Curtailing Erdogan's campaign for absolute power

Curtailing Erdogan's campaign for absolute power
Comment: Those who mobilised two years ago to defend Gezi Park can make themselves heard in the upcoming elections and stop Erdogan acquiring more power, says Mat Nashed.
3 min read
28 May, 2015
Erdogan will reportedly try to change Turkey's constitution after the election [Getty]

On 28 May 2013, police officers marched to evict a group of protestors from Gezi Park, scheduled to be cleared to make way for a shopping mall. Police fired a barrage of tear gas to disperse the crowd, and the violent eviction sparked a wave of demonstrations across the country.

Days later, representatives from the People's Democratic Party (HDP) - a grassroots movement that endorses popular struggles against racism and gender discrimination - marched from the high iron gates of Galatasaray High School to join demonstrations.

Contesting the spree of neoliberal projects, the sound of pots and pans and chants of solidarity reverberated through Turkey's cities.

Erdogan's victory could change Turkey

The ruling AKP intends to turn Turkey's parliamentary system into a presidential one.

But while nationwide dissent challenged the expanding powers of former Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan, citizens now risk losing some of their liberties in the upcoming elections.

Since becoming president, Erdogan no longer heads the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Yet if the party wins the election, AKP reportedly intends to turn Turkey's parliamentary system into a presidential one.

This would give Erdogan control over the the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

But before doing so, his party needs 330 of the parliament's 550 seats to put these changes to a referendum. Or 367 seats to bypass the referendum altogether.

And with main opposition parties failing to provide a real alternative, the emergence of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) poses the greatest threat to Erdogan's new vision. Featuring women in administrative roles and LGBT activists, the party has unified those most disenfranchised.

Due to a 1980 law requiring any party to obtain 10 percent of the national vote to enter parliament - a threshold introduced to block Kurdish parties from the political arena - the HDP never had enough support to campaign as a party.

Instead, the HDP fielded independent candidates to evade this hurdle. In Turkey's 2014 presidential elections, their candidate won 9.8 percent of the national vote.

Now electing to run as a parliamentary party, if they successfully enter parliament they may be able to stop Erdogan's modifications to the constitution.

This would give Erdogan control over the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

While their inclusion in parliament would expand Turkey's political landscape, it could also push the Kurdish peace process forward.

On hold since 2013, Erdogan insists the peace process will remain a top priority after the elections. However, HDP's entry to parliament would ensure there is pressure to do so.

How the chief opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP), brands itself will also affect the outcome of the elections. The HDP could attract those the CHP leaves behind in their drive to win conservative voters.

On 7 June, those who mobilised on the streets two years ago must go to the polls. Only by affirming the ideals of pluralism and accountability that inflamed Gezi Park will they curtail Erdogan's power and ensure a wider democracy.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff