Review On May 2023 Elections

The Workers’ Party of Turkey (TİP) has completed its assessment of the May 14th and May 28th elections, the former of which has proved to be one of the most significant elections of our country’s history, at the Party Assembly meeting held in Istanbul on June 3rd-4th. Various central branches like the Central Executive Committee and the Party Assembly, and other Party committees and branches will continue their work and their reviews to deepen the scope of the assessment. From the following week onward, the provincial and district organisations will hold similar meetings with the participation of all members. After carrying out detailed discussions with our comrades and citizens who gave their support during the election campaign and in the ballot, the calendar for the Grand Congress will be established.


1- The elections of May 2023 have seen all the characteristics of the 21-year-long AKP regime. Tactics used so casually by the AKP regime, and that we’re familiar with from fascist and authoritarian regimes such as repression, lies, slander, violence, unlawfulness and fraud, dirty war and propaganda techniques, hostility towards labour, women and the LGBTI+ were used extensively during this election period as well. Public opposition failed to break out of this foul and planned encirclement through complete unity and mobilisation of all of their members.

The Regime’s alliance led by AKP and MHP successfully used all facilities and means of the state and the partisan press to maintain the power of fascist, authoritarian, polarising and discriminatory rhetoric over their political base; even managing to influence some voters of the main opposition to cause confusion and miscalculations. The Regime’s alliance consolidated its base by uniting the antagonising rhetoric against various social groups notably the Kurdish people, several agendas like military industry, cross-border operations and global recession, with a fascistic power-rhetoric.

The Regime’s success in these endeavours -or at least succeeding in keeping its own political base from being influenced by the opposition’s discourse- should be discussed not only under the light of their propaganda tactics but also that of the sociological, cultural and ideological dynamics of the society of Turkey.

The way of defeating the AKP Regime remains to be a matter not of mere mathematical calculations but of radical political-ideological struggle. With these election results, it has been reaffirmed that there can be no hope of success through simple ballot estimates in an environment where the popular struggle is not strengthened.

2- On the road to 2023 elections the Turkish economy faced significant crisis dynamics. The rapid decline of national economic productivity, the failure of the temporary -and in the long term rather risky- measures in controlling the foreign currency crisis, the escalation of the citizens’ financial difficulties -particularly in terms of rent rates- and finally the extreme human and economic toll of the February 6th earthquake disaster, which had been one of the greatest disasters of our history, had produced hopes for a dissolution in the Regime’s political base.

AKP, on the other hand, managed the backlash from its own base due in part to its control over the public treasury and the funds of partisan capital, and in part the subsidies and tenders it provided. Due to AKP’s use of local authorities, municipalities and governorates as well as state institutions in a partisan manner, the Regime has been able to maintain direct contact with the impoverished workers; impressing on them the faint hopes it fabricated regarding financial and housing issues through temporary subsidies and incentives, and delaying the increasing pressure of the economic crisis on the workers by keeping unemployment in check. It is our duty to prepare for the inevitable explosion of these delays on the workers with increased severity.

3- To understand the class and social transformation of the 21-year-long AKP rule, one must understand its role in the route taken by Turkish capitalism since the 1980 coup d’état. The previous, export-oriented capital accumulation model based on the internal market and aiming towards development and public service was transformed into an import-oriented model first through political efforts and then the fascist junta government. This model required the minimisation of all labour rights and its economic share from production and demanded the conversion of public services into profit-driven services for the capital though privatisations, the evaluation of growth through industries like exports and construction and currency speculations, and the discipline of the political and social spheres through authoritarianism necessary for the materialisation of this model. Unlike previous right-wing governments, the AKP was recognised by both the national and international capital and foreign states because it accomplished said materialisation by utilising the widespread mass support it accumulated. In this regionally or globally import-oriented model, the logistical and supply advantages of Turkish capitalism and the abundance of fixed assets to plunder designated the primary element of competitiveness to be the lowering of the cost of labour. For this exact reason the dissolution and neutralisation of trade unions, the pruning and disorganisation of the social rights that regulate the working life, the construction of a working class model influenced by fundamentalist rhetoric and ideology through the education system and a web of cults and sects had been the systematic aim of Turkish capitalism and its party of 21 years; the AKP.

