Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

June 8, 2015

Ahmet Tonak on the Turkish elections

Filed under: Turkey — louisproyect @ 4:14 pm

This morning I conducted an interview with Ahmet Tonak about the Turkish elections. Ahmet is an economist at Bilgi University in Istanbul and co-author with Anwar Shaikh of “Measuring the Wealth of Nations” as well as co-editor of “Turkey in Transition: New Perspectives”. He has also been a participant in the People’s Democratic Congress, out of which the People’s Democratic Party emerged. His analysis will be of great use to those trying to understand recent political developments in Turkey.


  1. Thanks for a very informative interview. I’m sure the election result was a great day for democracy in Turkey – the 12%+ of the vote gained by the HDP means proper inclusion of the Kurdish people in the Turkish political system, the creation of a progressive opposition pole, a boost to the Kurdish peace process, and a blocking of Erdogan’s authoritarian-presidential plans. Ahmet provides a good sense of the opportunities this could open up for the left.
    The HDP had to fight a very tough campaign to get there (including a bombing of one of their election rallies which left 2 dead and 100 injured).
    Unfortunately, the implications for Syria are less clear. The mainstream opposition has used Syria as a stick to beat Erdogan’s government; and the HDP has joined in, with HDP leader Selahattin Demirtaş giving an interview to the SANA press agency accusing Turkey of failing to do enough to oppose ISIS. SANA quotes Demirtaş as “calling on the international community to support Syria against terrorism”. (Although this may have been a concoction)
    On the other hand the HDP are strong supporters of the Syrian Kurds (Erdogan’s obstructive policies over Kobane seems to have been one of the issues that turned the Kurdish regions against the AKP, which previously had significant support there) and Demirtaş’ brother is rumoured to be fighting with anti-ISIS forces in Syria.
    With the loss of his parliamentary majority it will be difficult for Erdogan to do anything decisive over Syria, but he was unlikely to do anything dramatic without US/NATO approval anyway.

    Comment by magpie68 — June 8, 2015 @ 8:47 pm

  2. I see you shutdown commenting in the North post. Bravo! A principled stand you have there indeed. Do yourself a favor though. I would suggest keeping your head in the sand permanently. Your politics aren’t doing anyone any favors.

    Comment by dav — June 9, 2015 @ 4:26 am

  3. Re Magpie’s point, in this interview (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnuPXYQTuhU&feature=youtu.be), when asked about Syria policy. Demirtas said that with a coalition government, Turkey will no longer be able to “support IS and other extremist groups,” which have been part of the problem and helped prevent finding a “solution,” and instead we need a policy that “will embrace all of the groups and peoples in the area.” That sounds vague enough to me for virtually any interpretation you want, probably deliberately so, as the HDP tries to work out its own view and the probably competing views among different parts of the membership. Probably the SANA “quote” about “support Syria against terrorism” is just a re-writing of that phrase. At this stage the HDP is likely to be as vague on these issues as the PKK/PYD itself is, and though we would hope that the HDP doesn’t identify ISIS and “extremist groups” (whoever they are) with the Syrian rebellion, at this stage any interpretation is possible. Obviously, the HDP needs to be judged primarily on its policies in Turkey and not on foreign policy (as with Syriza, with its terrible mistake of making a joint declaration with Cyprus and Sisi’s Egyptian junta to “fight terrorism” (frankly, Israel may as well have been part of that declaration). But where foreign and internal policy mesh is with the fact of Turkey sheltering 1.7 million Syrian refugees. Now while the fascist MHP calls the refugees filth who bring crime, prostitution, unemployment etc to good Turks, and while even the more centrist Kemalist CHP (some have wrongly called it left-Kemalist) declares he will send the Syrian refugees home (http://www.jamesinturkey.com/is-kemal-kilicdaroglu-xenophobic/), such nationalistic and xenophobic views will be alien to the message the HDP is trying to promote; but the reality of the refugees puts a pressure on Turkey (ie on any government that doesn’t adopt the expulsion policy) to support a situation that allows them to return to a situation in which they feel safe, ie, the eviction of the Assad regime. And despite everything else wrong with Erdogan, this part of his Syrian policy (as opposed to the Kurdish part) was his best policy, including extraordinary level of support to the refugees. Complicated to put it mildly.

    Comment by mkaradjis — June 10, 2015 @ 6:31 am

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