Exterior evaluation of Turkish politics usually tends to give attention to the divide between political Islamism and secularism, between liberals and conservatives.
However Turkish politics immediately, there’s one ideology that’s represented throughout the board: nationalism.
Nationalists, within the type of the Nationalist Motion Celebration (MHP) and its chief Devlet Bahceli, are the principle allies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Former MHP members who break up with the social gathering over its assist for Erdogan went on to type the Iyi Celebration in 2017, now a key a part of the opposition alliance.
One other ex-MHP member, Sinan Ogan, has been labelled as the “kingmaker” forward of the presidential run-off scheduled for Might 28 after he surprisingly received greater than 5 p.c within the first spherical of presidential elections on Sunday.
After which there are nationalists of a distinct flavour – left-wing Kurdish nationalists of the Peoples’ Democratic Celebration (HDP), who fought the election beneath the banner of the Yesil Sol Celebration.
Even earlier than Ogan’s emergence, the presence of Turkish nationalists on the centre of the 2 fundamental alliances that fought the elections has allowed the ideology to have a better impact on each side of the controversy.
It has led to a more durable push from each side to resolve the problem of roughly 3.7 million Syrian refugees dwelling in Turkey — with each Erdogan and his opponent within the presidential run-off, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, tacking to the suitable on the problem prior to now yr.
A mix of anti-refugee sentiment and financial hardships has even led to strain on politicians to ship Syrians again to their residence nation, regardless of the continuing rule there of President Bashar al-Assad, and even a spike in violence in the direction of folks perceived to be Syrian.
Turkish nationalists have additionally been in a position to seize on those self same financial issues to foment xenophobic attitudes in the direction of different refugee and migrant populations, and anti-Arab attitudes are additionally on the rise, each on the left and the suitable.
Ogan himself has already referenced “terrorism” as a purple line for his assist within the second spherical – a transparent reference to Kurdish teams. Whereas Erdogan’s AK Celebration included politicians from the predominantly Kurdish Huda-Par Islamist social gathering in its parliamentary candidate lists, this shall be extra of an issue for Kilicdaroglu, who obtained an enormous quantity of assist from HDP voters and can wrestle to win over Ogan voters with out shedding Kurdish assist.
Islamic motion changed by nationalism?
Turkish nationalism has all the time been current within the post-Ottoman Republic of Turkey however actually gained its personal distinct path after the emergence of former military colonel Alparslan Turkes within the Nineteen Sixties.
Turkes based the MHP, which, together with its paramilitary organisation, the Gray Wolves, fought leftist teams within the Seventies. The Gray Wolves has gone on to be designated a “terrorist” group in Kazakhstan and banned in France, with requires a “terrorist” designation to even be utilized within the wider European Union and america. The Turkish authorities has denied the group’s existence.
Whereas the MHP has moderated beneath Bahceli, it’s nonetheless thought-about to be a hardline nationalist motion, the presence of which has pushed the Turkish authorities additional to the suitable.
This was not all the time the case – the MHP opposed Erdogan’s peace course of with the Kurdistan Staff’ Celebration (PKK) within the early 2010s.
However from 2015 onwards, as soon as the peace course of broke down, and significantly after the failed coup towards Erdogan in 2016, the MHP grew to become a agency ally.
In that sense, the MHP changed the group that has largely been blamed for the coup, the Gulenists – who had been as soon as Erdogan’s shut companions.
Bahceli has changed figures like former president Abdullah Gul and former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, males who had been pivotal in Erdogan’s rise however who finally break up with him.
Davutoglu himself was well-known for his ‘zero issues with neighbours’ overseas coverage. The Arab Spring, and a need to assist teams with a background in political Islam, equivalent to Ennahda in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, ended that.
However the progress in energy of the nationalist narrative additionally contributed to Turkey entrenching itself militarily combating the PKK and its associates in Syria and Iraq, whereas a need to venture Turkish energy has additionally seen disputes emerge exterior of the Center East, most notably within the jap Mediterranean.
All of it implies that whereas Erdogan’s roots in political Islam can by no means be discounted and proceed to be enticing to home conservatives, Turkish nationalism is arguably the stronger ideology throughout the Turkish authorities and can proceed to be going ahead.
What comes subsequent?
Erdogan is now anticipated to win the run-off towards Kilicdaroglu on Might 28, having defied the expectations of the pollsters to emerge inside a proportion level of profitable the presidential election within the first spherical outright.
However the Turkish chief, who has led the nation for 20 years, will flip 70 subsequent yr and shall be 74 on the time of the following presidential election in 2028. Ideas will certainly be turning to who his successor shall be.
It’s a massive downside for the AK Celebration, which seems rudderless with out Erdogan. Whereas his reputation has typically held regular, the social gathering’s has dipped, shedding voters to nationalist events.
Inside the social gathering, nobody has Erdogan’s gravitas or reputation.
Some analysts predict that because of this the trail will open for a member of the Republican Individuals’s Celebration (CHP), maybe somebody like Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, and that Erdogan’s successor will come from the left.
However it’s Turkish nationalism that’s on the ascendancy, in each the federal government and opposition camps, which makes it extra probably that successor will emerge from the suitable.