Tue Sep 26, 2023
September 26, 2023

Türkiye’s Elections “Democracy” without workers, waiting for a “spring” that won’t come

By Kırmızı Newspaper Editorial Board

1. We are currently in the wake of an important parliamentary election and first round of a presidential election. While the presidential election is going to a second round, the People’s Alliance (Cumhur Ittifakı) led by AKP[i] and MHP[ii] won the majority in parliament. First of all, one key issue with respect to the election is that no working-class candidate was elected to parliament. Political democracy is not possible without the working class. There is no doubt that some socialist and other MPs who support those who are oppressed entered parliament. But we see that workers who have been involved in struggles themselves were not elected. Secondly, we think it is dangerous and unacceptable that parliament is filled with all kinds of nationalist, political Islamist, sexist, and anti-women’s rights men. The third is that Erdogan, whether he finishes ahead in the first round or wins the election in the second round, will not be able to solve the leadership problem of the bourgeoisie amidst the deepening economic crisis, the fights between cliques within the regime, and the regional wars for hegemony.

2. We stated before the first round of the election that it was important to stop the authoritarian palace regime. Unfortunately, we were not able to stop it at the ballot box, nor was there a mobilization against election fraud. Even though there were numerous challenges to the election results, we are nevertheless heading into the second round of the presidential election.

Despite high inflation, the devastation of the recent earthquake, and the aggressive language of the spokespeople for the People’s Alliance, Erdogan received more votes than expected. His campaign, which was based on accusing the opposition party of terrorism and pro-imperialism, resonated with the public. He convinced them that he could solve those problems. Erdogan has also been quite successful at sabotaging the opposition and deepening their internal problems, sometimes using social media trolls, or placing his own agents within the party. He has even used the support of state intelligence for this end. As a result, he has managed to make the opposition look weak in the eyes of the public.

Even though the AKP, which was stripped of its character as a political party by its founder Erdoğan himself, has no dynamism left in it except for its evils. It has become clear that the palace regime is still able to keep the masses under control to an adequate extent thanks to the state power it holds and the “historical position” of its leader. Contrary to popular belief, it was the masses of the AKP who had a very high turnout in votes during the election. This is one of the important factors that made a difference in the election results. In addition to election fraud, it is well known that all state resources were used to favor Erdogan. During the campaign, in which the state’s coffers were opened to the fullest, opposition groups, especially Kurds and socialists, were subject to intense repression with many detentions and arrests. The campaigns of the Green Left Party,[iii] socialist parties, and socialist independent candidates were often blocked by regime forces. Even the bourgeois opposition found it difficult to campaign in some cities. Thus, the opposition’s campaign was paralyzed.

Even though the bourgeois opposition took the initiative from time to time, it failed to convince the majority of the people. The opposition’s neo-liberal policies, reminiscent of those of Özal[iv] and embodied in Ali Babacan, did not resonate with working people. Moreover, it once again became clear that not everything in the political arena is always determined by domestic and foreign (international) big capital and imperialist centers, even if they are decisive in the long run.

3. When we look at the parliamentary elections, the picture is rather grim. The votes fleeing the AKP have largely shifted to other right-wing and political Islamist parties in the alliance. In this sense, it is no consolation that the AKP has fallen to around 35 percent. Parliament has become completely right-wing. The number of MPs from the Green Left Party and the CHP[v] is about half the number of MPs from the right. When 34 deputies from right-wing parties entered the parliament from the CHP lists, 135 deputies came from CHP, and there were 61 Green Left Party, and 4 TIP (Workers’ Party of Turkey-Split from Turkish Communist Party) deputies who entered parliament. The total number of Left, Socialist, and Kurdish MPs is 200. In the opposition, the nationalist IYIP[vi] has 43 MPs. The AKP has 268 MPs (4 of which were MPs from Huda-Par[vii]), the MHP has 50 MPs, and Yeniden Refah Partisi (Political Islamic Party) has 5 MPs. There are 323 right-wing MPs in the government and 79 right-wing MPs in the opposition. In total, 402 right-wing MPs will be in parliament.

