Through the fragmentation of the Nationalist Movement Party, IYI Party found a space to reproduce and hide old fashioned right wing policies under liberal demands. IYI Party centralizes this contr...
Through the fragmentation of the Nationalist Movement Party, IYI Party found a space to reproduce and hide old fashioned right wing policies under liberal demands. IYI Party centralizes this contradiction as a party policy.
A new party emerged and was involved in the opposition bloc in Turkey on October 25th 2017, when certain members of the government ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) ended their loyalty for their ‘Başbuğ’ -a title that refers specifically to the leader of the far right Grey Wolves organization and its political offset MHP- and created a replicate of MHP’s political opposition period of the party’s position in 2014. This new movement called ‘IYI’ Party would set the start for the fragmentation of right wing parties in Turkey. The former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and former Minister of Economy Ali Babacan also later formed their own parties under the titles of Future Party and DEVA Party by splitting up from the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP). However in the case of IYI Party, the fact that it was led by a woman, Meral Akşener surely became a new experience for the far right voters in Turkey when one considers the male-dominated atmosphere of both general politics and specially the right wing politics.
GETTING TO KNOW MERAL AKŞENER
Akşener’s affiliation with the far-right politics of Turkey was partially possible through her brother’s own affiliation with MHP and the right-wing politics of the time. Akşener made her debut to the Right Path Party (DYP) as the chair of DYP’s woman’s branch and later elected as a member of parliament from Kocaeli in 1995. Akşener quickly developed her ties within the party and exceptionally with the Chair of DYP, -another influential woman figure in Turkish politics- Tansu Çiller at the time.
APPOINTMENT OF AKŞENER AS THE MINISTER OF INTERIOR
After the Susurluk scandal revealing connections of the deep state, corruption and criminal networks; Mehmet Ağar resigned from his position as the Minister of Interior and Akşener made it into the cabinet of Tansu Çiller as the succeeding Minister of Interior. As a necessity of this special relation between Akşener and Çiller, newly appointed Minister of Interior Akşener not only tried to whitewash the legacy of Mehmet Ağar but also helped Çiller gain more ground against former DYP chair and President of the Republic Süleyman Demirel. The conflict between Demirel and Çiller had become evident after Demriel’s appointment as the President of Turkey and Çiller’s ascension to the position of Chairperson of DYP. This very conflict floated to the surface of Turkish politics as a bureaucratic tug of war, when the Minister of Interior Akşener fired Alaaddin Yüksel who was the Chief of General Directorate of Police at the time. The Minister of Interior would later break the door of Yüksel’s office, which was locked and empty as Alaaddin Yüksel did not visit his office, while President Demirel addressed a letter supporting the Chief of General Directorate of Security Yüksel.
POLICE SPYING THE ARMY AND THE INTELLIGENCE SERVICE
After the ending of a military briefing on April 26th by the National Security Committee (MGK), a note that was compiled of two parts without a signatory or a name, was found. The first part of the note was a record on the entries to the Turkish General Army Command, while the second part reported the entries into the National Intelligence Service of Turkey (MİT). Even though the note seemed as if it did not belong to anyone, it was realized that the Minister of Interior Meral Akşener was sitting at the place where the note was found during the briefing and she had forgotten the note on the table. The note later was revealed to have been organized by the Intelligence Department Chair of the General Directorate of Police Bülent Orakoğlu, who was appointed by Meral Akşener.
INCITING ETHNIC HATRED
Meral Akşener made no concessions on giving away her attitude towards minorities and non-muslims, which is foundational to her right-wing background and ideology. During a speech in the Turkish Parliament, Akşener claimed that the leader of PKK, Abdullah Öcalan was an ‘Armenian offspring’ and as a result put all Armenians living in Turkey under threat from right-wing extremists by targeting the Armenian community with her false claims.Akşener’s false claim on the ethnic origin of Öcalan was not a coincidental occurrence, the right-wing population of Turkey was already mobilized and heated up against attacks from PKK and the general ethnic conflict occurring in the eastern provinces of Turkey at the time. With hate-motivated rhetoric timed during such ethno-centric conflicts, Akşener chose not to provide solutions to societal conflicts but rather to further consolidate hatred towards the Armenian community of Turkey that already suffered from racism and ignorance. On December 23rd 2015, Akşener admitted her racist remarks towards Armenians to be “a flaw that required an apology” during her interview on CNN Türk’s “Tarafsız Bölge” [Neutral Zone] program.
