By Amanda Algarra, Academic Affairs Intern
On Tuesday, May 12, the Niagara Foundation was pleased to have Suat Kınıklıoğlu, a Turkish politician, writer and analyst, speak on the upcoming 2015 Turkish General Election, to be held this June 7th. Mr. Kınıklıoğlu’s political career began in Ankara with the Democratic Left Party in 1995-1996. Currently, he works as the executive director for the Center for Strategic Communication, also based in Ankara.
Mr. Kınıklıoğlu began the discussion on the Turkish elections by reviewing Turkey’s political history and discussing its increasing authoritarian state. As an example to the recent turmoil that has occurred under the unjust democracy, Mr. Kınıklıoğlu referenced the 2013 Gezi Park Protests, where more than eight thousand people were injured and eleven lost their lives. He mentioned how this current reign of injustice is affecting Turks all over the world, and he drew on the extent of these effects by discussing how Turkey used to be country of opportunity. Rather than being a country that people would leave in search for better lives, Turkey was a place where people would move in. It’s a contrasting state from today’s Turkey, and Mr. Kınıklıoğlu believes that if the government continues on this downward spiral, Turks will eventually leave to search for better lives and opportunities elsewhere.
Although it is undergoing many tribulations, Mr. Kınıklıoğlu believes that the upcoming election could be the turning point for Turkey. He trusts that a true democracy can be rebuilt as long the people do not choose the current popular party, the Justice and Development party (AKP party). He stated that as long the opposing party, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP party), passes the ten percent election threshold, then Turkey would have “hope for democratic change and renewed democratic confidence.” Unfortunately, the HDP party faces some challenges when it comes to media coverage. The media gives an excessive amount of airtime to the AKP party and neglects to allow the HDP party a truly fair chance at these elections. Mr. Kınıklıoğlu expressed his concern on the matter and explained how big of a part the media can play in influencing how people will vote this coming June.
Nonetheless, Mr. Kınıklıoğlu remains hopeful. He concluded his discussion by stating that he believes that the Kurds will be the key to Turkey’s healthy democracy. During the Q&A session, Mr. Kınıklıoğlu was asked if he was optimistic for Turkey’s democratic future, and he answered by describing himself as an “incurable optimist.” In other words, Mr. Kınıklıoğlu believes that Turkey will find its way back to a wholesome democracy and overcome the AKP party. When explaining how he knew this of the country’s future, Mr. Kınıklıoğlu confidently stated that, “Turkey is simply too diverse.”
We thank Mr. Kınıklıoğlu for joining us with his informative and engaging discussion on the upcoming Turkish General Election.