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Geopolitics

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, The Tranquil Force To Save Turkey's Democracy

The 74-year-old veteran politician has a solid chance of unseating Erdogan from power after 20 years. Kilicdaroglu has displayed the kind of calm and open attitude to save Turkish democracy.

Photo of Kemal Kilicdaroglu applauding during campaign event in Antalya, Turkey, 7 May 2023.

Presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Antalya on May 7.

Murat Sevinç

-OpEd-

ISTANBUL — The world may soon get to know Kemal Kilicdaroglu well. The leader of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) is the presidential candidate of the six-party opposition coalition challenging the lengthy rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Polls now show that the 74-year-old veteran politician and trained economist has a solid chance to garner more than 50% of the ballots in May 14 first round of voting to take the presidency.

If Kilicdaroglu is elected, we’ll witness a long transition period to replace Erdogan, who first rose to power as prime minister in 2003, before moving on to the presidency in 2014 after a Constitutional reform changed Turkey's democracy into a presidential system.

A Kilicdaroglu victory would be a new experience for Turkey, and some of it will be made up on the go — no matter how much planning may go into it.


As for the parliamentary elections, it looks like the combined seats of Kilicdaroglu's “People’s Alliance” and the leftist, pro-Kurdish “Labor and Freedom Alliance” should garner at least 301 seats for the basic majority in the 600-seat parliament. In case they pass to a 360-seat super-majority, the new government may push through Constitutional changes to return Turkey to the pre-2014 parliamentary system.

After 20 years of AKP rule

The optimistic scenario would find a far more active role for the public in the decisions of the state, after the 20 years of AKP rule. The confidence of the citizens will be sky high.

Let’s add the fact that the AKP electorate, who were silent in the face of years of party scandals, will again remember the primary principles of democracy.

I'm among the hopeful.

But that spirit of democracy also means that the new government bloc will face plenty of criticism and political opposition. All of this means that, if elected, Kilicdaroglu would have quite a complicated challenge ahead of him. From what we have seen over the past months of the campaign, with his patience and leadership style, I believe he will be up to the task. Let's be clear: there’s never any point in overpraising a politician which inevitably creates false expectations. Turkey has seen few politicians who did not all but lose their heads in office.

Still, looking at Kilicdaroglu days before the vote, I’m among the hopeful. Three years ago I wrote an article in which I argued that Kilicdaroglu was the natural "peacemaker” for the nation after Erdogan's failed attempt in that role. I still believe that.

Photo of Kilicdaroglu and his supporters

Kilicdaroglu and his supporters

Alp Eren Kaya/Depo Photos/ZUMA

Attitude counts

I think Kilicdaroglu's peaceful approach would mean more for Turkey’s democracy than any single choice of policy, or even constitutional system. No matter which political system you go with: Parliamentary, presidential or semi-presidential; eventually you need someone to lead that system, follow its rules, who would know his place, and never violate its principles.

No political system becomes democratic simply by the system itself. No less important for democracy is the the dominant mentality, style and the existence of a certain political culture. If the fact that millions of people have come to be apathetic in the face of deep and widespread corruption, this cannot be solved by a constitutional reform alone.

Nobody thinks of equating a general election to a coup.

Britain, for example, is a functioning democracy not because they invented the parliamentary system but because of the commitment to democratic principles. Or in France, millions protest the government, but few ever consider a general election to be a kind of "coup" as some have said in Turkey in recent weeks.

The biggest challenge ahead for the new administration would be combatting the culture of impunity that has been deeply entrenched in Turkish society. Kilicdaroglu, I believe, can lead that battle.

I’m not a dreamer, but you have to start somewhere. And if the challenger defeats the incumbent, the place to start will be with the calm face of the new president.

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ETHIC

Spain, A Perfect Political Graveyard Of Old Left And Right

If the Left is increasingly fighting to preserve hard-won social victories, and the Right wants change, what does the traditional Left-Right division mean anymore?

Poster of the PSOE ripped off on a wall in Madrid, Spain.

Torn posters of the PSOE for the May 28 elections, in Madrid, Spain.

Víctor Lapuente

-Analysis-

MADRID — It has long been said that the Left is more prone to rifts because its aim is to free people from all forms of exploitation. But now, it is the right which deals with the most infighting. Are they now the ones who want the most change, even if that change is made through cuts?

Take architects for example. Some debate about what to build on an empty plot of land, while others discuss how to preserve a building worn down by time. Finding a solution for the latter seems to be faster. Deciding what to create is harder than deciding what to preserve.

That is why, according to popular wisdom and analysis, the Left experiences more divisions than the Right.

Progressive politicians have a positive goal, while conservatives have a negative one. The Left wants to create a new world, and this opens up endless questions. Do we nationalize banks and certain industries? Do we design a social security system, or a Universal Basic Income? Do we cap prices on certain areas, such as rental housing, or do we let the market take its course and then assist the most affected sectors? The God of progress offers infinite paths.

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