WELCOMING ASSASINATION CLAIMS
During a rally in Balıkesir, Akşener stated that certain individuals were opposing her to hold the Chairperson position in MHP because “she is in charge of unsolved assassinations” during the period of her appointment as the Minister of Interior. Regarding such accusations she continued her speech by stating “Say whatever you want, I welcome all” and went further to add that “If there was a thing to be done in order to protect the unity and solidarity of this nation, I had done it. I am also taking the responsibility to the end”.
RESIGNATION FROM DYP AND THE SPLIT WITH MHP
DYP İstanbul Province Chair of the time Süleyman Soylu -who is currently the Minister of Interior in AKP’s cabinet- along with 32 other DYP Province Chairs demanded the resignation of Akşener from the party. After ending her relationship with DYP, Akşener entered the Turkey’s Grand National Assembly from MHP in 2007 and 2011. In 2016, Akşener was disbarred from MHP by the orders of the party Chair Devlet Bahçeli. After a wave of resignations from MHP, the ex-members found themselves under a new political movement called ‘IYI Party’.
AN INCONSISTENT PARTY PROGRAM
The party program of IYI Party -‘İyi’ actually means ‘good’ in Turkish but the party capitalizes all the letters so it resembles Kayı clan’s archetypical insignia that is used as a sign within the ultra-nationalist circles of Turkey- reveals an unsuccessful attempt of a new wave of right-wing populism trying to consolidate centralized right wing values with the liberal demands of the Turkish youth and creating an ideological oxymoron structure in itself as a result.This inconsistent textual conflict primarily unravels itself in the “Education” section, where the 3rd and 4th articles on the party program state that children will be brought up with “national values” (pg. 8) and the “Establishment of the foundational republic values starting with education” (pg. 8) respectively. However, on page nine we see the party program encouraging a youth that is “free, critical thinking” (6th article), putting the educational system “out of every political debate and interference” (8th article) and “creation and adaptation of a human centered educational philosophy” (article 12th on ‘Education’ section at pg. 9).The foundational mechanism that creates the ‘ideologically oxymoron structure’ is the ambiguity in terms of a definitive coherent ideological stance or statement, which allows party leaders to manipulate contemporary demands towards an old-fashioned right-wing social design. The above-mentioned case becomes a primary example of this explanation, in which the ‘Education’ section of the party program starts with fundamental right-wing notions and then tries to establish loose connections with individualist demands through simultaneously changing and even conflicting articles in the party program as shown in the ideological opposition of 3rd and 4th articles against 6th, 8th and 12th articles. The conflicting connection here being the fact that the establishment of republic values, which is an ideological stance in itself, in education is the first and foremost challenge for the 8th article in terms of cleansing the educational system “out of every political debate” as stated in the party program.Therefore, by establishing these self-challenging principles IYI Party does not in fact try to remedy these new demands but rather to give an outlook that is seemingly carrying such demands to the party program. However, all those demands are left on a tokenistic level as the oxymoron structures dismantle coherent ideological statements which would normally resolve these articles in a definite unison of content rather than conflicting articles as stated above.A similar inconsistency and failure of unison between the liberal demands and the right-wing indoctrination can be seen in the ‘Youth’ section of the party program, in which IYI Party designates its own understanding of the Turkish youth.The 2nd article of the ‘Youth’ section embodies this ideological inconsistency simultaneously in a single line that envisions the Turkish youth to be “Loyal to Atatürk’s principles, free thinking, self-deciding, critical” and the last article in the section is making sure that “All measures are taken by our party for them [the Turkish Youth] to spend the abundant times of juvenescence in the most right and effective way” (pg. 23).The ideological inconsistency embodied in the 2nd article lies within the oxymoron structure of loosely connected terminologies that expects the Turkish youth to be ideologically “loyal to Atatürk’s Principles” while envisioning the same youth to be “free thinking” and “critical” which would be impossible to conduct under such dependent conformities to ideological principles stated in the 2nd article, as well as in the last article of