Turkey’s six-party opposition electoral alliance sees President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s executive presidency, brought in five years ago after a controversial constitutional referendum, as having become “one-man rule” and, on January 30, they unveiled a plan to restore the country’s parliamentary democracy.
With parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for May 14, the coalition, referred to as the Nation Alliance' or the "Table of Six'', will announce the name of the challenger they think can dislodge Erdogan from his two-decade-long place at the helm and set about rescuing Turkey from what they describe as "one of the most serious administrative and economic crises in the [100-year] history of the republic".
However, many critics see the Table of Six as having been slow out of the blocks. Given that observers fear Turkey’s elections will be far from fair, there is anxiety that the opposition has already squandered much of its political capital even before the phoney war ahead of the polls is over.
Consulting and advisory firm Teneo said in a note to investors issued ahead of the publication of the Table of Six’s plan that “polls highlight voter frustration with inflation, the state of the economy, and Erdogan’s management of the economy over the past few years. However, the opposition has miserably failed to capitalize on these factors”.
It added: “After around a year of talks, six allied opposition parties – the so-called “Table of Six – T6” – have neither managed to select a candidate for the presidential election nor put forward an effective campaign to attract voters. Ideological differences, personal animosities, big egos and a lack of organization have hampered the T6’s drive to unseat Erdogan and his AKP.”
Erdogan’s biggest advantage, continued Teneo, “remains the opposition itself”.
“Against the [Erdogan-led] People’s Alliance’s strategy stands a confused, fragmented, uninspiring opposition bloc that is unwilling and unable to engage with a decisive actor: the pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party, or HDP [the third largest party in parliament]. By doing so, the opposition alliance keeps itself crippled.”
The programme presented by the Table of Six runs to 2,300 points.
Faik Oztrak, a deputy head of the main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, was quoted by DW as saying: "We will shift to a strengthened parliamentary system for a strong, liberal, democratic and just system in which the separation of powers is established."
There would be, he said, an increased role for parliament and an independent judiciary. The Table of Six would also most likely bring back the post of prime minister.
In addition to CHP, the opposition alliance, includes the Good (IYI) Party, Felicity Party, Democrat Party, The Democracy and Progress Party and Future Party.
Western powers have said little about the upcoming elections, in which Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) will line up with its ultra-nationalist ruling coalition ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), in the People’s Alliance.
But US President Joe Biden suggested in an interview conducted during his 2020 election campaign that Washington should help "elements" of the Turkish opposition "take on and defeat Erdogan", whom he referred to as an “autocrat”.
Turkey’s application to join the European Union, meanwhile, is in the deep freeze given Erdogan’s sweeping purges against opponents and refusal to respect rulings from the European Court of Human Rights that call for the release of jailed dissidents.
The fact that around 90% of Turkey's media is now under the control of the government or its business allies will be one of Erdogan’s big advantages going into the polls.