According to Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), there are 103 political parties operating in our country. Cemil Çiçek, a veteran political figure, says that this number is 81. I wonder which of these two numbers is correct.
In my opinion, it is not important at all how many parties we currently have in Turkey. There are five parties with parliamentary groups. Including the ones without party groups, nine parties are represented in the parliament. The number of parties which will participate in the re-run of the mayoral election in Istanbul is only 12.
The ruling party and its ally (AK Party and MHP) stand on one side enjoying a powerful position to shape the political landscape of the country alone thanks to the ‘presidential system of government‘ which is in effect over a year, and everything in Turkish politics stand on the other side, because they are unimportant…
If you are the ruling party, you have the power to get a contested election annulled and re-run. What is more, if you form an alliance with the ruling party, you enjoy the privilege of saying that “There is no need for a new political party“.
The topic of ‘the number of parties in our country‘ itself has become a current issue just because of this.
The veteran politician, who seems to have found some coverage in media after having been assigned as a member to the High Advisory Council of the Presidency, brought up the question of “We have currently 81 political parties, what is the use of 82nd one?” to the agenda, while the leader of MHP shared his opinion about the topic with the public when he was asked about a leading political figure known to be in quest of founding a new party: “There are already 103 parties, if he intends to add the 104thone, I can only wish him all the best.”
These two politicians are of the opinion that there is no need for a new party, and those people who are in quest of a new party are simply spinning their wheels…
Do you think they are right?
The people will decide if a new party is needed
Public survey companies intensify their work in pre-election periods. They often ask respondents a number of additional questions as well in order to satisfy their own curiosity, or serve their customers better by providing them a more detailed picture on the basis of their findings on diverse but relevant topics. A few of those additional questions are often designed to find out how people think about a need for a new political party.
The surveys I have seen so far clearly point out that the expectation of a new party is higher than ever. Such an expectation makes itself felt within grassroots of almost every existing party.
This means that some considerable portion of the electorate are seeking something in an assumed new party that they cannot find in existing parties.
We had observed a similar and widely shared expectation in the days heading to a new millennium (and early 2000s). A few parties, which are occassionaly mentioned with remarks such as “They were founded but were of no use” are from that period, and shown as examples for political parties that have always remained as marginal parties with insignificant popular support. However, AK Party had been founded in the same period, and emerged triumphant from the first election it participated in, and has been in power over 17 years.
Devlet Bahçeli, who paved the way for the AK Party’s government by leaving the then coalition government that his party was part of no choice but to go for an early election, argued about not needing a new party during those days, too. In a similar vein, Cemil Çiçek, even though he eventually aligned himself with AK Party, remained initially in a group of politicians who were in quest of founding another party in those days.
A team of politicians that were well aware of the expectation of Turkish people for a new party founded AK Party with a party program responding needs of the country those days, and managed to make their party to come to power with no time.
No doubt present-day circumstances are different from those of in the early years of 2000s. Even today’s AK Party does not resemble the parties of that period in the way it uses the power of the state. Therefore, I guess that who are told to be in preparations for building a new party are fully aware of what a challenging task they have embarked on.
To me, it is unnecessary to be scared of new parties and show effort in order to block such initiatives, particularly for the politicians who believe any initiative for a new party is doomed to failure.
A political party signifies collaborative work and performance of a team of people who have gathered around a certain vision and a particular program. Every country always needs such a team of people who seek ways to give a concrete shape to new and promising ideas.
Europe is in quest of new alternatives -do you think Turkey is not?
Europe held the election for the European Parliament (AP) a couple of days ago. We haven’t found enough time and opportunity to discuss possible implications of the election results for we have been preoccupied with our own agenda overmuch. But, we know after all that support for the traditional mainstream parties got weakened, and it became apparent that people in diverse countries of Europe are in quest of new alternatives.
Some parties that may be considered as alternatives to the old, mainstream ones enjoyed a rising public interest in the election. Although they were founded not so long ago, they managed to send more MPs to the AP than well-established traditional parties.
New circumstances bring about new discourses and new faces. It is not surprising that Europe now experiences this reality -let’s leave the discussion aside whether this is good or bad.
Today, Turkey is strikingly different from how it was in the beginning of the 2000s, and the region our country located in and the whole world have a series of distinct peculiarities incomparable to the ones in that period. The existing political discourse finds it difficult to accommodate itself to new trends and tendencies of today. People who feel the need for a new party, showing a clear indifference to the number of existing political parties, appear to be curious and in expectation for new alternatives.
Politicians within the existing political parties would be supposed to encourage new initiatives of people who seem to be going to appear on the political stage soon with the claim to accomplish the mission better, but not to raise difficulties for such quests if they are in politics with the goal of serving the nation indeed -wouldn’t they?
Let 82nd, 83rd, or 104th, 105th party come into the picture, and let the people judge each party with its merits and prospects.
[Translated by Bernar Kutluğ from the the article appeared in this site’s Turkish section on June 6, 2019]