Kemal Okuyan: "Election in Istanbul is over"

Kemal Okuyan answered the question of soL news on the electoral council's decision to annul and re-run the municipal elections in Istanbul
Wednesday, 08 May 2019 14:16

SoL news interviewed with Kemal Okuyan, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) regarding the Supreme Election Council (YSK)'s decision to annul and re-run the municipal elections in Istanbul, and the TKP’s statement on this unlawful decision.

Stating that any approach leaving the ‘boycott’ from the agenda ─ even as a possibility ─ encourages the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Okuyan underlines: "Those who claim that the boycott of the municipal re-elections in Istanbul helps Erdoğan inadvertently may suddenly find themselves in a situation giving power to him for an unlawful election."

The Communist Party of Turkey (TKP) announced to waive its Istanbul candidacy immediately after the YSK’s decision to annul and re-run the municipal elections in Istanbul. What is the reason for this decision?

We have taken this decision long before the YSK’s annulment decision and released a declaration about this issue. Could the other way around be possible in such a situation? It is true that the elections are never equal, and there are hundreds of unjust, unfair practices during the electoral processes. Yet, it is also necessary to defend the universal suffrage. The political power in Turkey explicitly showed that AKP wants to completely get rid of the right to vote. We cannot ignore this unlawful attack as we determine our stance in the re-elections held on June 23, 2019.

At this point, what do you say about the question of "why does the TKP nominate candidates in the elections, if the elections as the part of the mechanisms to deceive the people are unfair"?  

Because we protect the right to vote. We lay claim to the right of the working class to do politics. We use every opportunity to address the working class and to organize laborers under the communist party. Moreover, we test our own organization and impact on society, while we try to win some positions through the elections. Thus, we try to show that a socialist political power is legitimate. We repeatedly said that the working class and the laborers cannot do politics by only getting involved in the elections and that the most fundamental condition is to be organized in the workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools in order to raise the organized struggle of the people.

Bourgeois law is biased, and sometimes it completely abandons the "neutrality" even at the discursive level, as can be clearly seen in the YSK’s decision. Is it possible to discuss this decision under the law? Yet, we always try to use legal channels without dreaming. When the people subjected to torture filed criminal complaints against the torturers during the period of the 12th September 1980 Military Coup in Turkey, they did not rely upon "the justice of the September 12". Most of the criminal complaints were not even taken seriously by the putschists, and most of them remained inconclusive. Yet, people sought their rights and struggled. The same applies to the elections. The boycott does not work much ─ even it harms ─ unless a common will in society and the working class takes a stance against the electoral base or exceeded it. Also, a considerable part of those who asked "why does the TKP nominate candidates in the elections, if the elections are unfair" are the ones who want the TKP to vote for one of the bourgeois political parties. TKP struggles against the bourgeois political parties; so we do not have a partnership or collaboration with them. If there is no partnership, there is no vote.

TKP has withdrawn its Istanbul candidate. Doesn’t it mean to support Ekrem İmamoğlu, the Istanbul candidate of the opposition, Nation Alliance?

TKP has already announced that the right response is boycotting this unlawful decision. There is no change in our opinion.

Why boycott? Some people say that the triumph of İmamoğlu by a landslide would be an absolute and historical defeat for the AKP government.

We hear similar arguments before every election in Turkey. None of us know how many votes the AKP actually gained in all the previous elections. What we know is the AKP’s gerrymanders, electoral frauds, and fictitious voters, including political pressures and special operations targeting the elections held in the country. The elections are not only about voting. Elections include many factors such as the YSK, treasury grants, election threshold, ballot papers, and the period of propaganda. Voting loses its importance if people accept whatever the AKP has unlawfully done with these factors. We don’t know what policies and practices the AKP is going to follow until the re-election day in Istanbul on June 23, but we know what it can do. Saying "we will go to the polls and vote again under any circumstances whatsoever" means setting the AKP free within this period. "A stance refusing fait accompli re-elections in Istanbul along with the unlawfulness of the YSK", which has been put on the agenda of many people as a natural humanistic reflex and a legitimate ethical attitude, will probably not be adopted for the upcoming Istanbul elections on June 23.

