Turkey is very polarised going into this General Election, divided into two camps, the secular and religious. The former warns that the ruling AKP is sliding towards fundamentalism and wants an Islamic republic. But this is an early election, remember, and it is the secular opposition that has forced it.
The CHP is the People’s Republican party, the standard-bearer for Kemal Ataturk’s secular vision of the modern Turkish state that he founded in 1923. Today it is led by 69 year-old Deniz Baykal, who calls for religion to be kept firmly in the private sphere, and for the CHP to be the providor of checks and balances on AKP ambitions.
The CHP is part of the Socialist International, and in principle is centre-left, although it is sounding more and more nationalist. Ilhan Kesici is standing in Istanbul: “Turkey is a nation state, a unitary state, and our republic is a secular republic, nothing more”.
This determined defence of the Turkish nation is similar to one expressed by the overtly nationalist MHP, led by the veteran Devlet Bhaceli.
This rightwing party stands for taking a tough line with the EU, and accuses the AKP of having sold off Turkey’s treasures to foreign investors. The pair seem incompatible, and have been bitter political enemies in the past, but are united in their fear of growing AKP influence.
One analyst thinks events are favouring some sort of alliance: “These two parties, although they seem to be different from the point of angle of development, historical development, they seem to agree on almost everything at the present time. Because they are both displaying the national banner and they are both supporting rather radical nationalism”.
If the MHP wins more than 10 percent of the votes nationwide as the law demands, they can form a powerful parliamentary block and enter a coalition with the CHP to stop the AKP in its tracks.