Turkey Heading to Local Elections

Turkey Heading to Local Elections


 In the period before the 2023 elections, the Erdoğan regime reduced interest rates to 8.5 percent to prevent a possible stagnation in the economy. It limited the increase in exchange rates at the expense of depleting foreign exchange reserves and by blockading the foreign exchange market with legal regulations. As a result, a possible wave of bankruptcy and unemployment was prevented and the pot was kept boiling, even if the contents were reduced. With this and with the bourgeois opposition's incompetence, Erdoğan managed to win the presidential election again. But the price was inflation, which reached the highest level in the history of the Turkish Republic. With interest rates well below real inflation, the working class was pushed under a huge debt burden. Inflation played a decisive role in the erosion of workers' share of national income. While the government intervened in the official inflation data, which is decisive on wages, there was a process in which the average wage of the workers almost converged to the minimum wage. In this process, trade unions could not lead a class reaction that could stop the impoverishment of the working classes, and the trade union bureaucracy did not make any serious intervention in this process. As such, capital could not be prevented from stealing from the working class. Today, the number of broad-defined unemployed is at the highest level of 10.5 million, excluding the pandemic period. Time-based underemployment increased by 1.3 million people in one year, broad-defined unemployment is 26.5 percent, and broad-defined female unemployment is 33.8 percent.

 While all this was going on, opposition economists in the pre-election period approved of the AKP's economic management, especially the new economy minister Mehmet Şimşek, because he defended the 'rational' neoclassical understanding of economics. Since the bourgeois opposition supported the economic program implemented by the economic administration, which shifted the burden of the cost of living crisis onto workers, they could not even put up a proper resistance to the increase in the poverty of working people. Thus, they deprived themselves of the best weapon with which they could hit the government in the run-up to the 2024 local elections.


Political Situation

 Erdoğan had a far victory in the general elections of 2023. The workers were told by bourgeois opposition that critical elections were being held, that they had to line up behind them as a bloc because they were entering the last critical elections, and that Erdogan could be defeated with the elections, so it was said that it would be enough to pin their hopes on the elections, that one vote would be enough to solve this matter. The general election failed in this. The left followed this “lesser evil” political trend adapted to high bourgeois politics and abandoned independent class politics. This caused the false hope to quickly turn into its opposite, despair and demoralization. As a result, there was a wide indifference towards politics and a wide disappointment so they also lost interest in the upcoming local elections of March 31. After a bad defeat against Erdoğan in general elections, the bourgeois opposition bloc (a wide composition of bourgeois parties including Islamist, and nationalist, central right, liberal, and social democrat parties) fell into pieces and quickly disintegrated.  Now, they compete with each other in local elections.

 Nevertheless, although Erdoğan wanted to carry the wind of his victory from the 2023 elections to the 2024 local elections, we see that he was not so successful in this. As we summarized in the economic situation, poverty increased even more after the general election. In addition, one of the reasons for Erdoğan's victory in the general election was that the rural areas of Turkey, where the economic crisis was felt the least, voted for Erdoğan, but the most important working class regions, industrial regions, and the most dynamic sectors of society in the local elections will be the cities where poverty is felt much more. Erdoğan had already lost the critical big cities in previous local elections including the capital Ankara and İstanbul.

It is important to note that Erdoğan was once the mayor of Istanbul. Thanks to the resources and the political weight of a city of 20 million, Istanbul determines the political trends and the political forces. So Erdoğan does not want another defeat in İstanbul. He also wants to politically eliminate Ekrem İmamoğlu, who became the main opposition figure after winning Istanbul election.

Independent Class Politics

As Turkey once again enters the election process, class balances have not changed. Although the cost of living is impoverishing the working people day by day, there is no generalized reaction to this situation. Although the working class is engaged in wage struggles in many workplaces and factories to resist inflation, these struggles remain isolated from each other.

Aside from the guided mafia unions, the mass labour organisations, which are led by people who claim to be socialists, show an attitude that is far away from fighting. Apart from the trade unions, the situation of the socialist left is not very different. It is not possible to talk about a socialist left that can unite forces and organise class struggle. The socialist left organised meetings with very wide participation for local election planning when the elections were only 8 months away, but when it came to the actual class struggle, it failed to show any unity and practical intervention. Our party SEP attended only the first of this series of meetings, where it brought this criticism to the components of the meeting and reiterated the idea of a united struggle front. It also made direct proposals for a united front to some of the components. But unfortunately, we could not get positive feedback.

As such, our party does not find it right to say "this candidate and not that candidate" who claims socialism in individual localities. On the other hand, our party warns all workers not to vote for the establishment/bourgeois parties and asks them to turn to local socialist alternatives that have ties with the working class. Again, it would be meaningful to be in solidarity with the DEM Party in the Kurdish cities where trustees were appointed against the elected mayors of Kurdish people.

In this election, our party SEP nominated Erkan Bayrak, a textile worker leader, as an independent mayoral candidate in Sultangazi, a textile industry district in Istanbul. In the city of Urfa, Kurdistan, our comrade Fadıl Güçlü became a mayor candidate from the list of TİP as a result of a local alliance, limited with that city. In this alliance, SEP will not compromise the independent political line of our party.

Both of our comrades are working-class candidates with concrete ties to the masses. As a result of these efforts, our party will strengthen the revolutionary positions within the working class and youth. What is important is the development of the organized forces of the working class and youth. It is inevitable that the socialist left, which cannot establish ties with the masses in actual struggles, will weaken further.

Erdoğan just won the general elections last year. He plans to win local elections and, by showing his support, make a constitutional amendment that will allow him to become a lifelong president. While the economic crisis is deeply shaking the masses and the masses are being rapidly impoverished with austerity policies, socialists can respond to this situation with the tools of radical class struggle. Lesser evilism has resulted in the strengthening of the far right all over the world. The left can't expect different results in Turkey. TİP (Workers' Party) is trying to create a social democratic mass party model like the examples of Syriza and PODEMOS, but it is already disappointing. Moreover, it plays a reactionary role by causing the development of false consciousness towards the CHP among the masses. On the other hand, Erdoğan's defeat is not possible with this "people's front" logic. No bourgeois party will implement an economic program different from Erdogan's. Despite the rapid impoverishment of the working class, Erdoğan presents the image of a leader with no alternative; It is taking masterful steps leaning on identity polarization. The last election victory in 2023 proved this once again. The only way is to create means of struggle through which the working classes can channel their accumulating anger and to gain systematic positions within the working class and youth. The only way to do this is to promote the independent class program.