the ‘Youth’ section that authorizes the party itself to mandate its will on the question of utilizing the abundant time that would be left for the Turkish youth itself to decide if IYI Party was committed in its vision of a “self-deciding” youth.Conclusively, the party aims to portray an outlook that seemingly empathizes with the young voters but in fact the program is in an effort of concealing and making right-wing doctrines more acceptable under ideologically oxymoron statements. This becomes evident in the content of the questions that IYI Party deputies have inquired towards Turkish Ministers.First instance, IYI Party Adana Deputy Ismail Koncuk’s inquiry on whether places named after Atatürk will contain their previous naming or be altered when National Gardens (Millet Bahçesi project initiated by the ruling AKP) are built upon those existing buildings, while IYI Party Antalya Deputy Feridun Bahşi has inquired his stress addressing the Minister of Education Ziya Selçuk regarding mandatory history classes being turned into elective classes. Both these inquiries are not only a requirement of the right-wing ideology that mandates a protective attitude towards archetypal symbolism and official historic narrative but also a requirement of an article in the IYI Party Program under the ‘Culture and Art’ section that reads as “Special efforts will be shown on the cultural codes and cultural archetypes of the Turkish nation” (pg. 17).In that matter, Adana Deputy İsmail Koncuk’s insistence on preserving the name of ‘Atatürk’ makes complete sense as he tries to protect the established order between the space (buildings that National Gardens are planned to be built upon) and the archetypal symbolism as ‘Atatürk’ literally translates to ‘father of Turks’ thus the naming alludes to a claim of historic legacy. Meanwhile, the stress of IYI Party Antalya Deputy Feridun Bahçi is putting towards the continuity of the official historic narrative in educational institutions as an optional elective choice, would leave the decision of consuming the official narrative to the student.Finally, while both examples are related to the above-mentioned article in the party program that tries to protect the archetypal narrative, the second example regarding IYI Party Antalya Deputy is also related to the ‘ideological oxymoron’ that was previously mentioned. In this case, the ideological oxymoron that is seemingly liberal, 2nd article of the ‘Youth’ section in the party program nominally envisions a ‘self-deciding’ youth as stated above, takes an opposite turn in order to actualize the foundational right-wing values of the party by abandoning the liberal promises stated in the party program as the Antalya Deputy would normally welcome the optional electives as it hands over the decision process to the Turkish youth but he rather takes a centralized right-wing attitude by trying to preserve the mandatory form of history classes.
ÜMİT ÖZDAĞ: A ‘CHAMPION’ OF ANTI-IMMIGRANT POLICIES
One of the core values of the party and a main principle that differentiates IYI Party from MHP and other right-wing parties is their clear stance on anti-immigrant policies. IYI Party Istanbul Deputy Ümit Özdağ is actively pushing forward xenophobic rhetoric and action in the Turkish parliament. Özdağ initiates the archetypal identity design via an urgency on securitization along with xenophobic paranoia which becomes his main mechanism for an ethnically homogenized vision of the Turkish society. Concerns regarding ethnic homogeneity becomes evident in Ümit Özdağ’s inquiry towards Vice President Fuat Oktay, with questions on ‘the fertility rate of Syrian women under provisional protection’ and ‘the size of the lands sold to Syrians’. However, it is Ümit Özdağ’s parliamentary addresses that the alienating attitudes towards immigrants become the most visible through his arguments on securitization.During a parliamentary budget meeting in 2018, Özdağ makes a case towards providing a higher budget for the intelligence service with the reasoning that “There are 4 million Syrians in Turkey and we do not know how many of them are in the payment list of the Syrian intelligence service” (Özdağ’s address during the budget meeting, December 11th, 2018) and through this hostile discourse civilian immigrants are targeted with paranoid argumentations and turned into ‘potential risk groups’ that are deemed as a threat to the collective security, while Özdağ’s claim about Syrian intelligence service activity in Turkey does not have any real-life equivalence considering that the Syrian intelligence service could not even prevent the creation of paramilitary organizations within Syria’s own borders let alone operating in Turkey. That is why Özdağ is only able to refer to two instances on the Syrian Intelligence activity inside Turkey during his speech and