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January 28, 2013, Monday

AK Party’s election calculations

How many votes will the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) lose because of resolving the Kurdish issue? Many analysts attribute the future of the ongoing negotiations with Imralı to the answer for this question. To this end, it should be noted that the AK Party leader takes the pulse of the voters through weekly polls and makes his decision on the resolution of the matter based on the public reaction as referred to in these polls. There will be three elections next year. The election marathon that will start with the local elections will end with the parliamentary elections in 2015. The major assumption is that the AK Party cannot consider losing an election.

But there is one problem in this analysis and assumption: The parties determine policies based on the voters' preferences; in general, this is true. But they also determine the voters' preferences as well. The AK Party pays attention to the second when it comes to the Kurdish policy. The tools it has and the ground it relies on are solid. It also has the power to shape the public opinion through media. The forces that would undermine its power when taking steps vis-à-vis the Kurdish issue have been removed and weakened.

The 11-year AK Party rule has created a state of self-confidence for the resolution of the Kurdish issue. The party pursues pragmatist polices that are compatible with the overall outlook of a mass party. When it faces resistance, the party steps back; but it never gives up on its ultimate goal. So far, it has pursued mid- and long-term policies and steps instead of short-term policies. These policies have been successful and raised confidence in the eyes of the voters. Those who have supported the AK Party wait for results even when they do not like their decisions or policies. For this reason, the instant reactions as evidenced by the public polls provide some insights for the AK Party, but they never determine its roadmap.

The AK Party does not seek solution like a regular political party. This party has a history, identity and major political choices. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is a politician who has been trained by the National Outlook (Milli Görüş) tradition, which has been strongly opposed to the racist and pro-assimilation policies of the nation-state. Erdoğan, during his service as mayor of İstanbul, made bold and radical statements on the resolution of the Kurdish issue. He represents a religious interpretation that opposes racism and ethnic discrimination by strong arguments.

The AK Party's identity, personality, past and the stability it represents today as well as its strong rule take it to a pretty advantageous point for a resolution. However, the AK Party's real advantage is attributable to the relative weakness of its competitors. There is no alternative to the AK Party in the resolution of the Kurdish issue. The turmoil and reaction caused by Birgül Ayman from the Republican People's Party (CHP) should be seen as the proof for this absence of an alternative. There is no left-wing party in Turkey that will resolve the Kurdish issue in a way that is consistent with universal humane values. The CHP, relying on an extremely racist and discriminative interpretation of the nation-state, fails to maintain minimum communication with the Kurds. The two opposition parties are in fierce competition with each other via nationalism that they view as opposition to the Kurds.

The AK Party emerges as the only plausible alternative in respect to the resolution of the issue because of the Nationalist Movement Party's (MHP) presence and its stable position in the political spectrum. The MHP's reference to every step towards solution as treason takes off the burden from the AK Party. In this case, the MHP turns into a pretext that the AK Party would refer to the Kurds. The attitude of denial that the MHP adopts based on mere objections and opposition makes it easier to define this party as scapegoat.

In short, the AK Party does not make any election calculations in resolving the Kurdish issue because there is no other party or center of attraction that would appeal to the voters. The AK Party feels comfortable and relieved because of the weakness of its competitors. 

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