Elections will be held; more precisely, the election process will start. Even in this case, there are many reasons to think that our electoral stance will remain on the agenda. Such events might take place during this process that even those who claim that "İmamoğlu would receive more votes this time and win the elections with a vast majority" might begin to see the withdrawal from the election as a sole remedy against this unlawfulness. Therefore, any approach leaving the ‘boycott’ from the agenda ─ even as a possibility ─ encourages the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Those who claim that ‘the boycott of the municipal re-elections in Istanbul helps Erdoğan inadvertently’ may suddenly find themselves in a situation giving power to him for an unlawful election.

What if the AKP loses despite everything?

It is of course possible. The political crisis of the current system is deepening. After the recent local elections, Erdoğan and the parliamentary main opposition thought over the "normalization" option. However, Erdoğan made new moves, supposing that normalization would put him behind the eight balls under the current circumstances. Regardless of its consequences, the Turkish government allowed the lawyers to meet with Abdullah Öcalan, the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), for the first time in eight years, while the Erdoğan regime puts in efforts to mend fences with the United States, and reportedly stopped buying the Iranian oil. The Turkish President took all these steps with the intention of strengthening his hand. In this respect, what Erdoğan understands from the ‘normalization’ is to ease the problems with the capitalist class and imperialist centers. He thinks the rest is quite easy.

The situation of the parliamentary main opposition is not different. In fact, the opposition is persistently trying not to overshadow Erdoğan’s legitimacy because what created and shaped the bourgeois political opposition today is also the capitalist class in Turkey and imperialist centers. They want a more easily-controlled Erdoğan or an AKP without Erdoğan (maybe with different names). The reaction of the people towards the AKP is the most real thing here, and it is obviously exploited. Therefore, Erdoğan’s maneuvers to strengthen his hand in the bargaining table may backfire and he might find himself in a more difficult situation. Yet, for this weakness to turn into a good development there is a need for a remedy that will also destroy the scenarios of the capitalist patrons and the imperialists. 

So how is this going to be? After all, only two candidates will likely to run in the elections. TKP also noted in its statement that boycott can serve the purpose only if it becomes effective. What will happen if this is not possible? Won’t the TKP support Ekrem İmamoğlu?

In such a world, especially in Turkey, 1.5 months is a very long time. The logical result of a sentence saying "YSK’s decision has no legitimacy, and Ekrem İmamoğlu is the Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor" is a boycott. Because an election was held across the country 40 days ago. We say this as a political party defending completely different worlds from the parliamentary main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and its candidate. Yet, we are not the only ones expressing this claim. If you think that "The local elections were held on March 31, and İmamoğlu has won as a result of the elections", you must also say that "How dare you to force me to go to polls again!?" This is not even a political attitude but a natural reaction of a human being. On top of that, we are talking about a new election to be held under the supreme authority of the YSK, which is primarily responsible for this unlawfulness.

Some people claim that "the attitude of boycotting the re-elections on June 23 is just an adventurousness"; this is a laugh a minute. "The idea of boycotting" has become such a natural attitude and longing in very few places of the world. However, it is clear that a legitimacy crisis is not desired by the capitalist class, and İmamoğlu is a perfect figure for those who act with the concern of protecting the existing bourgeois order in this respect. After the YSK’s decision to annul the elections, he managed to make a lot of people think with a single speech that ‘‘there is nothing to worry about, this too shall pass’’.