On top of this two-decade process, the relatively more comfortable and high-salaried sections of the working class were at the receiving end of a staggering redistribution shock during the last 5 years with the introduction of minimum wage updates and minimal improvements on cheap consumerism, while the said high-salaried workers experienced a loss of purchasing power. This process led to the minimum wage effectively becoming the median wage, and the purchasing power of the lowest-salaried workers and their higher-salaried counterparts were drawn closer, those with higher education were forced to emigrate, and in short the working class of Turkey was levelled down to near-minimum; allowing the capital to make significant headway in its strategy towards increasing competitiveness through decreasing the cost of labour. This picture shows that different segments of the working class in Turkey experience the dynamics of the current economic crisis in varying intensity.

The weakness of the working class particularly in terms of unionisation but also of the weakness and ineffectiveness of its existing organisations, combined with the failure of left-wing and socialist forces in fabricating creative and fruitful new models for class-organisation has made it difficult to fight for the benefit of labour. The Regime’s alliance effectively used this along with social subsidies for its own political base and produced an ideological rhetoric aimed at the differences among the working class for its own benefit. The Socialists are tasked with organising a patient and long-term struggle particularly on these two issues.

4- The major opposition block of Nation Alliance that united around Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s presidential candidacy has, despite the public’s and polling companies’ assumptions, failed to secure the parliamentary majority or win the presidency. It can be said that this failure is a product of various factors, and that while some of these were obvious from the start and were faced with warnings, some others were only made apparent due to an evaluation of the election results. Primarily the alliance’s internal tensions over the candidacy that were reflected to the public delayed their election preparations and caused distrust and projected an image of frivolity among the AKP-MHP base that they had planned to approach. Even after the candidacy dilemma was resolved, the Nation Alliance failed to formulate a unified discourse and the rhetoric of the right-wing parties and spokespersons among the alliance tarnished their image of unity and cooperation. The need to form closer relations with HDP/Green Left Party, the socialist parties and popular opposition forces were likewise impeded by the right-wing parties of the alliance and discriminatory and fascist rhetoric comparable to the Regime were often used. A serious lack of coordination was observed in their field operations during the elections, while the number of seats reserved for right-wing parties by CHP in their MP candidate lists caused significant loss of morale. As a result, the Nation Alliance posed an eclectic image of disunity and a lack of political rhetoric or vision beyond mere opposition to Erdogan.

5- Another reason behind Nation Alliance’s election failure is their failure to put forward a convincing economic model for the consideration of society at the verge of a serious economic crisis, already facing increasing financial difficulties and suffering from a staggering redistribution shock. Their economic model consisted almost entirely on a regulated version of neoliberal orthodoxy. Such an economic model, despite the promises of various spokespeople and Kilicdaroglu, mainly appeals to a portion of the largest capital groups of Turkish capitalism rather than the public. The model of a regulated version of neoliberal orthodoxy contradictorily combined with some economic reliefs for the public failed to gain traction particularly among the base of the current government; depriving the Nation Alliance from the voter transfers from the Regime’s base that they expected and propagated.

21 years of AKP mobilising state resources for partisan social relief networks, public support packages, major investments, loan options and direct subsistence aid combined with the ideology of power appears to have led their base to believe that the economic problems are only temporary, and if not that they can be resolved by Erdogan and the Regime’s alliance. On this matter neither Kilicdaroglu nor the Nation Alliance in general managed to formulate a consistent and convincing discourse. As a result, the long-standing 50-50 balance of voters could not be broken in the opposition’s favour and a replacement of power could not be achieved.

