Opposition needs unity to win in Turkey

( AP ) - Unite, unite, unite," the demonstrators shouted. This was an anti-government rally, but many of the slogans weren't meant for Turkey's ruling party.

They were directed at the country's opposition parties - a jumble of leftists, nationalists and others with often competing interests but at least one thing in common - the fear that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has an Islamic agenda.

But is that enough to offset their differences and guarantee them victory in elections this July? The answer is likely to depend on whether the opposition can offer a compelling vision of its own for Turkey's future.

Erdogan is credited with rescuing the economy and undertaking democratic reforms as part of Turkey's bid to join the European Union. He also has a powerful organization at the grassroots level, and supporters keen to express themselves at the polls.

But his government faces a secularist backlash over suspicions that he seeks to roll back restrictions on Islamic dress, curb women's rights and take other steps to dilute the Western lifestyle of many Turks.

His political rivals hope to exploit that fear at the polls, and for the first time since it took power in 2002, the Justice and Development Party is on the defensive.

"A second electoral triumph for Erdogan is far from assured," Bulent Aliriza of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies wrote in an analysis.

The election was set for July 22, several months ahead of schedule, as a way to ease a political crisis that began when the government picked a presidential candidate with strong Islamic leanings - Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.

Although he and Erdogan say they don't want to blur the line between religion and state, Gul was forced to drop his bid after the opposition boycotted parliamentary votes on his candidacy, and the military threatened to intervene to safeguard secular traditions. Huge crowds staged anti-government rallies, most recently on Sunday in the port of Izmir.

The opposition could benefit if it successfully steers debate away from the government's economic record, which includes a growth rate of about 7 percent in the last several years and a sharp rise in per capita income, and casts the contest as a struggle for Turkey's identity, or Islam vs. secularism. That strategy already appears to be in motion.

"We have to stand hand in hand and protect Turkey," said Deniz Baykal, the 68-year-old leader of the Republican People's Party, which holds 152 seats in the 550-seat Parliament.

The ruling party, which only won one-third of the popular vote, has 352 seats, or nearly two-thirds, because most other parties failed to pass a 10 percent vote threshold required to win representation in Parliament.

Currently, Baykal's party is negotiating alliance terms with the Democratic Left Party, a group that failed to get into Parliament in 2002. The rivals draw support from the secular elite, including teachers, judges, doctors and military officers. Rebuilt after a military coup in 1980, their platforms revolve around their leaders' personalities as well as ideology.

Baykal and Zeki Sezer, leader of the Democratic Left Party, attended the huge demonstration in Izmir, but they did not stand together and shake hands as many protesters had hoped.

Analysts say the smaller Democratic Left Party wants enough seats in any alliance with the Republican People's Party to break away and form its own group once in Parliament. The Republican party is eager to avoid such an outcome because it doesn't want another competitor in the legislature.

There are even divisions within the Republican People's Party, the largest challenger to Erdogan's government. Baykal is viewed by some party members as out of tune with a changing Turkey. His supporters have criticized many aspects of Turkey's bid to join the EU, and a big part of their platform consists of recycled tributes to secularism enshrined in the Constitution.

Separately, two conservative parties merged as the New Democrat Party, which could help them pass the 10 percent voting margin. The conservatives plan to woo Turks who had supported Erdogan in 2002 to show displeasure with the previous government, but now want a less polarizing alternative.

Another player is the Nationalist Action Party, a far-right group that has capitalized on resentment toward the European Union for what some Turks view as arrogance and interference. It received just over 8 percent in the last election and did not make it into Parliament, but might succeed this time if it can harness a piece of the national mood.

Erdogan's party will seek to retain its large majority, an outcome that could avoid a weak coalition government with little appetite for bold policy. But it would shut the secularists out of power, possibly polarizing the country even further.

"The military has made clear that it might intervene if needed," said Nihat Ali Ozcan of the Economic Policy Research Institute in Ankara.