As the TKP, we do not share this frame of mind, of course. We will continue to tell people why we should not go to the new polls imposed on our people by the AKP. While doing this, we will not neglect the attempts of the capitalists to turn the crisis into an opportunity against the people. We never take sides with the imperialist centers and international monopolies. While the political power and the parliamentary main opposition have been in a great competition in the sphere of capitalist/imperialist hegemons (and while they, as the two actors of a hard struggle within the boundaries of this sphere, are trying to influence the people), our call to leave this sphere is a natural right and responsibility. However, if the boycott cannot be the dominant tendency among society, the TKP would not exhibit this attitude alone. At that point, this election is no longer a choice between Ekrem İmamoğlu and Binali Yıldırım. It becomes a referendum that will be voted down the legitimacy of the AKP and Erdoğan.

I underline that the election in Istanbul is over for us. After that, we must take the most effective stance against the usurpation of the universal (common) suffrage and the AKP rule. The TKP declared its own attitude, and withdrew its Istanbul candidate by saying, "We do not take part in this crime!" Why else would we do this? "There is a slight difference between the two candidates", or "this re-election has now turned into a run-off election"…We are not interested in these arguments. If we start to think in this way, Turkey becomes a two-party system, and the people lose in such a situation. We will continue to emphasize that this election is not legitimate. Turkey needs people organized with this idea. Even if this idea is not adopted as the most effective attitude against the usurpation of the universal suffrage and the AKP rule, it would not mean we say "Yes" to the candidates of the bourgeois political parties in the ‘referendum’ [referring local elections to be held on June 23 in Istanbul]; it would mean that we say "This election was over on March 31 and we are saying ‘No’ to Erdoğan". Yet, it is too early to talk about these issues. We are going to say ‘No’ to illegitimacy under the current circumstances.

What about the optimism and excitement created by İmamoğlu? Are they all worthless?

We do not have the right to say that optimism and excitement are worthless in a time when people are seeking a remedy with even the slightest ray of hope. However, we cannot turn a blind eye to how the people are under siege in Turkey. The TKP has not made this mistake, and it will not. Some people know what the world view materialized in Ekrem İmamoğlu and the class and political power behind him mean. We tell the people what we know and take the necessary attitude. There will be always criticisms against our call for the boycott but the number of people saying "you were right" is increasing at every turn. İmamoğlu is a political figure approved by the international and class actors that created Erdoğan and paved the way for the AKP rule in Turkey. We will say this persistently. It doesn’t have to be an alternative for them; they want an element of oppression that will make Erdoğan easier to control and normalize him.

It is necessary to be afraid of those who get along well with everyone trying to appeal to all people. You cannot commemorate fascist Muhsin Yazıcıoğlu and the revolutionary Deniz Gezmiş at the same time. You cannot commemorate both communist poet Nazım Hikmet and political Islamist Necip Fazıl. You cannot support the workers and the capitalist patrons at the same time…This discourse is very dangerous. We have to say this now before it is too late. We will understand the millions of people feeling excited about a political figure who speaks effectively and promises to eliminate unfairness, but we will also act responsibly and show the real remedy to them. İmamoğlu’s motto, ‘‘Everything is gonna be alright’’, is a great claim. It is a humanistic wish but nothing will be better without overwhelming the reactionary movements, imperialism and the system of exploitation.

People began to show a rising interest in the TKP especially after the local elections of March 31. It seemed that this interest was reflected in the Labor Day rally on May 1. Does it still continue?

The noticeable rising interest in the TKP had actually begun before the elections, just before the June 24 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections in Turkey. There are some factors for this increasing interest: the current economic crisis, people’s losing hope against bourgeois politics, and the TKP’s organizational transformation. Yes, people’s interest still continues. We are developing certain mechanisms to organize and spread this interest. We organized a conference last week. Apart from the TKP membership, we will initiate an organizational form called "the TKP Volunteers". There are some responsibilities of being a member of the TKP, so we cannot change these responsibilities as the party expands. Yet, we pave the way for a channel that we will struggle for equality, turning it into a social enlightenment mobilization. Our party marched on May 1 with a banner, "We Are Decisive In The Struggle For Socialism, We Are Volunteers!" There is an interest in this call, and we insist on it. The capitalist system has run out of steam, and it now tries to destroy humanity. For this reason, we call on our people to establish a social order in which we can live humanely.