May 8, 2015

AKP’s election agenda and Hizmet

İhsan Yılmaz

Several polls have consistently shown that about 55-60 percent of Turkish voters list economic hardship as the country's primary problem. About the same percentage of people are not optimistic about the future. There are a few quantitative studies suggesting that there is a direct correlation between the Justice and Development Party's (AKP) vote and the economic growth of the country.

Based on bivariate analyses of economic growth and AKP votes in previous elections, these studies confirm the findings of objective pollsters that the AKP, as of today, will be able to get only a maximum 41 percent of the votes. If the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) passes the 10 percent threshold, this would mean the end of the AKP's one-party rule and hence its despotism.

All these major opposition parties are running campaigns based on economic projects, offering solutions to reduce high unemployment, increase the low minimum wage and bring down expensive diesel costs for the farmers, etc. And this works. For instance, about 70-80 percent of the voters are aware of the Republican People's Party's (CHP) concrete proposals. This is bad news for the AKP. The AKP is planning to rig the elections by using state power. It is also trying to distort the real election agenda. The Hizmet movement is a multi-task, multi-purpose tool for the AKP in this regard.

The AKP only wants its voters to talk about ideological issues, not economic problems. Thus, it persists with its attacks on the Hizmet movement. Every day police officers attack offices of the movement's civil society organizations. These are philanthropic organizations such as poverty alleviation charities or education associations. The AKP wants the Turkish public, media, intellectuals, opposition parties and AKP voters to be engaged only with a superficial understanding of these police attacks and detentions. If it sees that its votes are still falling, the AKP will definitely resort to more scandalous attacks.

To create the most impact, to steer the public away from talking about the opposition's projects, the AKP may arrest hundreds of Hizmet volunteers, journalists, professors and civil activists of the Hizmet movement under terrorism and possibly even spying charges. The AKP media has been full of these stupid allegations for about two years. Just read pro-government journalist Cem Küçük to this effect. I have repeatedly been mentioned as being among the top potential arrestees by the AKP in a bid to shut me up and stop my criticisms. So far their threats have not worked and I am sure that this time they will really try to imprison me. But who cares. They are the ones who have committed so many crimes, not me, not my friends and colleagues not my fellow Hizmet volunteers. By arresting hundreds of Hizmet volunteers, the AKP may also be hoping to prove their case about the Dec. 17-25, 2013 corruption scandals. About 70 percent of the public is sure that the AKP is corrupt and this figure actually includes around 30 percent of AKP voters. By arresting people close to the Hizmet movement, they will say: “Look they are now in prison, Dec. 17-25 really was a coup against the AKP, and not about corruption.”

The AKP has been simultaneously trying to push the potential HDP vote below the threshold. The party continues to lie that the Hizmet movement is cooperating with the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) and the HDP. Many Hizmet volunteers in Kurdish areas may vote for the HDP to stop an AKP dictatorship, but many more will do the same for the same reason by voting for the MHP, the Felicity Party (SP) and the CHP, depending on individual tastes. By lying that the Hizmet movement and the HDP are linked through a dirty and dark agreement, the AKP wants to harm both.

The AKP has an enormous propaganda machine. Almost all the TV channels continue to broadcast President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu for hours everyday. The AKP may be successful in brainwashing the masses and winning the elections. But brainwashing will not solve Turkey's imminent economic problems, polarization and the disenfranchised millions who are disillusioned with elections and believe that the AKP has stolen their votes.

Published on Today's Zaman, 08 May 2015, Friday