The results of Turkey’s presidential run-off on 28 May declared Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as the president for the third time. The opposition’s candidate Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s narrow defeat by 47.82 percent of the votes allowing Erdoğan to maintain his seat for another five years has caused a familiar sense of desperation among opposition circles.
According to Hamit Bozarslan, a Kurdish professor at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in France, the unrestrained hope before the elections or the post-election psychology of disappointment stems from considering the results as the outcome of a few months leading up to the polling day, rather than relying on long-term historical facts.
In an interview with news website Artı Gerçek on the day before the run-off, Bozarslan shed light on the challenging path that awaits Turkey in the fight for democracy, which he believes is a long-term struggle that continues independently of temporary senses of despair or victory.
For Bozarslan, elections held in Turkey since 1950 are primarily reliable in providing such a factual basis. All evaluations regarding Turkey should be made in light of the fact that right-wing parties have received around 65 percent of the vote in all these elections, he said, except for those in 1973 and 1977, during a period of peak influence of left-wing ideology worldwide.
This stable potential of the Turkish right is only comprehensible through realising the authentic Turkish mindset which Bozarslan calls the “Turkish ideology”, playing off of Karl Marx’s “German ideology”, formed upon century-old factors such as the Kurdish question, the Armenian genocide, and self-appointed mission of Turkish-Islamic dominance.
This ideological discourse assigning Turkishness a historical mission of dominance and superiority was shared by the radical right and, to some extent, Kılıçdaroğlu’s own Republican People’s Party (CHP), Bozarslan said.
“There is a powerful Kurdish movement that criticises this ideology, on the other hand, Turkey’s democratic movement remains so feeble. The Kurdish movement will remain, but the real challenge lies in strengthening and legitimising a Turkish democratic movement and establishing a democracy that encompasses both consensus and dissent.”
And for Bozaslan, that involves questioning Turkey’s history and engaging in discussions about the legitimacy of the Kurdish issue.
“Notably, the Kurdish issue has been sidelined even in discussions prior to the 14 May elections,” he said, criticising the main opposition bloc’s cautious approach to the matter and added: “While there are over two thousand ‘very urgent’ topics in the consensus text of the Table of Six [the opposition bloc], the Kurdish issue is notably absent.”
According to Bozarslan, it would be far better to insist on a democratic program and face defeat, instead of abandoning that program and eventually being defeated or gaining an achievement that would pale in comparison.
“It is not possible to respond to the intense conservatism in Turkey by becoming more conservative or to the ultranationalism reaching up to 25 percent by becoming more nationalist,” said Bozarslan, emphasising the urgent need for “a democratic revolution” instead. “This is not a radical revolution, but it requires radicalising in itself, freeing the body, speech, thought, and expression.”