Strengthening confidence-building measures in Azerbaijan-Armenia relations most important - Russian MFA
Strengthening confidence-building measures in Azerbaijan-Armenia relations most important - Russian MFA
Baku entitled to demand compensation from Armenia – Russian political analyst
Baku entitled to demand compensation from Armenia – Russian political analyst
US must choose between real ally Ankara and fictional history - Turkish presidential administration
US must choose between real ally Ankara and fictional history - Turkish presidential administration
Loading Bars
Azercell’s high-speed mobile internet continues to cover on and under the ground
High provision of reserves positively affects Azerbaijan's sovereign rating - Gazprombank
Azerbaijan establishes Commercialization & Technology Transfer Center
Azerbaijan's MoD shows footage from Zangilan's Najaflar village (VIDEO)
Azerbaijan maintaining stable credit position despite pandemic - Renaissance Capital
Azerbaijani currency rates for Apr. 23
Georgia, Bulgaria aiming for improvement of maritime shipping
Growing share of renewables to cause electricity price volatility
Azerbaijan enters era of fourth industrial revolution based on artificial intelligence - Ministry
India's posts world record daily COVID cases for second straight day
Situation in Azerbaijan’s Ganja city following Armenia's attack – war crime, French lawyer says
Georgia shares data on revenues from excise taxes in 1Q2021
EBRD aims to finance main economic spheres in Georgia
13 patients killed in hospital fire in western India
Azerbaijan applies world experience in construction of digital cities
Russia and Azerbaijan interested in Georgian mussels and oysters
Lending to legal entities, individuals in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan drops
Georgia reveals volume of taxes, paid by its citizens
Azerbaijan discloses data on 1Q2021 oil export to Israel
EU leaders seek to lead climate action in carbon trading
NASA's Ingenuity helicopter logs another successful flight on Mars
More than 874,000 COVID-19 infections detected worldwide over past 24 hours
Iran cuts number of centrifuges enriching uranium to 60% purity, IAEA report says
3 rockets land near Baghdad airport in Iraq
Israel reports 189 new COVID-19 cases, 837,668 in total
Eight missing in Shanghai factory fire
Georgian FM meets Turkish counterpart in Bucharest
UN Environment, WHO support Georgia in deciding on regulation on lead paint
Uzbekistan’s business activity index sharply increases
55 new cases of "double mutation" variant found in UK in latest week
Azerbaijani athlete reaches final of European Artistic Gymnastics Championships
Azerbaijan's banking sector wraps up 1Q2021 with profit
Internet data transmission speed slightly down in Azerbaijan
National Bank of Georgia sells funds at foreign exchange auction
Georgia sees increase in vegetables export
State Customs Committee discloses export of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Georgia
Turkmen Ministry of Agriculture extends tender for purchase of necessary goods
Flydubai to resume flights at Georgian Batumi International Airport
Polymetal International boosts gold output in Kazakhstan, Russia
Brazil reports 3,472 more deaths
Kazakh gas supply company opens tender for construction of operational base
Georgia unveils data on exports of fruits and nuts in 1Q2021
Azerbaijan plans to increase production of fish and fish products
Turkey’s export of furniture and timber to Turkmenistan down
Kyrgyzstan ranks second in world in terms of cheapest mobile internet
Iran's annual exports of dried fruit, nuts grows %42
Georgia opens 69-th online session of UN Economic Commission for Europe
World community must know about Armenian atrocities in Azerbaijan – French lawyer
PM Modi announces India-US partnership on climate, clean energy
Azerbaijan Airlines to start operating special flights to London
Building of Azerbaijan’s Mud Volcanoes Tourism Complex to look like crater from above
Strengthening confidence-building measures in Azerbaijan-Armenia relations most important - Russian MFA
Georgia publishes budget performance report of 1Q2021
French lawyers arrive in Azerbaijan’s Ganja city, shelled by Armenia during war (PHOTO)
EIB financing helped to launch 60 satellites into space in 2020
EIB likely to support dev’t of renewable energy sphere in Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan shares data on number of vaccinated citizens for Apr. 22
Azerbaijan confirms 2,047 more COVID-19 cases, 2,610 recoveries
Baku entitled to demand compensation from Armenia – Russian political analyst
IATA revises 2021 forecasts of world airlines losses
Azerbaijan to open tourism bureau in Israel
Belarus to supply components for Azerbaijan to assemble tractors in 2021
Several more Russian airlines allowed to operate flights to Baku
EIB exploring new project ideas to support digitalization across Eastern Partnership
SOCAR won't participate in sales of Antipinski Refinery’s property
NCOC talks Marine Access Channels Project plans at Kazakh Kashagan field
Azerbaijan's Aghdam in complete ruins - French lawyer
Uzbekistan’s Central Bank notes decrease of inflation rate
EAG working on assessing Turkmenistan's compliance with FATF recommendations
Uzbekistan GTL to buy pipes via tender
Kazakhstan’s KazTransOil to pay out dividends for 2020
Economy Ministry shares data on revenues from Azerbaijan's non-oil and gas sector
Turkmenistan elected member of Executive Board of UN Entity for Gender Equality, Empowerment of Women
Historical monuments in Azerbaijan's Aghdam vandalized - French criminal justice attorney
Kazakhstan’s KazTransOil decreases oil transshipment volumes in 1Q2021
Turkmenistan increases processing of agricultural products
Turkmen company exports tomatoes to Austria
Autoclave gas blocks plant construction launched in Kazakhstan's Turkestan
Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan launches new communication facilities in 1Q2021
Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan sees decrease in insurance portfolio for 1Q2021
Iran’s Bahar Azadi gold coin price again falling
Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan State Statistical Committee shares data on reconstruction of roads
Equinor to electrify over 35% of its total oil & gas output base by 2025
Russia leads among countries exporting goods to Azerbaijan
Iran’s CBI allocates funds for import of essential products
Output from Georgian Enguri HPP to increase after reconstruction - Director of Enguri HPP
Azerbaijan shares footage from Jabrayil's Shahverdili village (VIDEO)
Tesla opens Tel Aviv pop-up store
Russian airline receives permission to operate flights to Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan’s 3M2021 retail trade turnover of small business decreases
Number of bank accounts increases in Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan
American Airlines loss narrows as travel demand picks up
Azerbaijan jointly with Russia sets up car manufacturing enterprise
Number of innovative companies worldwide grows
Kazakhstan boosts production of coal, some petroleum products
Swiss president heads for damage-control EU summit
Etihad Airways to stop operating Boeing 777-300ER jets this year
Installation of info boards on roads leading to Azerbaijan's liberated lands continues (VIDEO)
French human rights activists visiting Azerbaijan's Aghdam (PHOTO)
Georgia increases imports of tomatoes from Azerbaijan
All news