Sunday saw the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) fourth ordinary congress held in İstanbul’s new stadium, Türk Telekom Arena. Columnists all agreed it was a huge success for the party to fill the country’s biggest stadium as it also signaled the party’s possible victory in the next elections.
“The stadium where we are used to hearing football slogans was reverberating with political slogans. Although it was a very impressive one, it was a show, after all. Yet, as the obstacles to civilian politics are removed, there won’t be a need for these kinds of shows of power,” Sabah’s Mahmut Övür said. Holding the congress on May 27 was very meaningful as May 27, 1960 was the day of Turkey’s first coup d’état. Now that 52 years have passed, the AK Party sent a message that Turkey today has internalized democracy and that from now on, we are going to remember the anti-coup civilian voices in the country’s biggest stadium.
In his article titled “AK Party sets a higher standard [of congress attendees],” Ruşen Çakır from the Vatan daily said he has always thought that İstanbul was almost a representation of Turkey and that a party’s İstanbul provincial congress signaled a lot about the general position and power of that party. In that sense, he said, based on Sunday’s event the AK Party proved itself to be quite powerful. Comparing the congress with those of the now-defunct Welfare Party (RP), of which Erdoğan was once a member, Çakır said the RP was also known for its well-organized congresses and large attendance. The AK Party has apparently inherited this skill from the RP, though there are differences between the two parties’ congresses. The RP was a relatively weak party whose only strength was its ideology. It had to expend more effort to fight against opposition parties, which was why it had to fill its congresses with people to demonstrate its power. The AK Party, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to need to seek more power than it already has, and today stands stronger than the RP once stood. The AK Party’s main strength is not its ideology, but the services it has rendered and reforms it has enacted thus far.
Radikal’s Koray Çalışkan noted that “Türk Telekom Arena is where Erdoğan was once jeered by some football fans during the stadium’s inauguration ceremony. It is not an ordinary stadium; it must have had a traumatizing effect on Erdoğan. That was what I was thinking while going to the congress on Sunday. However, I saw that it [the incident] had been left behind a long time ago. Now the whole stadium was shouting his name with one voice.”