For Turkey’s opposition, it’s time to set aside its differences


Turkey’s main opposition the Republican People’s Party’s four-day Justice Congress in the western Canakkale region has come to an end with a five-article declaration.

Building on the success of the 450-kilometre ‘Justice March’ from Ankara to İstanbul in March this year, the party was hoping to maintain the momentum of demand for an end to widespread judicial abuses.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party, has declared that “a movement of democracy, justice and peace was about to be born” in Turkey and it would act, not on differences, but on shared values.

Mr. Kilicdaroglu deserves credit for shouting out against injustice and leading a progressive agenda which emphasizes citizenship, equality and freedom of speech.

Whatever the shortcomings of his leadership style or his party’s divisions may be, he is the strongest voice articulating civil liberties at risk.

He may be over-optimistic when he claims that “eighty million have a thirst for justice”, but in a country where more than 50,000 people have been arrested since the failed coup, more than 100,000 arbitrarily suspended, with at least 171 journalists in jail, there has to be a large enough number of people that are seeking timely justice.

There is no doubt that the governing Justice and Development Party and  President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, take Mr. Kilicdaroglu and his simple slogan of “justice” seriously.

Their dismissive and insulting responses to the Justice March of hundreds of thousands of people and the latest Justice Congress were signs of their pulpable uneasiness.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu’s biggest challenge now, is to find common ground in a divided opposition to join forces for fighting back against oppression.

Developing trust and cementing bonds of unity among government’s opponents will be no mean feat.

Criticism directed at the main opposition for its lack of empathy for Kurds is fully justified. So are the party’s nationalist tendencies in tandem with the government’s increasing belligerence.

Yet, desperate times call for desperate measures. Turkey’s opposition forces have no choice but come to a broad acceptance of their differences and find ways to stand in solidarity.

Reversing the French philosopher Blaise Pascal’s famous saying, power without justice may be tyranny, but demanding justice without power is, toothless.

This post is also available in: Turkish

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