Türkiye’s electoral agenda continued to advance at full speed last week.
AKP and CHP officials’ meetings with US counterparts and their statements on Türkiye-US relations became the top topic.
Another issue was the AKP’s negotiations with the radical religious party HÜDAPAR on whether this party would join the People’s Alliance.
The talks between the Nation Alliance and the HDP, known for its links to the PKK terrorist organization, were another important topic.
Ibrahim Kalın’s visit to the US, Ünal Çeviköz’s statements on NATO
As Türkiye is heading towards the elections, the ruling and main opposition parties made positive statements on the US and NATO in the last week.
Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın met with US officials in his visit to the US.
Following his meetings with the US State Department and the White House, Kalın met with Congress members from the Democratic and Republican parties. He also attended the event ‘US-Türkiye Business Forum: Prioritizing Resilient Partnerships’ organized at the US Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking at the Forum, Kalın stated that there should be a strategic dialog between Türkiye and the US, not just a tactical one:
“We need a broad geopolitical strategic dialogue with a sense of urgency, not only to address the Ukrainian war, energy, the situation in Afghanistan, Libya or the Mediterranean, but every other things too. We should do that not only for our countries, but for the future of the planet.”
Lamenting the relations Kalın said “Türkiye has been subjected to unfair and biased scrutiny regarding the meaning and strength of our alliances.”
Kalın also called on American business people to increase the commercial trade volume between the two countries.
In the question session of the Forum, Kalın pointed out that Europe has decided not to purchase Russian oil and gas and suggested two possibilities to compensate for this:
“The first of them is gas exported from Azerbaijan to Türkiye. We can increase the transmission capacity of the pipelines. But that is not enough. The second is the energy resources of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea. For political reasons, it was planned to bypass Türkiye and transport gas to Greece through Cyprus. However, this was rejected because it was too expensive. So there is no third alternative. Türkiye participates in both alternatives.”
İbrahim Kalın also met with National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan. The White House stated that “Mr. Sullivan reiterated condolences for the tragic loss of life due to the earthquakes in Türkiye and sustained U.S. support for the people of Türkiye in their ongoing recovery effort.”
According to the White House three topics were addressed in the meeting: The Black Sea Grain Initiative, Armenia-Azerbaijan and Sweden-Finland.
It is noted that two officials talked about “their shared concerns about Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine and Türkiye’s efforts to ensure a renewal of the Black Sea Grain Initiative.”
“They also discussed their backing for ongoing peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as well as bilateral defense cooperation.”
“Mr. Sullivan underscored the United States’ view that Sweden and Finland should become members of NATO as soon as possible.”
Another official Kalın met with was Victoria Nuland, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs.
In the following days, President Erdoğan announced the start of the parliamentarian process to approve Finland’s NATO membership.
Türkiye’s opposition also sent positive messages to the US last week.
Ünal Çeviköz, Chief Advisor to the President of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), took a negative stance against Russia and talked positively on Sweden and Finland being member of NATO in an interview with Politico. Çeviköz’s statements are as follows:
“Currently, relations between Türkiye and Russia are rather asymmetrical because Türkiye is very much dependent on energy imports from Russia… We will simply emphasize the fact that Türkiye is a member of NATO, and in our discussions with Russia, we will certainly look for a relationship among equals, but we will also remind Russia that Türkiye is a member of NATO.”
“If you carry your bilateral problems into a multilateral organization, such as NATO, then you are creating a kind of polarization with all the other NATO members with your country,” he noted. “I think a membership of Sweden and Finland will increase and strengthen the security of a collective defense organization, such as NATO.”
Politico wrote that “Çeviköz also said that the opposition alliance wouldn’t block Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession process as Erdoğan has been doing.”
As for the European Union, Politico writes: “When asked about EU countries that have traditionally been hostile toward Türkiye’s EU accession — such as France and Austria — Çeviköz stressed the importance of resuming the diplomatic process to draw a line under Erdoğan’s confrontationalism with Europe.”
