect­ed mem­bers by State-des­ig­nat­ed admin­is­tra­tors has already deprived a large num­ber of peo­ple of their elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives in areas with a Kur­dish major­i­ty, and this could be the case once again. Espe­cial­ly since one can eas­i­ly imag­ine that the nation­al oppo­si­tion coali­tion will not feel con­cerned by what will be pre­sent­ed as the “fight against sep­a­ratism’. As of today, chal­lenges and requests for recounts have been filed in all the local­i­ties where the HDP won, an indi­ca­tor of what is to come. Should this hap­pen, it would seri­ous­ly under­mine the “demo­c­ra­t­ic vitality”.

Let’s talk about this so-called “demo­c­ra­t­ic vital­i­ty”. If, as expressed by a few sen­si­ble observers, it is a mat­ter of under­lin­ing the fact that, beneath the lid imposed by the regime in Turk­ish, embers still exist, ready to raise a flame again, I agree. Indeed, the results show that the peo­ple are there and chose to vote. And this is a pos­i­tive obser­va­tion – here per­cent­ages lose all mean­ing – espe­cial­ly the strong expres­sion in areas with a Kur­dish major­i­ty, despite the past five years of exac­tions, mur­ders, oppres­sion, impris­on­ments and polit­i­cal confiscations.

The HDP’s elec­toral strat­e­gy of con­cen­trat­ing on dis­tricts, provinces and com­munes where win­ning was a pos­si­bil­i­ty or those that had to be defend­ed, has indeed paid off. It rein­forces the notion of demo­c­ra­t­ic vital­i­ty, even if I pre­fer to call it “the main­te­nance of the strug­gle for demo­c­ra­t­ic autonomy”.

It has a direct impact in Istan­bul and Ankara’s results for the CHP/IYI coali­tion, bring­ing to it the votes of those who, in their way, want­ed to give a polit­i­cal expres­sion to “any­thing except Erdoğan”. The HDP has not hid­den the fact it want­ed to pro­voke some “rever­sals in the West” for the AKP.

And true enough, those polit­i­cal rever­sals, once put into per­spec­tive, bring some fresh col­ors to the win­ter land­scape. But they do not erase the real­i­ty of pow­er, nor the major­i­ty nation­al­ist axis, shared by the offi­cial oppo­si­tion and the regime’s supporters.

To con­sid­er this  as autho­riz­ing the CHP to  claim the renew­al of its polit­i­cal vir­gin­i­ty on the future of Turkey, thanks to the mir­a­cle of the urns…This  is the par­ty that fell from pow­er because of past cor­rup­tions, repub­li­can mil­i­tarism sup­port­ed by con­tempt of the Analo­lian peo­ple by the rul­ing class­es, this is the Par­ty weld­ed to nega­tion­ism, the suc­ces­sor to the orga­nized mas­sacres against the Kurds in the eight­ies and nineties. And it would now have become the qua­si-Left in Turkey?

I may be accused of sim­pli­fy­ing and being a bit quick on the draw. I agree. The roots to the Turk­ish prob­lem are more com­pli­cat­ed, they need more nuances and more time spent in analy­sis. But those who would aim those cricisms at me are the same ones who, for decades, have con­veyed the idea of Turkey as a “beau­ti­ful lay Mus­lim democ­ra­cy” that was cor­rupt­ed by an nasty igno­rant Ottoman. This is the notion that serves as a G‑string for all Euro­pean compromises.

And since one must con­clude, we might as well do so on a less acid note, even if there is no room for claim­ing victory.

The Kur­dish move­ment is prag­mat­ic. It con­sid­ers, and it is right, that these rever­sals of Erdoğan will be sig­nif­i­cant, one way or anoth­er.  It con­sidrs that on the so-called inter­na­tion­al scene, and thus in Syr­ia, this could play a role and its mem­bers con­grat­u­late them­selves on their elec­toral strat­e­gy. Polit­i­cal rever­sals may indeed have a domi­no effect. But the basic trends remain, and no fur­ther elec­tions are expect­ed in the near future, while the regime holds all the keys, despite the eco­nom­ic cri­sis. The great rev­e­la­tions of cor­rup­tion we can prob­a­bly expect from the CHP’s tak­ing of some AKP strong­holds, will not suf­fice to cre­ate new perspectives.

Thus, this is not the time to sing hymns to the return of democ­ra­cy in Turkey, except to say that a part of the pop­u­la­tion thirsts for it, and has said so.

(For detailed fig­ures, see here.)

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…