6- The status-quo and contraction on Turkey’s politics and social relations contain unsustainable aspects to them. Primarily, in the current atmosphere it’s evident that the leading figures of Turkey’s politics have reached the end of the road. To clarify, we can assume that the 2023 elections have been the final electoral runs of figures like Erdogan, Bahceli and Kilicdaroglu. The oncoming period of Turkey’s politics, whether in 5 years through the general elections or earlier through snap elections, will stipulate plans for a transition to the post-Erdogan period of Turkey. The plans of some capitalist factions along with some circles from within the state were presented by the Nation Alliance, but these scenarios failed to gain adequate approval in the elections. It is highly likely that these plans will be revised and re-presented by a new leader, new cadres and components. On the other hand, by winning the 2023 elections Erdogan, the capitalist factions that support him and the partisan state apparatus have also gained the opportunity to formulate and present their own plans for transition. It must be assumed that the oncoming period will be shaped by the competition between these transitional scenarios, and that this competition will produce new alliances and leader profiles. Also the far-right/nationalist/fundamentalist current in the political atmosphere and the internal power balance of the opposition indicates that they too, along with the government, will continue to follow their right-leaning tendencies. This right-leaning will be most apparent in the regression of labour’s working conditions and the reactionary/racist propaganda following the deepening of the financial difficulties, discriminatory and unlawful attacks on the rights and political representatives of the Kurdish people, rhetoric and action threatening the right and freedom to live of the women and the LGBTI+, the attempts by fundamentalist and jihadist parties and cults to scrape off Secularism from the social life altogether, and the upsurge of anti-immigrant sentiment through political campaigns. The discriminatory, antagonising rhetoric forced upon the opposition in the runoff elections that was then claimed to be “essential for victory” and turned into a central campaign which could never be shared by our Party was an indicator to this trend. Among other things, our Party will carry out the ultimate and most determined struggle possible to stand as a red line before the attacks by the Regime and the reactionary-fascist alliance that gained the majority in the new Parliament.

Also the elections have shown once again that Turkey not only has issues about the government, but an “opposition issue” as well. The assumption of unaccountability to their voters and members, the reaction of glossing over their failures with a fait-accompli instead of presenting a genuine self-critique have become not just a trend but a permanent mindset among all opposition actors of the system. But the fact that this attitude creates a major resentment particularly among the youth is not only welcome news for us, but also one that presents us with a multitude of opportunities.

7- Contrary to some arguments, whilst Labour and Freedom Alliance (LFA) -which was the largest force of left-wing/socialist opposition in the 2023 elections- did not suffer a significant failure, it could not fully realize the hopes pinned on it either. A major contributor to this outcome have been the policies of oppression and violence towards its major partner the HDP and the arrests, unlawful judicial acts and discriminatory/antagonising rhetoric towards the Kurdish people and their representatives. Despite this oppression and violence, the founding of the LFA, its cooperation for the benefit of our country and our peoples, and the hardships it has overcome should be viewed as a point of pride. Our Party is determined to take necessary responsibilities to support the endurance and growth of the LFA and the success of its mission of solidifying the solidarity of Turkish and Kurdish people and revolutionaries to ensure the liberation of our country. On the other hand, discussions on the position of our Party which proved itself an effective force within the alliance have produced attitudes unbecoming the spirit of solidarity. While this didn’t affect the popular opinion towards our Party, it did cause discouragement and discord among the alliance and the Workers’ Party of Turkey will do everything in its power to detect the errors of all sides and overcome these discussions.

The Party’s greatest mistake in this period has been to adhere to principles of goodwill and solidarity within the alliance to the point of refraining to respond adequately to the misinformation spread against itself. Most of the positions attributed to our Party have had nothing to do with reality. For instance, TİP suggested methods that it believed could increase the total number of MPs for the entire alliance, never engaged in “MP haggling” throughout the election period and certainly did not enter the elections for electoral “treasury grants”. Putting aside innumerable rumours, we can proudly say the Workers’ Party of Turkey kept every promise it made to our allies and our people throughout the election period. Moreover, all allegations against our party were debunked with the election results. The position that TİP’s entry to the ballot with its own MP candidate lists would increase the vote and the parliamentary seats of the Labour and Freedom Alliance, and the fact that TİP cost no parliamentary seats either to its allies or the general opposition have both been proven with mathematical certainty. Our only regret is that we had close-call losses in 3 seats and that in the districts we refrained from announcing candidates our allies could not achieve the ballot success we had hoped for, and as a result of both of these that our alliance could not emerge from the elections as a force that could decide the fate of our country.

