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April 20, 2012, Friday

Politics without opposition

Last week an important public opinion poll was released by Metropoll Strategic and Social Research. The results are most interesting but tend to confirm what I have been detecting for some time in this country. We are experiencing a very unique situation in our political system as one party is extremely dominant and is conquering almost every section of our country in the gross absence of an opposition.

As a student of political science I am aware of similar cases in different political settings but such a situation in recent times in our country is unprecedented. Fellow columnist Markar Esayan has examined the awkward position of the Republican People's Party (CHP) vis-à-vis the Feb. 28, 1997 and Sept. 12, 1980 coups in his column. It attests once again to the inability of our political parties to change and adapt to Turkey's new Zeitgeist. This is most clearly seen in the CHP but the National Movement Party (MHP) is no better.

According to the Metropoll poll 65 percent of Turks think that the CHP is not representing the leftist and social democratic voter. This view is quite strong among CHP voters themselves as 50 percent of them agreed with this proposition. There is also the regret about their last vote at hand with 20 percent of MHP and 16 percent of CHP voters regretting to have voted for these parties in the June 12, 2011 election. These figures clearly confirm the notion that the center-left voter is very unhappy with the CHP. Now, that is not very original in itself as we have been hearing about such discontent for years now. But here is some data that might be of interest:

More than half of Turkish voters think there is a need to form a new party that would protect the values represented by the CHP with 54 percent of voters voting in favor of the idea and 39 percent opposed to it, which is also no small percentage. It would not be unfair to say that the center-left voter is confused.

The poll asked those who want a new party that represents the CHP's values, what sort of party they would like to see and the answers were diverse with 29 percent wanting a more democratic party, 28 percent want a party that is respectful to Turkish traditions and customs while 17 percent desire a more nationalist party while 16 percent want a more “Kemalist and Atatürkist entity.” Just 4 percent indicated they want to see a more leftist party in the new CHP.

Moving onto a more general plain the poll asked participants whether they feel there is an absence of opposition in this country. Lo and behold! 58 percent of samples said they believe there is an opposition vacuum. There are high percentages within opposition party voters that agree with this point. For instance 64 percent of CHP, 70 percent of MHP and 77 percent of BDP voters hold this view. Interestingly, 41 percent of AKP voters believe there is a need for an opposition party.

What do these figures allude to? They clearly point to the need for a credible opposition party to emerge. Such a party should be a centralist party that includes center-left and center-right. It should have a democratic discourse and distance itself from the CHP's statist platform. It cannot have any relationship or sympathy for the Feb. 28 or Sept. 12 coups or entertain any authoritarian nostalgia. It should be respectful to traditional Turkish customs and values. Most importantly, it should offer a credible policy on this country's most important problem -- the Kurdish issue.

Can this be done? No easy task given the conservative political class and the difficulties in bringing together such a coalition of people of center leftists and center rightists. However, it is also not impossible. Time will tell if we will get out of this cycle of politics without opposition.

Previous articles of the columnist