Football is exceedingly popular in Trabzon. Everybody is a football fan and every fan is a coach or referee in their own right. Everybody talks about football constantly in the town 24/7. In this context, there is an expression I like: whatever Trabzonspor is to Trabzon, that is what politics are to people in Türkiye. That is, politics in Türkiye are not only followed during election times, as is the case in Europe.
Since the daily life of people in Türkiye is highly affected by the successful administration of the state, whether it is in eligible hands is a primary interest of the Turkish people. For this reason, a dozen news channels start and finish every evening with political discussions. The commentators do not tire of talking while the audience does not get bored of following politics. Political debates arise as if there is an election every week in Türkiye. Therefore, the people follow the political trends very closely.
Although the public follows politics primarily through government actions, it is necessary to understand what the opposition is saying from time to time. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has completed two decades in power. And during these 20 years, it came to the fore with its public investments and local services. The AK Party introduced itself mainly through its actions rather than its rhetoric. On the other hand, the opposition parties only criticized the adverse aspects of the government’s activities rather than introducing their suggestions, hence setting forth their vision for the said idea or action.
AK Party stays on track
In the wake of a period marked by the coronavirus pandemic, the Ukraine-Russia war had adverse impacts on the Turkish economy as it did on all world economies. The opposition parties increased their criticism during this period, and these critiques were able to attract public interest. In response, the government would choose one of two paths. One was to continue to serve the citizens with their investments and actions, as they have done so far. The other was to abandon its traditional policy and engage more in polemics with the opposition to pursue rhetorical politics. The government chose the first way.
While the government is conducting high-level diplomatic efforts and achievements in international relations, it wants to deliver the natural gas in the Black Sea to the country and people before the election. On the other hand, it wants to expand its sphere of influence in Syria by filling the vacuum left by Russia’s withdrawal. In addition to such international efforts related to hard power, Türkiye also made a revolutionary decision and started the search for natural gas in its exclusive economic area in the Eastern Mediterranean. The fact that the drilling ship was named after Sultan Adbülhamid Han allegorically refers to an old discussion initiated by Good Party (IP) members who were trying to glorify the Jacobian Union and Progress Party (Ittahat ve Terakki) of the Ottomans while disrespecting Adbülhamid Han. Sultan Adbülhamid Han ruled the Ottoman Empire for 33 years until 1909, during the depression years. The ruler was trying to maintain a balanced foreign politics to buy time until the outbreak of a world war he knew was approaching.
In essence, the AK Party government is on its way to establishing unity throughout the country as it continues its fight against the cost of living and resumes its investments and services. While doing so, the AK Party is aware that it must deal with the flaming economy and is thus trying to enact some permanent measures.
Voter’s conscious choice
Despite the efforts being evident on the government front, the opposition parties are speaking out against the government’s actions. Neither in the field of international relations nor the economy nor in the context of social welfare or individual wealth, the opposition has not set forth a single vision to address essential topics in the country, whether it be social policies, health or education.
Less than a year before the election, the people, on the one hand, evaluate the government’s performance and account for the 20-year balance sheet. On the other hand, they wonder what the opposition parties are saying. But until now, the opposition parties have failed to produce any tangible visions or proposals. The voters may not base their decision just on their anger when they get to the ballot box. They will look at what both the government and the opposition are doing and promising and will decide accordingly.
In several opinion polls last year, we saw that the AK Party experienced decreases in votes from time to time. However, the AK Party’s declines are not permanent as in previous governments. The rate of votes returns to the AK Party’s normal levels or even gets higher when there is progress in the economy, international relations or any other area. As a result, we can say that this remarkable phenomenon is unique to the AK Party governments when looking at all governments that ever ruled in the country.