At this point the LFA retains its significance for us not only as an electoral alliance but as a union of struggle. Our alliance will surely patch its wounds and emerge from this period with a renewed determination towards new goals and missions, and continue to broaden the solidarity and struggle to preserve the resolve of the workers, women, youth and all disadvantaged groups. TİP is in turn determined to formulate a comprehensive assessment of the past electoral period to learn from it and play its part in the coming days.

8- The Workers’ Party of Turkey has been successful in achieving its own goals according to its own criteria. We are grateful to all of our comrades, volunteers and voters who have made this possible. Since its founding, TİP has had the goal of turning socialism into a massive force, regarded the 2023 elections as an opportune springboard and concluded that if utilised its own particular political style it could receive nearly  3% of the votes. In the 5 years since, accounting for the districts where TİP could get significant votes but chose not to run due to the interests of the alliance, and despite the unfavourable changes in the electoral law, this goal has been validated. TİP’s success belongs not only to itself but the entire socialist movement in Turkey and everyone can benefit from the potentials this success will provide. By receiving a million votes and 1,7% of all votes as an independent socialist party, TİP has achieved an exemplary success that socialist parties of the last 60 years had failed to reach. Our Party’s election campaigns in Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Hatay, Antalya and Mugla, and the results that turned out in these provinces are especially encouraging and could open a new window for our organised activities when examined thoroughly. The votes received from young voters are also encouraging and our youth organisation and central organs should begin preparations to take any necessary step for TİP to assume the representation of the youth. In addition, the success we have achieved abroad in countries where immigration from Turkey increased in the past decade hint at a budding formation of representation for us abroad. We see that this success has been insufficient to change the direction of our country; but we will not allow anyone to unfairly diminish the efforts our comrades and the support of our people gave in this hard-earned achievement. While TİP has crossed the first threshold deemed necessary for making the socialist struggle massive, it will now set new and greater goals for itself. Rigorous and aware that our responsibilities for the workers of our country have only increased, through a period of collective discussion we will hold during summer and the congress period following autumn, the new goals, duties and strategy of TİP’s socialist fight will become clear.

9- The experience we have had in the 2023 elections have been instructive all-round. The Party is interested not only in its successes and the ground gained but also in the failures and lost potential. Moving forward, we will plot the necessary steps to further clarify our discourse from the centre to the entire party organisation. The Party has also failed to shape its members, volunteers and voters into a class movement despite the fact that it is comprised almost entirely of workers, mainly urban working class. We set for ourselves the goal of strengthening popular organisations, people’s own positions of political struggle and the common fight of the citizens that the government has been trying to consolidate through isolation and desperation. It is clear that our country requires stronger centres of popular struggle and a stronger leftist political line. For this reason we will start preparations to develop the Party centre and any tools utilised to reach the public for increased effectiveness.

Finally, during our election campaign and even the period that preceded it where we experienced rapid growth, we consciously adopted a more relaxed organisational method and such relaxedness has inevitably produced examples where the definition of membership and the members’ relationship with the party were significantly strained. In the coming period steps will be taken to reinforce issues such as the definition, entitlements and responsibilities of membership, organisational operations and party culture. In summary the Workers’ Party of Turkey will continue to grow, while reinforcing and widening its institutional and organisational structure, and develop its operations to maximise member and volunteer participation.

10- The Workers’ Party of Turkey has seen that its general strategy including the tactics used for the 2023 elections have been fruitful. In the coming period the Party will continue following this general strategy and make new adjustments to it based on the requirements and priorities of the time. For this reason the Party will continue and strengthen its inclination towards growing in both membership and volunteer action. Having crossed an important threshold towards becoming a massive party, we will continue to move further ahead and set new goals and targets. The urban workers’ issues of staggering changes in wealth distribution and the lack of representation that the left-wing/socialist forces fail to respond to also remain topical. While TİP has made some progress in responding to this lack of representation through its existence, its ongoing fight and electoral success, there is still much to do to assume political and organisational representation of the urban working class and the Party will continue its work to ensure this. Additionally, there is the unignorable fact that nearly 30% of the votes TİP received came from either those who had never voted before or even those who had voted for the Regime in prior elections. This data indicates that while TİP cannot completely scramble the Regime’s voter base, it appears to have come to a humble position where it can present itself as an alternative for the workers in that camp and break the 50-50 status quo and will be taking steps towards this possibility.

