Could Syriza become Greece’s AK Parti? - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

Could Syriza become Greece’s AK Parti?

The main opposition Syriza party emerged victorious in elections held in Greece over the weekend. The outcome didn’t come as a surprise since Greece has been stuck in an economic bottleneck for a long time now. There was a high probability that this economic collapse would determine the course of politics and who would come to power.

Syriza’s election victory under the leadership of Alexis Tsipras was expected.

Two fundamental reasons lay behind such an expectation: The first was the debt crisis that began in Greece in 2010. The crisis, which arose due to the Greek government’s inability to pay its debts, brought in its wake increased unemployment, the inability to pay the salaries of government officials, heavy taxes, and an economic structure that couldn’t provide health and education services.

The other reason was the campaign promises made to citizens by Syriza. These included free shelter and health services to those living under the poverty line, increasing revenue through higher taxation of the wealthy and other promises like income-based tax rebates. It seems that these managed to sweep Syriza to power.

Separately, Tsipras’ suggestions were a breath of fresh air to an electorate that wanted relief from the belt-tightening policies imposed on Greece by a triumvirate consisting of the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the European Central Bank, after the country’s economy had started to head downhill.

SYRIZA’S PROMISES SAME AS THOSE MADE BY AK PARTI

The AK Parti (Justice and Development Party) came to power in the first election it contested as a result of defending the social rights of the lower- and middle-income classes, which had borne the brunt of the cost of the economic crisis of 2001. The growing rebellion against economic inequality, which opened the gates to power for the AK Parti, was replaced with approval and gratitude through reforms.

The reason behind the AK Parti’s success, which has been in government on its own for 12 years and has increased its shares of votes in every election, is the fulfillment of the same promises that Syriza made during its election campaign.

The strengthening of the economy, particularly public finances, after the AK Parti came to power in 2002 resulted in increased funds for social expenditure. The economy taken over by Syriza though is in far worse shape than that of Turkey in 2001. Additionally, Greece is dependent on institutions like the EU and IMF due to its high debt levels.

This is why it looks improbable that Syriza will be able to create a national economy on the back of comprehensive reforms, like the AK Parti did in Turkey. Greece, as a member of the union whose aid it generously availed of, doesn’t have the luxury of ignoring the road map drawn up by the EU. It is also clear that the policies Greece has been made to implement by the EU have not resolved anything.

On the other hand, the necessary conditions do not exist for Greece to implement its own national economic program. This means that while Syriza’s promises sound good, it doesn’t seem realistic that they can be implemented in the short term.

This is the point that separates the period that followed the AK Parti’s election victory in 2002 from the period that will follow Syriza’s victory.

NO NEED FOR THE CHP TO GET EXCITED… 

It seems like some parties in Turkey, the CHP (Republican People’s Party) in particular, are excited by Syriza’s election success. To such an extent that Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the CHP leader, has promised to double social assistance. It seems like a complete change of stance by someone who until today criticized the government’s social assistance programs by referring to them as “the politics of distributing coal and pasta, increasing poverty and creating a handout culture.”

It is within our rights to ask some questions about this situation.

For years the CHP leader defended the stance that an increase in social assistance in our country created more deep-rooted poverty. If, in this situation, the CHP comes to power and increases social assistance two-fold like it has mentioned, will it also result in poverty rising two-fold?

In the same vein, has this mindset -- which for years has claimed the recipients of social assistance were selling their votes in return -- given up on its claims and promises of ensuring even revenue distribution and generating employment; and decided to “buy votes” instead?

Furthermore, on what basis will the CHP seek the votes of the poor and needy, who it claims voted for the AK Parti in return for assistance?

I could keep going on; however, the situation is clear. The CHP is once again behaving in a populist manner and doing politics on the basis of a short-term narrative. It is clear though that its narratives don’t provide citizens with any hope for the future.

Even saying it will increase social assistance conflicts with its previous political narratives, and doesn’t provide a new vision in an area where the government has been most successful.

This is why those making comments that a leftist wind is set to start blowing in global politics should know that it won’t find any takers in Turkey.  

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