August 23, 2015

What should Gülen movement do for early election?

Emre Uslu

Turkey is going to a snap vote. Since President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not get the result he desired in the June 7 general election, he is taking the country with a population of 80 million to the ballot box again.

What makes the snap vote different from the June 7 election is that both the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the opposition parties have used up their arguments.

The opposition parties placed the lavishness and luxury of Erdoğan's new presidential palace, known as Ak Saray, at the center of their campaign for the June 7 general election, and carried out an effective election campaign. Thanks to this, some circles in society have, for the first time, begun to question Erdoğan and his family members.

The job of the opposition parties is not easy at all in the early election . They need to come up with language that will enable them to conduct a campaign that is hopeful again and mobilize society.

In the snap vote, the most critical role will be played by the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish-Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, which has become a target of the AKP in a war launched following the eruption of a corruption scandal in late 2013 because then-Prime Minister Erdoğan dubbed the graft probe an attempt to overthrow his government. If the AKP comes to power alone again, it and its supporters could even think of sending members of the movement to gas chambers, they have gone so crazy. Since such a thing is not possible given the current circumstances in the world, it is sure that the AKP will do its best to punish anyone it sees as close to the movement if it comes to power alone.

The AKP emerging as a single party government out of the snap vote will be the last stage of a dreadful witch hunt process targeting the movement since the AKP has gone so crazy as to raid Gülen-inspired schools in the country's Southeast while disregarding acts of terrorism being perpetrated there. The movement will face 10 times more unlawfulness and tyranny than it has faced so far. In such a situation, rare voices that stand behind the movement's followers will be silenced and the country will turn into a perfect, silent nightmare for them. They will raise their voices but nobody is going to hear them. The conscience of the people will become deaf. Even if followers of the movement are subjected to a genocide, nobody will stand against it. The ongoing silence so far is already a sign of this. So, the upcoming election interests the followers of the Gülen movement the most.

So, the movement's followers need to work more for this election than they did for the 2010 referendum. This is a matter of life and death for the movement. They should remember how relieved they were on June 8 due to the AKP's failure to emerge as single-party government and they should work non-stop beginning on the day the date of the election is announced.

How should the movement work and what it should say?

First, the biggest handicap of the movement is the fact that it cannot support a political party publicly. Since the movement tries to remain neutral toward political parties, if it announces its support for any party, then it will have taken a stance against the supporters of other parties. Over the past 12 years, they attracted criticism from the supporters of the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) for openly supporting the AKP and they are now paying the price for this.

However, the movement's followers have accumulated new stories that they could tell in advance of In the snap election, particularly to conservative circles of society. They should tell these stories to the people.

1) The movement's followers should tell people how the AKP deceived the nation in the settlement process (launched with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party [PKK] to resolve the country's long-standing terrorism problem), how it labeled the movement as an opponent of peace and how the AKP which was yesterday claiming that it launched the settlement process so that no more mothers would cry, is now in fact the one making mothers cry because their sons are being killed. This argument will be accepted by all circles of society, including the AKP voter base. Many people, including most AKP supporters do not approve of the AKP's secrecy in the settlement process. The AKP should either return to the settlement process or it should be honest and say, "Oh, Kurds and Turks, we deceived you," and apologize for it. The movement making use of this argument could lower the AKP vote by at least three points.

2) There is a widely debated issue among Islamic and conservative circles today. They complain about diversion from Islamic values in the AKP and they say and write that the party has been filled with members of an interest network, such as journalist Rasim Ozan Kütahyalı and Yiğit Bulut, a former journalist who now serves as an advisor to Erdoğan. There is significant negative reaction against the AKP among its grassroots. Taking into account the party's choices of deputies in the last elections, the movement's members could explain to the party's grassroots how the party has evolved. They could say the movement also supported the AKP when it first set out with some ideals, but that now even the pro-AKP writers say the party has lost its ideals. Such criticism appearing in pro-government media outlets could explain matters to people in remote corners of society and warn that if the AKP wins again, it will stray even further from those ideals.

3) The movement should organize public service days. The movement's biggest advantage is its qualified human resources but nobody is aware of this in Turkey. When the movement wants to, it can mobilize people to conduct healthcare screenings in countries from Africa to the Far East. However, although the movement emerged in Turkey, there is not widespread understanding about the social services it could offer to disadvantaged social circles in Turkey. The circles the movement has reached out to in Turkey have not gone beyond smart students. For this reason, the movement needs to adopt a new paradigm and organize public service days to reach out to disadvantaged groups in this society with its qualified human resources. For instance, there are thousands of doctors who are followers of the movement. Even if these doctors spare one day a week for a public health screening, they will have reached out to thousands of people. There are thousands of teachers among the followers of the movement. If they spend one day for public service days, they could offer free courses to hundreds of students. If people from other professions in the movement, from agricultural engineers to vets, spare one day a week for a public service day, they could reach millions of people over several months. In this way, the paradigm of thought about the movement will be broken. The AKP will also completely lose its legitimacy, since it will try to hinder the activities of the movement related to the public service days.

Editor’s note: Hizmet Movement Blog reaffirms its non-endorsement policy of the various viewpoints expressed throughout the articles that are solely shared for the convenience of the readers.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 23 August 2015, Sunday