Tensions run high before Turkish general election

The Turkish general elections on Sunday will be a decisive event for Turkey and the Middle East. The economic boom that the AKP government based itself on for more than a decade is coming to an end and a never-ending series of internal conflicts and corruption scandals have eroded the popularity of Erdogan.

For the past years the country has become highly polarised as a large part of the population have been alienated by Erdogan's increasing authoritarianism, his creeping Islamisation of the country as well as his Imperialist foreign policy adventures.

Erdogan has also become increasingly arrogant and flamboyant. The building of a gigantic palace which could end up costing up to 2 billion dollars puts him in stark contradiction to the workers of Turkey who have come under unbearable economic pressures. Recently, the government-controlled Turkish Statistical Institute (TUIK) released a survey, stating that 22.4% of households, or nearly a quarter of Turkey’s population, live below the poverty line. These are of course official figures which will be tilted to the benefit of the government. According to the TÜRK-İŞ trade union federation, almost 50 percent of the Turkish population lives below the poverty line.

This has created a deep mood of anger and resentment, especially amongst the youth who have been sharply radicalised. This mood was reflected in the Gezi park movement which at its height drew in hundreds of thousands against the Erdogan regime. The movement died down as a clear lead was not shown by the trade unions or any of the opposition parties.

akp-offices-attacked-somaPeople attacking AKP offices after the Soma mining disasterLast year the Soma mining disaster also sent shock waves across Turkish society. This mood however was not channelled into a national movement by the trade unions who, in spite of calling for a general strike, did not do anything to carry it out. More recently other groups have also moved into struggle. In April and May thousands of metal workers, although violently opposed by their own union, launched a militant struggle across a series of key car factories and other metal works.

In spite of enormous pressures, the mood under the surface has not been able to find an organised outlet through any of the existing mass organisations. The main opposition party, the CHP, to which many Turkish youth were looking, was criminally hesitant and hands-off during the Gezi movement. At the same time, instead of appealing to the revolutionary sentiments developing amongst the youth, they turned to the right. They put forward a liberal programme for the local elections of 2014 and united with the right-wing MHP to field a right wing candidate for the presidential elections last autumn - a candidate, that is, with a significant islamic profile.

Thus the party which had the hopes of thousands of youth and radicalised has been discredited in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of workers and youth. Its flirtation with islamic rhetoric in particular have alienated many of its traditionally secular backers.

In this vacuum, the The Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) party has stepped in and become a focal point for a significant layer or the population. At its core the HDP is formed by the pro-Kurdish Democratic Regions Party (BDP), however the HDP is a national party which does not base itself on support coming from Kurdish people alone. This is a big step forward for the Kurdish movement that the Marxists fully support. We have always stated that the only way to achieve real liberation for the Kurdish masses was to form a revolutionary class-based alliance with the rest of the Turkish working class.

By basing itself on a radical class-based rhetoric, the HDP has been able to gain more support than any party with Kurdish heritage before it. At the same time, it has managed to draw in thousands of Turkish left wing youth who have been unable to find a political point of reference for many years.

The HDP has run its present campaign on a very radical programme. Aside from several prominent Gezi park activists running as its candidates, they have also stood on a radical programme. On the one hand they have promised to stop Erdogan changing the constitution in order to concentrate power in his own hands as president, and on the other hand they have raised very radical social and economic demands.

While the CHP, pushed to the left by the radicalism of the HDP, promised to raise the minimum wage from about 1000 TL (Turkish Lira) to 1500 TL, the HDP promised to increasing this amount to 1,800 TL, as well as offering the same for the minimum retirement pension. Another striking election promise has been to decrease weekly working hours from the current 45 hours to 35 hours without any salary loss. This has put great pressure on the CHP which has had to move its rhetoric to the left, They are however, not convincing many people.

A whole layer of people are also rallying to vote for the HDP in order to help them pass the 10 percent electoral threshold. This would make it virtually impossible for Erdogan to gather enough votes to change the constitution and possibly even to form a government. Other layers, however, are sceptical of the HDP, noting that the party did not criticize Erdogan during the presidential elections and that the party officially distanced itself from the Gezi movement at the time it took place. For this layer, the HDP’s sudden strong opposition to Erdogan and its support for the “spirit of Gezi” is still not fully convincing.

Although the Erdogan regime still enjoys considerable support, especially in the most underdeveloped areas of Turkey, it is clear that its support has been eroding and that this will be one of its weakest elections since first taking power in 2002. If the HDP gets into the Turkish parliament, this will be a qualitative shift in the situation in Turkey and a major blow to Erdogan, who might not be able to form a government without forming a coalition. Erdogan, for his part, will stop at nothing to secure his presidential rule, which is often likened to the revival of the Ottoman sultanate and upon which he is betting everything.

But, having the mentality of a thug, if his plans are disrupted he might not take it well. However, if he reacts drastically by rigging the vote, or by increasing anti-Kurdish attacks (many HDP offices have been targeted by state-organised anti-Kurdish attacks recently) and rhetoric he would risk setting off explosive events.

The pressure has reached a new high in Turkish society. Sooner or later this will have to be resolved. The main factor is the steep rise in poverty and the ruthless exploitation of the Turkish working class. Along with the authoritarian and corrupt nature of the regime, this factor is preparing explosions which will reverberate throughout the Middle East.