Discussions on the HÜDAPAR
The Free Cause Party (HÜDAPAR), known to be linked to the terrorist organization Hezbollah (an organization completely different from the Lebanese Hezbollah – Türkiye considers the Turkish Hezbollah, a radical religious organization, officially as a terrorist organization), declared its support for Erdoğan in the presidential election. AKP-HÜDAPAR talks and the possibility of HÜDAPAR joining the People’s Alliance sparked discussions.
AKP Deputy Chairman Numan Kurtulmuş met with HÜDAPAR Chairman Zekeriya Yapıcıoğlu at the HÜDAPAR headquarters last week.
After the meeting, Numan Kurtulmuş expressed gratitude to HÜDAPAR for its support to Erdoğan and added that talks will continue between the two parties to expand the Alliance.
Zekeriya Yapıcıoğlu stated that they had been offered to join the Alliance by Erdoğan in January, and that now, after the earthquake disaster, the talks had started again.
The relations with HÜDAPAR have allegedly caused backlash within the AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
An AKP member of parliament, speaking to Aydınlık Newspaper but wishing to remain anonymous, made the following statements about the AKP-HÜDAPAR rapprochement:
“While trying to earn 3-5 parliamentary seats in the East and Southeast region we are going to lose many seats in Türkiye as a whole. Now I am thinking how to explain this to the voters in my constituency.”
Another person who has been a member of parliament for many years in the AKP told Aydınlık Newspaper:
“The election is of vital importance. No mistakes should be made. The talks and possible agreement with HÜDAPAR is a mistake. I know the East and Southeast region very well. People in the region hate HÜDAPAR. All research shows that at least 25 percent of the voters who voted for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) before will vote for Erdoğan in the presidential election. Although the people in the region vote for HDP for various reasons, there is a considerable share of them care about the country’s future. Including HÜDAPAR in the People’s Alliance would prevent these votes. This is already evident in the current atmosphere on social media.”
Another assessment came from Doğu Perinçek, the leader of the Vatan Party:
“The electoral alliance with HÜDAPAR is a sign of negligence. There is already a terrorist organization in the parliament: The PKK. But that is not enough! We need a second one in the parliament.”
Hezbollah, carried out many terror acts in Türkiye in the 1990s, including the assassination of Ali Gaffar Okkan, the police chief of Diyarbakır at the time
Meeting between CHP and HDP
The meeting between the HDP and CHP scheduled for March 18 has been postponed. It was reported that the postponement was upon the HDP’s request.
It has taken place on March 20, with Kılıçdaroğlu visiting the HDP office in the parliament. After the bilateral talks, both parties made a joint press conference.
Here, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu made fundamental declarations on the so called ‘Kurdish Question’. He rejected the judicial cases against HDP mayors in the southeast of Türkiye, where several are prosecuted due to material support for the terror organization PKK. The Turkish Ministry of Interior has appointed mayors to those cities where the elected are subject to trials.
Kılıçdaroğlu stated that “those who came by election to power should leave power also by election”. He also rejected the trial against the HDP, currently held at the Constitutional Court, saying “the closure of political parties is not an appropriate measure of our times”.
The presidential candidate of the opposition also claimed to “solve the Kurdish Question in the parliament”. This was a reference to the so-called Kurdish opening pursued by the AKP government during the 2010s, when secret negotiations were held with the terror organization and its political representatives for a new constitution and new political system. These failed due to public opposition resulting in loss of votes for the AKP in June 2015 elections, when the party was not able to establish a governing coalition.
Already back then, Kılıçdaroğlu was not opposing the talks or their content but the fact they were held in secret.
His current statement to “solve the problem in the parliament”, made in a joint conference with the HDP, was interpreted as such that, in case of an electoral victory, he would pursue talks with the party on political reform.
The HDP-led “Labor and Freedom Alliance” in exchange declared it would not present a presidential candidate in the elections, thus supporting Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy.
The investigation against the HDP for alleged links to the PKK terrorist organization is still ongoing.