Leaders of six Turkish opposition parties gather for strategy dinner. HDP major absentee.

Critics strongly doubt the new wine in old wineskins.

ANKARA — At the invitation of CHP chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leaders of six opposition parties gathered yesterday for a strategy dinner in Turkey’s capital to discuss a common strategy against AKP party-dominated Turkish politics and the presidential systems introduced after a referendum in April 2017. According to Syriac newspaper Gazete Sabro, present at the dinner were Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, İyi Parti Chairwoman Meral Akşener, Saadet Party Chairman Temel Karamollaoğlu, Demokrat Parti Chairman Gültekin Uysal, DEVA Party Chairman and former Minister in an AKP government Ali Babacan and Gelecek Parti Chairman and former AKP-Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.

The agenda of the strategy dinner included the strengthening of the parliamentary system in Turkey, cooperation between the opposition parties in the next elections, the planning of the transition process from the current presidential system to the former parliamentary system in case the elections are won, and how the presidential candidate will be determined.

The CHP, i.e., the Republican People’s Party founded by Turkey’s first President Kemal Atatürk, has dominated Turkish politics for decades since the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923 – always with the controlling Turkish army in the background. Since the establishment of the Republic and Turkey’s oppressive nationalist and denialist policies, the number of Syriacs in Turkey has dwindled to some 25 thousand today. The same historical downward trend goes for Turkey’s Greek and Armenian citizens.

The CHP lost its dominant position to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the early 2000s. After successful years of reforms, with backing from the EU and the US, and a constantly growing economy, mainly driven by volatile foreign capital inflows, cheap credit, and a construction boom, things started to deteriorate fast. In the later 2010s big cracks appeared in the economy. The country has since been going through an economic and financial crisis for several years, exacerbated by President Erdogan’s ‘contrarian’ financial policies and the corona pandemic.

Notably absent at the opposition dinner was opposition party the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is the third largest party in the Grand National Assembly with 56 of the 600 seats in parliament. In recent years, especially after the failure of reconciliation talks between the Turkish government and the outlawed Kurdish Workers’ Party and the coup in 2016, the HDP is undergoing a severe crackdown by the AKP-led government and several of its MPs have been either expelled from parliament or jailed on vague charges of sympathy for the PKK.

Whether the new coalition of the six opposition parties will provide better living conditions and genuine enforcement of civil rights for the Syriac people and other minority peoples is highly questioned. Critics strongly doubt the new wine in old wineskins.