Populism of the elections - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

Populism of the elections

First the AK Party announced its election manifesto, followed by the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the HDP. Election manifestos are crucial because they serve as a guideline explaining the political, economic and social pledges of political parties.

Political parties have past records pertaining to the issue of election platforms in terms of determining the issues of the country and providing suggestions by showing viable solutions to the issues. The electorate, who was trapped in an economic bottleneck, considered unrealistic pledges as a “last hope” and believed them.

This state of belief originated from the poor conditions and despair, but Turkey is no longer that much of a helpless, dependent and hopeless country; neither are the electorates so desperate to fall for whatever pledge is presented in front of them.

IS THE CHP'S CHANGING PROCESS A TRANSFORMATION OF IDEOLOGY OR JUST MAKEUP?

For years, the CHP pushed the country out of the political and economic agenda that the country should actually be focusing on, by getting stuck on the “laicism” debate.

Whereas now, it came to realize that the rhetoric, which revolves around a vicious cycle, has not been accepted by the people and that such debates have no foundation whatsoever.

However, this time the CHP wants to come to the fore by emphasizing the necessity of touching people's hearts and addressing their needs through a utopic rhetoric and coy expression.

This rhetoric loses its plausibility due to its unrealistic goals. Especially a return back to the jargon of the 1990s, by saying, “We will increase that, we will give this amount of money, we will reduce the taxes” kind of pledges in social spending, do not seem like they will be accepted by the electorate who do not want to lose their current gains.

These expressions are a repeat of the past for the ones who have witnessed the economic crises of the 90's, lost their jobs in a day, got caught up in a debt trap and thought about how they will survive the next day. On top of that, they know that the CHP was one of the main actors behind the economic and political crises of that period.

Today, there is a majority consisting of low and middle income groups who do not want to lose what they were able to earn in the past twelve years. I am afraid the CHP needs to convince these circles first.

However, when trying to persuade these people, the CHP's rhetoric should not consist of expressions like “We will double the social assistance, abolish taxes and increase the minimum wage to 1500 Turkish Liras.” This is because the doubling of social assistance and the cost of social spending as they pledged will result in budget deficits and therefore high amounts of debt.

CHP'S SOCIAL ASSISTANCE: TO DESTROY WHAT THE AK PARTY ACHIEVED

The rate of Turkey's budget deficit when the AK Party came to power in 2002 was 10.8 percent. This rate was 1.3 percent as of 2014, while the budget is expected to have a surplus in 2017. The fact that CHP shows the budget as the source of social spending and payments is a clear indicator of the success AK Party was able to achieve regarding the establishment of budgetary balance.

Because confronting the AK Party - which has reduced the budgetary deficit to figures around one percent and aims for a balanced budget in the upcoming year- by saying that they will be distributing the budget, which will serve as their source for their pledges, actually means accepting the AK Party's success in the economic administration.

Let's suppose that the CHP carries out the pledges in their manifesto, which takes the budget as its financial source. The cost of this is equal to bringing Turkey to the crisis before 2001, where there was a high deficit, impayable debts, efforts to find loans with high interests and applying to the IMF was seen as a solution.

The idea that CHP is not breaking new ground is evident by the party's economic vision, which imagines an atypical distribution of acquisitions gained following 2002 and bringing the Old Turkey to where the country waits at the doorstep of the IMF to receive loans.

Another attention-grabbing question regarding social spending in the manifesto is that many of the social assistance and service programs that are currently being provided are presented as something new. As a matter of fact, putting forth the existing social assistance programs as a breakthrough is proof of the fact that the CHP has not been able to keep up with the agenda regarding social policies. Because the pledges of a program, which has no clue about what is going on today, have no validity tomorrow.

Lastly, it is rather significant that the CHP has started to recognize the electorate which for years has been underestimated and scorned. However, how credible will the CHP be when asking for votes from a circle of people which they had despised as recently as yesterday?

In fact, when we take a look at the report card of CHP in the past years, we all know the answer to this question.

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