Even when distributed among different parties, the votes for Turkish nationalism reached 25 percent. This development shows that despite the relative decline of political Islamism, fascist tendencies may gain a dominant role within the reactionary sectors in Turkey. The negative effects of this will be felt throughout society, especially by Kurds, socialists, immigrants, and laborers seeking their rights.

4. The Labor and Freedom Alliance, formed by Kurdish-led, socialist, and democratic forces, won 65 seats in parliament. Of these, 4 are MPs from the Workers’ Party of Turkey (1.73% of the vote) and 61 from the Green Left Party (8.82% of the vote). The Labor and Freedom MPs will fight against a large right-wing bloc in parliament. In this respect, their presence is important for all oppressed people. Another leftist alliance, the Union of Socialist Forces, consisting of the Communist Party of Turkey, the Communist Movement of Turkey, and the Left Party, received 0.29% of the vote.

HDP (People’s Democratic Party-Kurdish Party), which entered the elections under the umbrella of YSP (Green Left Party) due to the risk of its closure, lost approximately 3% of its votes compared to the previous election. In general, the analysis shows that some of the HDP voters did not go to the polls. One reason for this low turnout is that families and some of the public cannot accept the deaths of thousands of young people who died defending Kurdish autonomy on the barricades in Kurdish provinces in 2015. These deaths were traumatic for the families and communities who witnessed them and their aftereffects. Another reason is that despite all the support given to Kılıçdaroglu, Kurdish demands have not been recognized. Representatives of the Kurdish movement have also stated that a significant part of the losses at the ballot box came from votes shifting to CHP (Republican People’s Party) and TIP (Workers’ Party of Turkey).

Working Class Politics

5. In our opinion, the lack of  worker representation in parliament by workers who have been involved in struggles and strikes is as great a deficit today as it was yesterday. In this respect, the task of building a choice for workers is critical. Democracy and freedom are only possible through the struggle of the working class on the streets and in parliament. When this struggle is not reflected on the streets and in parliament, a democratic opening is not possible.

In the second issue of our newspaper, we mentioned the parallelism between the development of democratic rights and workers’ protests. It is worth remembering this once again when we see the election results. We have seen once more that unless the working class mobilizes, the country cannot undergo a real democratic transformation.

“…The Washington Post has published a study covering the period 1900-2006 that investigated ‘the impact of the social nature of protest movements on the democratization process.’ …The most important finding of the study was that protest movements dominated by industrial workers had a greater impact on democratization than any other protest campaign and that the role of industrial workers was crucial to the development of democracy. ….In short, without workers, there is no democracy, or at best there is only as much as we already have! …Capital’s main problem is that workers as a class, as an independent and organized force, are not directly involved in politics with their own demands.”[viii]

6. In a significant sector of the working class, the AKP, MHP, and Yeniden Refah Partisi have received a high number of votes. Islamism and nationalism continue to poison the working class. In Antep, Maraş, Iskenderun, Çerkezköy, Kapaklı, İzmit Gebze, Ereğli, Kozlu, Soma, Manisa, Düzce, Konya, Kayseri, etc., the People’s Alliance won and right-wing votes were very high. The AKP has managed to turn the unions into associations and completely corrupt their management, leaving workers under the control of religious sects and right-wing organizations. Religion, ethnicity, fellow countrymen, etc. have replaced the lost class identity and linked these identities to AKP and its partners through solidarity networks.

However, during the AKP period, labor’s share of the national income declined from 35.3 to 25.2 percent.  While the bosses’ share has increased from 48 percent to 56.7 percent. Food prices have almost quadrupled in the last two years. The rate of unemployment has reached 22 percent. The opposition, including the socialists, have not been able to convince the majority of the working class because they have not been able to find real solutions to these problems or bring those solutions to the class. As in the case of democracy, it is impossible to transform this reactionary parliament in the future unless we are able to rally the workers, who make up the majority of society, as a class.

The Second Round and What Comes Next

7. A difficult second round awaits us. Moreover, the 5 percent vote for Sinan Oğan’s[ix] nationalist rhetoric seems to have drawn the opposition into political bargaining before the second round. This is evidenced by the fact that Kılıçdaroğlu started campaigning before the second round by saying that he would send migrants back to their home countries.