To summarise, TİP will intensify and expand its work towards assuming a leading role in the labour struggle. Another position the Party sees as vital is the aim for the political activities among workers for concrete political achievements. The style of political activity that doesn’t confine itself to mere propaganda but is based on concrete achievements for the working and daily lives of the workers, the youth, the women against the injustices imposed by the capitalist system, where TİP will assume a leading and unifying mission for this political struggle must be actualised immediately.

We regard our activities during the earthquake disaster as a significant experience for this aim. Our relief effort which set an important example in its own right has had a notable effect in our electoral success in Hatay. But independently from the election results, we are adamant on intensifying our efforts towards the necessary preparations against policies that turned the earthquake into a disaster so that our country does not suffer this way again, and more tangibly, to supervise the process of rebuilding Hatay as a citizen-oriented city. Our fight against the ongoing imprisonment of our comrade and Hatay MP Can Atalay despite being elected for parliament must be regarded as an extension of this resolve. We will forget none of the government’s crimes, nor will we yield to any arbitrary treatment.

Both before and during the electoral period, the laws such as n.6284, which protects women from physical, economic and psychological abuse or basic and hard-earned rights such as the alimony, were violently attacked and used as bargaining chips. The government used women’s rights and lives on the table to gain support from cults and parties that take issue with the mere existence of women. Women face pressure from religious cults and the society itself, and violations of their basic rights in matters of poverty, violence, education and security. To stand against this assault is one of our most basic political responsibilities.

11- The Workers’ Party of Turkey regards socialism not as a utopia but the only way for the world’s and humankind’s liberation from oppression. It takes special care to ensure that the principles and values of socialism emanate from every aspect of the Party from its simplest everyday activities to its widest social vision. One of the chief aspects of displaying that rigour is to make socialism an alternative in the eyes of the people, and to turn its principles and values into the symbols of future liberation. In theoretical and intellectual works and practical organisational activities, it is necessary to perpetually develop the vision of a socialist person, society and world; to reinforce the idea that socialism represents the novel and the future; that strengthening it is the only way for humankind’s liberation from exploitation and oppression; for its achievement of true equality, freedom and fraternity. The matter of ideological and intellectual development that have been neglected due to the more urgent and poignant problems of the country and the intensity of the electoral period needs to be readdressed and deepened; this along with producing methods to channel this development within the party and towards the society will be among TİP’s particular priorities.

12- Another responsibility the Party will assume will be to strengthen its organisational structure to withstand current and future issues; to institute a disciplined and orderly system of operation both vertically and horizontally; to increase its members’ awareness of Party principles and to strengthen and increase the number of the cadre members of the Party in both the central and local branches. It is particularly important for the Party to establish local connections and for our local organisations to become leading figures of social struggles in their areas; to become the symbol of the organised force of the people in every locality. TİP will use the parliamentary seats it gained thanks to its efforts and its voters’ grace to defend the people’s interests in the most effective way possible. Because of this, it is vital that TİP’s activities not be reduced to merely parliamentary work and the efforts of our MP comrades; but to carry the resolve and leadership shown in every aspect of the social struggles from the neighbourhoods to university campuses into the parliamentary podium through the Party. To that end, all means provided by the parliament will be mobilised towards the strengthening of the social struggle and our MP comrades will take responsibilities within such struggles. No prior habit or model can be allowed to impede our efforts for this responsibility. The Workers’ Party of Turkey will retain its identity as a diligent, assertive but humble socialist party which abides by its goals, inspiring trust and power with its organisation, with members whose ties of fraternity and camaraderie never wavers. The Workers’ Party of Turkey will be wherever the working people need it to be, do whatever they need from it and will eventually succeed at bringing the working class to power in Turkey.