The latest statement of the Communist Party of Turkey on re-do elections in Istanbul said the communists will not be a part of the reactionary policies adopted by the main political actors and their parties, main opposition CHP and ruling AKP. TKP announced that the party members will not go to the polls considering that the two mayoral candidates echo each other on reactionary and pro-market policies.
"This is not a call for boycott, but a political attitude. Our Party is acting by knowing that the working people of Turkey will further need this attitude as of June 24," said the statement.
SoL news interviewed Kemal Okuyan, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), regarding TKP’s decision on the July 23 re-elections in İstanbul.
In a written statement issued on June 17, TKP announced that the party members would not go to the polls on June 23. Is the reason for this decision the Nation Alliance’s candidate Ekrem Imamoğlu’s performance in the recent TV debate?
Of course not. The party executives had made a decision before the TV program attended by People’s Alliance candidate Binali Yıldırım and the Nation Alliance’s candidate Ekrem İmamoğlu. And we did not make this decision in one day. In our first decision, we had explained that we would follow the developments and make a situation assessment on the political stance of the party. Those who read our first statement will remember that we also shared how and under what conditions TKP would act. It would be quite absurd for TKP to make a decision by watching a television program. But since you asked this question, let me tell you. I did not watch the live broadcast of the program. Yet I watched a detailed summary of the program. It is obvious that this television program was not made for the public to see the truth and decide accordingly. We heard that this "TV debate" was a part of the normalization efforts between the two parties [the AKP and main parliamentary opposition CHP], and it is clearly seen that these claims are true. There was not even a crumb of a ‘discussion’ during the television program. There is also a harsh truth, of course. A person, who saw İmamoğlu and Yıldırım on TV as the only options for Turkey while our people are struggling with serious problems in every aspect, would obviously give up hope of this country. Fortunately, this country is not only composed of these political lines.
The statement of TKP regarding the June 23 re-elections has been discussed almost more than the usurpation of universal suffrage. Isn't it weird?
Why? The TKP takes a political stance, and this stance is discussed widely. Wouldn’t it be weird for us if we consider it as a "weirdness"?
Yet it has almost turned into a smear campaign.
I stay away from social media as much as I can, so I may not have a good grasp of the critiques to our decision, but of course, I see that it has been discussed and criticized a lot. There is nothing surprising about it. People barely convince themselves, become part of something, and then they feel uncomfortable when they hear a different voice. We have already been waiting for this, and it’s not the first time. The TKP, of course, does not take such a stance to be different, but it often enters into a "contradictory" position [against the bourgeois political parties]. Therefore, we understand those who preferred to choose the first road presented to them in search of a ‘solution’ in despair, and their anger as well… We listen and talk to these people; sometimes convince them immediately, sometimes they acknowledge us to be right a year later. This is a part of our struggle. And there are those who wait for an opportunity to harm TKP. We owe them thanks; they cannot control themselves, and they are pushing those who have a beef with all these reactions. Last night, some people who are disturbed by the reactions to the TKP’s decision applied for the party membership.
Well, was it the time to announce such a statement? Why did TKP prefer not to be silent in this process?
We are a political party. Silent is not a political stance. Yes, you can follow a low-profile policy and prefer to remain in the background in certain issues, but the cancellation of elections in the biggest city of Turkey cannot be a matter to be ignored. TKP has already reduced the dose of its criticism and warnings to the Nation Alliance’s candidate in this process because of the sense of justice and the fact that our party considers Ekrem Imamoğlu as the Mayor of Istanbul. Yet, can there be a political party that doesn’t talk about its political stance in the elections? We did not call for a boycott. We didn’t ask people not to vote in this process. We just said that "TKP members will not vote". We will say more after the redo elections, not before! We will talk about what those people making false accusations against TKP actually think, people who said the right response was boycotting this unlawful decision. What negotiations were held before the elections and the developments in the media... Are we talking about these now? Imamoglu does not engage in deception to gain votes from the right-wing electorates. He is a convinced Islamist, a strong defender of free market capitalism, and quite frank in his political attitudes. Under normal circumstances, TKP as a revolutionary party in defense of the enlightenment and secularism would have stomped on such a political attitude. We don’t do it, because we said it many times: Imamoğlu is the Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. We express this reality because we protect universal suffrage. Complying with the AKP’s decision to annul the elections held on March 31 meant the explicit usurpation of the universal suffrage. Nevertheless, we express a small part of what we have to and need to say while waiting for the post-redo elections period. Yet, nobody should make wrong inferences from this. Some people may put aside their enlightened, patriotic, and republican sensitivities; but we will not. We don’t owe anything to anyone, and the TKP is not a political party to be ruled by media and community pressure.
Some accused TKP of playing into the hands of the political power with this decision, while some of them appreciated the party politics by saying ‘it is the right response’. How do you evaluate the reactions?
Why have we opposed this political power since the beginning? First of all, AKP is capitalist. Secondly, it is Islamist. And thirdly, it is a strong defender of NATO and of being its collaborator. In other words, AKP is anti-labor, reactionary, and pro-imperialist. We strongly believe that it is necessary to put the interests of the working class, the enlightenment, and patriotism against them. Power and opposition are relative concepts. Those who play into the political power’s hands are actually the political structure leading the large masses opposing AKP to rely upon market-based, pro-Islamist and pro-NATO/EU solutions.
You say "We are not going to go to the polls, but this is not a call for boycott". What does it mean?
There was no basis for a call for a boycott. The annulment of the March 31 local elections in Istanbul was an attack not only on Ekrem Imamoğlu but also on the universal suffrage. The government in power attacked the universal suffrage not only in Istanbul but also in other provinces of the country, and the election results have been ignored by the Turkish government. Undoubtedly, Istanbul is a very important city; there is a big challenge here. We have declared that the right response to this unlawful challenge is to boycott the redo elections but the issue has also a dimension apart from the universal suffrage: The attitude of the winning candidate of the March 31 local elections and his political party. In defiance of reconciliatory attitudes of Imamoğlu and the CHP, a boycott would not be realistic and would be constrained in many respects. We didn’t even try that. What we are saying now is that TKP considers Ekrem Imamoğlu as the Mayor of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, so we are not calling on people to boycott the redo elections. As TKP, we are not part of a platform that turns into preference between the AKP and CHP, or Binali Yıldırım and Ekrem İmamoğlu. We are faced with a unique situation. This is not an ordinary election. If it was, why would we withdraw our candidate? If we didn’t consider İmamoğlu as the Mayor of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and if we saw the June 23 as an ‘election’, there would be no need to argue that the TKP would have participated in the elections with its own candidate. One candidate has won the elections. This candidate is Ekrem İmamoğlu. The AKP government annulled the elections. We said that this was not legitimate, and the right response to this unlawful decision was to boycott the redo elections. Yet, the winner of the local elections insisted on participating in the re-elections, rejecting the boycotting. The TKP does not fight with this attitude but it is not a part of such a political stance as well. There is nothing to be understood. Some say, "How many members does TKP already have?" while some of them voice their concerns, saying "What if Binali Yıldırım wins because of your decision?"
Yes, some say so.
We are TKP; we are a different political party. What kind of an argument this is! Since they are convinced of the necessity and the impact of an electoral campaign they believe to persuade conservative voters while they are busy with praying "Al-Fatiha" for the soul of secularism, let them see the absence of TKP as the diet of millions of conservatives that they have attracted in the struggle for ‘freedom’ and even ‘revolution’.