The Nation Alliance, an opposition bloc established to challenge Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s 19-year rule, has possibly scored a significant point as one of its leaders, Meral Akşener, has confirmed that the Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and the Future Party (GP) will be joining it. Erdoğan’s strategy to divide the alliance, which he has been pursuing since the summer of 2020, seems to have backfired as a result of the renewed impetus seen among the opposition to strengthen their cooperation.
Akşener, the leader of the İYİ (Good) Party, announced in a program on KRT TV that they were planning to collaborate during the next elections with DEVA and the GP, which were founded in recent years by Ali Babacan and Ahmet Davutoğlu, respectively, former AKP heavyweights who parted ways with Erdoğan after serving in various high-level positions in his cabinets.
After the adoption of the presidential system through a constitutional referendum spearheaded by Erdoğan in 2017, the politics of the country has been undergoing a bipolarization where, on the one hand, Erdoğan’s Public Alliance, which he set up with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), has been representing the political power and, on the other hand, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the İYİ Party and the Felicity Party (SP) formed the Nation Alliance, which was also receiving external support from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).
In reference to recent polls that have shown the ruling AKP at its lowest level of support since its establishment, Akşener said: “The AKP is polling at around 25 percent. Together with the MHP they have about 42 percent. On the other hand the Nation Alliance is growing. İYİ is growing, the CHP is not losing votes and the SP is not doing poorly.”
“It appears that there will be a collaboration. I am talking about DEVA and the GP,” Akşener went on to say. “As a result, it does not seem possible for the Public Alliance to be re-elected to power.”
Erdoğan’s attempts at division
Unable to stop their decline in popularity, Erdoğan and MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli have since last summer been taking initiatives aimed at disintegrating the Nation Alliance.
First, they called on Akşener, whose İYİ Party was surging in the polls, to join their own alliance. After Akşener’s rejection, Erdoğan made a move on the alliance’s smallest partner, the SP.
While the SP, which is polling at around 1.5 percent, has not broken away from the opposition bloc, Erdoğan has been driving a wedge between its official leader Temel Karamollaoğlu and its spiritual leader, Oğuzhan Asiltürk, whom he has met with twice this year. In return, Akşener intensified her contacts with Karamollaoğlu. The SP’s positioning in an election remains uncertain.
DEVA and the GP have a combined polling number of 4 percent. Akşener is also in charge of the alliance’s talks with the two parties, who are in a strategically crucial position due to their potential to snatch votes directly from the AKP. Media outlets close to the Nation Alliance have been trying to encourage breakoffs from the ruling party by bringing Babacan and Davutoğlu to the forefront.
Attempt to change the subject
Polls ascribe the sharp fall in the ruling bloc’s support mainly to the worsening economy and the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. On both topics, the opposition has for a while been enjoying the rhetorical upper hand.
In an apparent attempt to shift attention elsewhere, the ruling bloc opened a debate on changing the constitution. The MHP has unveiled a 100-article draft constitution, for which the AKP quickly jumped to express its support, while government spokespeople, as well as the government-controlled mainstream media, made it a top agenda item.
The opposition, however, says that it would only consider taking part in a constitutional reform that involves a return to the parliamentary system of governance while trying not to lose focus on the economy and the pandemic.