Kemal Okuyan talks on Communist Party of Turkey's approach to elections and frauds in Turkey

"Erdoğan may lose in 2019, but this depends on many other developments beyond the ballot box. The people should get organized and adopt an attitude towards the electoral frauds and injustices. It is impossible to defeat Erdoğan with such a mindset that only focuses on the day of elections"
Tuesday, 20 March 2018 22:53

soL News interviewed with Kemal Okuyan, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), about the presidential election in 2019 and the debates on political alliances, the option of boycott and electoral frauds.

Turkey will witness three critical elections in 2019. If the designated dates of the elections are not changed, the presidential, the general parliamentary and the local elections will have been voted in the year of 2019. Following the approval of constitutional changes in a fraudulent referendum held in April 2017, the elected president will be both the head of the state and government while the office of prime ministry is to be abolished.  

There is a general opinion; some argue that 2019 will be a breaking point in Turkey. Do you agree?

Designating a breaking point in a fragile country such as Turkey is problematic per se, this approach would mistake the people. In some aspects, it can be useful to search for breaking points retrospectively, yet it would do more harm than good if one mentions breaking points in order to understand today and future.

“Breaking points” were often introduced before the society in Turkey, those were generally related with the ballot box, parliamentary elections, constitutional referendums and presidential elections…

Now we are facing three elections at a stroke; and some say, “2019 will be the greatest breaking point”. As this approach is not scientific, it would contrarily pacify the people although it may be developed with the aim of mobilizing them. One cannot manage or intervene in the moment of breaking point if s/he distinctively prepares or waits for that breaking point.

If 2019 is a breaking point, then the electoral regulations that were passed in the parliament last week should be regarded as breaking points, too! All these descriptions sound absurd. Turkey is a fragile country, and this fragility has increased in existing circumstances.

Does not 2019 have any particular importance?

Every day is important. Was the constitutional change unimportant when the dishonour of ‘not enough, but yes’ was revealed? [Okuyan refers to the liberals who supported Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ‘yes’ campaign in alliance with the Gülenist network at the constitutional referendum in 2010] Or, what about the operations that were carried out with the lies of Ergenekon? Everyday and all the dispositions of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) are particularly important. Here I do not underestimate the three elections, especially the presidential election; but I do not agree with such an argument: “Should Erdoğan be re-elected, Turkey will collapse.” Turkey will never collapse in any case, we would not allow it.

However, if they mean a regression or a process of counterrevolution with the collapse, it has already finished! We have said for years that the Republic of Turkey founded in 1923 was collapsed with a retrospective and reactionary operation. A new Turkey could not be replaced; however, we have left behind a breaking point in this respect.

But, as you have said, is not it a good method to declare a recent history and upcoming elections as a milestone in order mobilize the society?

No, it is not a good method at all. First, the society is always restricted to ballot boxes. The ballot box has never been a driving force for any progressive transformation in Turkey; quite the contrary, reactionary forces have used the ballot box effectively, assessed it productively. Alleging that the three elections in 2019 will lead to the “emancipation” sounds absurd. This society has to get organized and struggle every day.

Second, if you just target the year of 2019, you would already lose the ballot box in 2019. Third, the dissident parts of the society in Turkey were fed up with and tired of the continuous declarations of breaking points and of ending up with failures at all breaking points. It is obvious that the sections unpleased with the government do not have any faith in the year of 2019.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu [the chair of Turkey’s parliamentary main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP)] says quite the opposite. “We will win,” he says insistently. Furthermore, “Where on earth did this boycott come from as we will win the elections,” he slams those from his party who call for “boycotting”.   

Of course, Erdoğan may lose in 2019, but this depends on many other developments beyond the ballot box. Significant international developments may arise; the tensions within the ruling party, which seem under control today, may be stimulated again; and the people get organized and adopt an attitude towards the electoral frauds and injustices. It is impossible to defeat Erdoğan with such a mindset that only focuses on the day of the election.

Moreover, the issue is not Erdoğan alone, as we always say. As for Kılıçdaroğlu… it is apparent that some have advised him to “talk confidently” so that “people would believe him”. Nevertheless, I have not seen anyone, including those with him, who believes in Kılıçdaroğlu’s speeches in Turkey.

What about the calls for boycotting?

Boycotting the elections is a political stance, and it sometimes can be the sole revolutionary alternative. However, it is wrong to debate on boycotts at the moment. Instead, the people should be mobilized and enlightened about the oddness of the electoral system and recent legal regulations. Without doing so, it is meaningless to call for boycotting with tied hands a year in advance.