Despite the above-mentioned drawbacks and limitations, it is still possible to stop Erdogan at the polls. Before the first round, we said:

“On the one hand, there is Erdogan and his tyrannical palace regime, which for 22 years has turned the country into a paradise for the bosses and a hell for poor people. This regime has economically impoverished workers and small tradesmen, leaving them in the hands of bankers and loan sharks. While Erdogan is trying to solve the economic crisis in favor of the bosses, he is driving us into misery. The organizations of the working class are crushed more and more every day by the bosses, union bureaucrats, and the forces of the regime. Thousands of workers have lost their lives due to work accidents and precarious working conditions. Under this regime, violence and murders against women have increased. Tens of thousands have lost their lives in debris and floods due to improper construction. The education and health system collapsed due to their profit-centered approach. Under this authoritarian regime, working people and different identities have been turned against each other. It is also a tyrannical regime that does not recognize the laws it has established. It is not enough to stop Erdogan, the anti-worker palace regime must be overthrown. …The decisive mobilization of the masses not only at the ballot box but also on the streets can ensure the defeat of the palace regime.

In light of all this, we call on our working people not to vote for the alliance of Erdogan, Bahceli, and other reactionary partners in the elections. We say that Erdogan must be defeated at the ballot box to overthrow the palace regime. The people mobilized to overthrow Erdogan in the presidential election are rallying around Kemal Kılıcdaroglu. In this process, we will accompany the masses mobilizing against the palace regime, without forgetting that real freedom is only in the hands of the working class. We will be on the streets and at the ballot boxes against any attacks during and after the election.”[x]

The above lines also apply to the second round. We have no confidence in Kılıcdaroğlu and the bourgeois understanding of politics he represents, but we must first defeat Erdogan in the election to stop the authoritarian palace regime. Then we must protect our votes, our ballot boxes, and our streets. There are still many people who can be persuaded: laborers, women, and youth can be convinced to disengage from AKP politics. Kurds and the hopeless can still be persuaded to come to the polls. Of course, it is difficult but not impossible.

The political outcome, unless something changes in the second round of the presidential election, will most likely lead to the disintegration of the bourgeois opposition after a while. The right-wing of the bourgeois opposition, to the extent that it can maintain its existence, will seek its “fortune” somewhere in the ranks of the regime or in some other alliance. As a result of the elections, there is now a large right-wing majority in parliament that can easily approve the most reactionary laws and chauvinist-militarist policies, to the extent that it can count on the CHP, which had to share its power with small right-wing partners and in this sense lost power from the left. The influence of this right-wing majority will increase to the extent that the CHP fails to get rid of its “traditional” hesitations and fears in its relations with the HDP (YSP), whose votes and number of deputies decreased this time. If Erdogan wins a landslide victory, it will lead to the loss of the municipal elections a year later. And it would likely have a negative impact on the general mass struggle. Despair, in turn, will increase the fascists, the political Islamists, and the forces of counter-revolution.

In order to get out of this dark spiral, let’s leave the polls aside and build parties and organizations that turn towards the working class, women, and youth, and let’s unite existing struggles. Let us bring workers and their struggles together with the idea of socialism, which is the only salvation.


[i] AKP-Erdoğan’s Conservative and İslamist party.

[ii] MHP-Historical nationalist/fascist party.

[iii] Because the Kurdish party has been threatened with being closed down by the government, Kurdish and some socialist parties entered the election inside Green and Left Party-YSP.

[iv] Turgut Özal-ex premier minister, a neo liberal who lead Turkey in the second half of 1980s.

[v] CHP-Center-left republican party, whose leader is Kemal Kılıçdaroglu, th  presidential candidate of the bourgeois opposition.

[vi] (Split from MHP, center-right/nationalist party and second big party of bourgeois opposition.

[vii]Huda-Par-the party of the Turkey Hezbollah, which is a party of Kurdish radical Islamists. In the 1990 they killed hundreds of secular civilians and PKK defenders by torture.

[viii] http://www.kirmizigazete.org/2023/05/05/unutulan-bir-slogan-ozgurluk-iscilerle-gelecek/

[ix] Sinan Oğan and his alliance split from the MHP. This alliance’s popularity comes from its  anti-immigrant policy.

[x] http://www.kirmizigazete.org/2023/04/30/saray-rejimini-durduralim/

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