As democracy has been "saved" by a narrow margin, a part of the focus will have to be on the necessary balancing of the scales. A considerable part of the pain within Turkey's "stop and go" democracy -- with its obstinate politicians who, more often than not, get lost in the forest because they gaze at the trees; more often than not, again, are in denial of admitting their loyalty to democracy as a system, still hoping to be backed by the civilian-military elite for the glory of power -- lies in the absence of a sworn democratic competition.
A sustained crisis in politics, at least until the Constitutional Court handed down its verdict in a closure case filed against the AK Party, had made the ground ripe for opportunism. Following in the footsteps of former prime ministers Tansu Çiller and Mesut Yılmaz, on the populist right, was Abdüllatif Şener, a co-founder of the AK Party who copped out to launch his "conservative" movement. But the verdict's aftermath indicates that he is doomed to be a loser, at least until the AK Party becomes the subject of a deeper political crisis, which now seems less likely than before.
The eyes are, therefore, on the left. But, which "left"? On that point, one needs to elaborate on identity, ideology, experience and program. The Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Democratic Left Party (DSP), as I have commented on time and again, have placed themselves as the "guardians" of the republic and its 1930s values, under the disguise of modernist Kemalism. The usage of Kemalism, for them and by them, has lost value and turned into robot talk. Since Kemalism has almost nothing to do with today's social democracy or democratic socialism, both the CHP and the DSP ridicule themselves when they speak in the name of these ideologies.
In all likelihood, the CHP will lose even more municipalities to the AK Party or to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while the DSP remains invisible.
There is an ongoing search in this painful vacuum. First of all, (social) liberals prefer to stay out of any party formation and choose to wait until there is a clear sign of a rise in the basket of alternatives. Secondly, the so-called "third path" left -- remnants of the '60s and '70s movements, armed or non-armed -- is not to be taken seriously; it is now buried waist-deep in the endless and fruitless discussion of whether the Ergenekon case -- which deals with wars, terror and coup attempts -- is something good for Turkish democracy or not. Like the clergy in the middle ages, it seems stuck on defining the sexuality of the angels. But with the restless Turkish society, it will inevitably be in need of alternatives. Increasing turmoil in the global economy will mar Turkey and the middle class will start to behave rationally, depending on how the AK Party manages the turmoil. Some segments of the middle classes either downright resent the CHP or vote for it unwillingly. The pollsters maintain the view that a "soft," democratic, renewed left has the potential to take some 30 percent of the vote. This is a considerable share of the vote, if true. If it loses by a large margin again, will there be changes in the CHP? Definitely not -- at least not without a large, devastating battle for party leadership. CHP leader Deniz Baykal is determined to remain at the top, and the manipulated structure of the party will not allow any internal alternative to rise. There are, outside the CHP and elsewhere, two more options.
The Dec. 10 Movement, launched by the Confederation of Revolutionary Workers' Unions (DİSK), is proceeding, with a declaration that it will become a political party. Led by academic Burhan Şenatalar, it is still small and moves in the margins. It failed grossly as it "mumbled" a lot on the closure case against the AK Party and keeps a remarkably low profile concerning the Ergenekon case. This attitude certainly does not help attract people who are searching for a party to vote for.
In the largely unchanged scenery of the "left," a leader -- highly populist and enormously popular -- stomps his feet. This is the mayor of İstanbul's Şişli district, Mustafa Sarıgül. His appearances draw large crowds and raise expectations among those seeking alternatives. In all likelihood, the local elections in March of next year will be the starting signal for Sarıgül, who is waiting for the right moment to strike against Baykal and the CHP's current leadership. He is still a member of the party, though this is being disputed in court. Baykal will not nominate him to be the candidate for mayor again, as was the case last time, so he will run as an independent. If he wins, and the CHP largely loses, Sarıgül will either start a crusade within the CHP or build a new party. So looks the picture of the alternative search within the "left." But, as the Turkish saying goes, "The rice will take in a lot more water."