just one of those references, the terror attack in Reyhanlı on May 11th 2013, is related to the period of Syrian Civil War while the other reference dates back to 1986 preceding the civil war and the Syrian refugee crisis.Also, IYI Party Istanbul Deputy Ümit Özdağ has consecutively targeted Syrian immigrants in Turkey for allegedly being a threat against ‘the demographic unity’ of the country. With a rhetoric paralleling that of ethnic supremacists, Ümit Özdağ consolidates hatred towards Syrian immigrants with his dystopian envisions during his speech in 2018 that states “Syrians constitute enormous threats in short, mid and long term that could change the national, cultural, politic and geopolitical structure of Turkey. Syrian immigrants populate in a pace that would change the cultural and ethnic fabric of Turkey” and even stating that the immigrant crisis was planned and fabricated by Pentagon, during a speech in 2019, “Dear deputies, in a report prepared by Pentagon in 1997, updated in 2007 and presented to the Turkish Armed Forces in 2014 states that: ‘Due to climate change, the icebergs are melting, new trade routes are opening, the climate change is affecting the security of United States. Eastern Mediterranean, from the south of Italy, from Iran to Afghanistan including Turkey will be droughted; 46 countries will be under threat, great migrations from south to north will take place …’ In summary, things we are facing today are envisioned, a designed processes.” (Özdağ’s address to the parliament on October 15th, 2019).Finally, during a parliamentary address this year Ümit Özdağ has stated that “A change in demographics is happening against Turkey through strategic migration architecture” and claimed that “the demographic structure of Turkish cities will change by 2040 and will turn into provinces dominated by Arabs rather than Turkish cities.” (IYI Party Deputy Ümit Özdağ’s address to the parliament, on February 20th, 2020).
POSSIBLE UNIFICATION WITH THE RULING ALLIANCE?
It is not a new phenomenon for IYI Party Chair Meral Akşener to be involved in a political structure that the current President Erdoğan is also a part of. Before her political career in MHP, Akşener was temporarily involved with a new political movement lead by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Abdullah Gül and Abdullatif Şener, which would later be called the Justice and Development Party (AKP), all of the latter had departed from Erbakan’s conservative Fazilet Party and had fragmented the political Islamist movement in Turkey. However, Akşener refused to stay in this new movement for she had objections about the structure of it and she had joined MHP afterwards.On May 10th 2020, IYI Party Chair Akşener made a call to President Erdoğan, Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, MHP Chair Devlet Bahçeli, Felicity Party (Saadet Partisi) Chair Temel Karamollaoğlu, Future Party (Gelecek Partisi) Chair Ahmet Davutoğlu and DEVA Party Chair Ali Babacan, in order to form the ‘Motherland Board’ (Memleket Masası) to discuss the current problems of Turkey while Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was excluded and thus the Kurdish voters were indirectly alienated from being involved into a collective platform.On the other hand, IYI Party Chair Meral Akşener made a clear objection towards MHP Chair Devlet Bahçeli’s ‘calls to return home’ and stated that it was impossible for IYI Party to join the ruling alliance under the current Presidential regime. However, would it really be impossible for the alliance to pull the IYI Party to the People Alliance of AKP and MHP?Hardest topic of negotiation would be Meral Akşener’s demands of return to the parliamentary system, in a hypothetical attempt of coalition negotiations. Since, the current Presidential regime is a must for the ruling coalition to easily consolidate legislative and political power. Also, ruling AKP’s pro-immigrant policies are a principal difference between the coalition and IYI Party. Meanwhile, it would be safe to say that currently there are no fundamental ideological differences between AKP, MHP and IYI Party, which provides a healthy ground for a possible extended coalition, especially when we consider most IYI Party deputies are ex-MHP deputies and how all the three parties have negative stances on HDP while the opposition alliance partner CHP differentiates itself from IYI Party regarding approach to HDP.Conclusively, it would require AKP and MHP as the ruling coalition to give up the current Presidential regime or at least soften it towards a more parliamentary system and also take major steps towards transferring the migrant population in Turkey back to Syria, in order to initiate conditions which would be negotiable or even convincing for IYI Party to include itself in the ruling coalition.
Written by Dikran Damar