Or, declaring that “we will not boycott” would also mean swallowing all sorts of frauds and regulations; and this is not surprising for the CHP as a pro-establishment party. That is the nature of the CHP. Moreover, a boycott cannot be organized from the perspective of the CHP or any other pro-establishment parties. That would influence them and their bases, but a boycott depending on them could not be organized.

Would any boycott be influential without the support of the CHP?

As I have said, it would be wrong to talk about a boycott for the moment. A struggle must be waged against this electoral system. No result could be obtained with some decisions taken at this or that body without organizing the people. Nothing would change even if the electoral turnouts drop. That would not impact Erdoğan. However, organized people would impact Erdoğan. That is proven by experience!

Except this, the intra-balances or stance of the CHP do not interest us. We are purely and simply interested in decreasing the influence of the CHP and the other pro-establishment parties that stall and lead the people to fake solutions. Additionally, we have to say that the CHP has also played role in some electoral regulations.

How is that?

That is carried out within the body of the YSK [Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Council]. As you know, some opposition parties also have representatives in the YSK. The CHP is there. It is there although it does not have right to vote. Today, the YSK functions as the “absolute decision body” in works related with elections and political parties. Indeed, it gives fatwas.

In recent months, the YSK has imposed new rules that not only favour the government but also the CHP and the MHP [the Nationalist Movement Party in alliance with the AKP] particularly in defiance of the parties that have no seats in the parliament. They are meddling in all affairs of the political parties. Do you ever hear about any objections from the CHP? No objection, because it suits their book.

As I have said, the CHP cannot change the YSK rules but they can raise this topic before the public opinion. Nothing is only composed of the regulations passing from the parliament. The YSK is changing the game rules everyday, and they will be absolutely called to account for this. Of course, the ballot box is not everything, yet they go wrong if they regard the ballot boxes as a basis of hocus-pocus.           

What will the TKP do for this? In other words, you say that any call for boycotting is not on the agenda for the moment; what will you do for electoral injustices?

The TKP has made a statement today, calling on the people for mobilization. Indeed, the law on political parties and elections are completely full of injustices. However, we have particularly highlighted some of them, and we will struggle for the annulment of some regulations causing frauds and irregularities before the three elections to be held in 2019.

Will the TKP launch its electoral works on the basis of this aspect?

The work in question has just started today, and it is very important. But that is not the only agenda of the TKP. Now, we have an ongoing campaign against NATO and the U.S. bases, we will escalate it. We will definitely assess the elections as a ground in order to strengthen the socialist alternative, the alternative of the people. We will never leave the people without alternative in any case.

Will the TKP enter into the elections, or, more precisely, will it be able to enter? They are talking about only nine parties.      o

It is necessary to complete some conditions six months in advance in order to be eligible for the elections. The TKP has completed them. Although the YSK imposes some rules so as to prevent some parties from entering into the elections, the TKP is overcoming such obstacles. Or else, if they decide not to approve the TKP’s participation in the elections, that will be their problem. A revolutionary alternative could be created in any case, and we would rather upset the heroes of such arbitrariness in political, social and legal terms.

Will the TKP have a policy of cooperation with other forces in the elections?     

The Communist Party of Turkey will never be part of any pro-establishment solutions, adopt any attitude in favour of pro-establishment expectations, carry out any electoral cooperation with pro-establishment parties including the pseudo-left parties, and enter into any platform that would cast shadow from this perspective. First tour, second tour; that does not matter. We do not consider pro-establishment parties as “friends”. Even if we have many friends in those parties, even if there are hundreds of thousands of people on the basis of those parties, who would support the people’s alternative. Apart from this aspect, we will attempt to create cooperation within the context of revolutionary alternatives in favour of the people’s alternative. Far be it from us to be an accessory of pro-establishment balances. That would not apply to the historical mission and principles of the Communist Party of Turkey.

The TKP has organized meetings to strengthen the people’s alternative in many locations in recent times. Have you reached your goals, and will such meetings continue?

Yes, we have reached our goals in these meetings. Many people met the Party, and the Party’s organization and influence have considerably increased. We will sometimes organize such meetings at other locations. We are continuing to launch new Party buildings. April and May will witness a very intensive program in this respect. Above all, what is critical, indeed, is what the TKP is doing and will do for the struggle between labour and capital, that is organizing the people for the fight... This cannot be postponed.