Best-laid plans: on Turkish politics

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan did not take many by surprise last week when he called presidential and parliamentary elections in June, more than a year ahead of schedule. In power since 2002 first as Prime Minister and since 2014 as the first directly elected President, he has overseen the country’s steady lurch towards right-wing authoritarianism; the snap poll could be another step in that direction. Last year he won a controversial referendum favouring an executive presidency, and he is clearly anxious to complete the transition, as the changes only come into effect after the presidential election. Mr. Erdoğan had pulled off a slender victory in the plebiscite, though the exercise was held under a national emergency and several opposition leaders were in detention. The outcome reinforced concerns about the sagging popularity of his Justice and Development Party (AKP). The risk of Turkey’s economy overheating, besides soaring inflation, would make Mr. Erdoğan wary of leaving time for the opposition to consolidate. For now, averting a run-off would be uppermost on his mind. Observers cite recent developments as a prelude to the elections. One highlight is the alliance the AKP struck a few months back with its one-time rival, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The latter’s hard line on the Kurdish question and opposition to the Western alliance — notwithstanding Turkey’s membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and long-standing ambition to join the European Union — are well-known. Curiously, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli spoke about early elections just a day before Mr. Erdoğan made the actual announcement. 

The pact between the two parties is emblematic of Mr. Erdoğan’s overall political shift to a hardline stance at home and in his foreign policy. Turkey’s offensive in January against a Kurdish enclave in north-west Syria tapped into a deep hostility at home against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an insurgency movement. Conversely, the attack on Afrin drew strong condemnation from Ankara’s NATO allies, who count on Kurdish militias in their military campaign against the Islamic State. At home, democratic space in Turkey has severely shrunk since the imposition of a national emergency and the crackdown following an unsuccessful military coup in 2016. Since then, countless critics have been detained, including journalists, and Turks are careful about voicing their opinions openly. A recent clampdown in a reputed Istanbul university over Turkey’s offensive on Afrin has raised concerns over academic freedom. The routine labelling of protesters as terrorists and communists reflects a creeping intolerance against even normal expressions of dissent. Even as he seeks to consolidate his hold on power, Mr. Erdoğan can only salvage his reputation if he starts restoring civil liberties ahead of the election.


Uniting line: on CPI(M)’s political resolution


By adopting a political resolution acceptable to both the majority and minority sections, the 22nd party congress of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) averted a divisive contest for the post of the general secretary and gave a fresh term to the incumbent, Sitaram Yechury. In its essence, the political line was not very different from the draft political resolution backed by the majority section led by former general secretary Prakash Karat, but it was sufficiently vague to give some manoeuvring room to the beleaguered Mr. Yechury. The clause of contention related to allying with the Congress to defeat the BJP — with the majority Karat line, backed by most of the Kerala unit, against it, and the minority Yechury line, supported by most of the West Bengal unit, for it. The compromise involved replacing the phrase “without having an understanding or electoral alliance with the Congress party” with “without having a political alliance with the Congress party”. The end-result allowed both sides to claim victory. For the Karat side, ruling out a political alliance meant ruling out an electoral alliance; for the Yechury side, the withdrawal of the specific bar on understanding and electoral alliance with the Congress opened up the possibility of taking such a course. For those not used to the intense debates in Communist parties this might seem more like word-play than sword-fight. But the differences are rooted not only in a theoretical understanding of the threat posed by the BJP, whether it is communal authoritarianism or fascism, but also in the practical difficulty of fighting the Congress in Kerala and allying with it elsewhere. If fascism were the only concern for the West Bengal unit, an alliance with the Trinamool Congress should have been just as viable.

However, reducing its whole politics to the question of allying with the Congress would have been a serious mistake for the CPI(M), which built its support base first on the back of working class struggles, and later in opposition to the growing threat from neo-liberalism, represented in equal measure by the BJP and the Congress. The political line, in any case, allows for an understanding with all secular opposition parties, including the Congress, on agreed issues inside Parliament, and a broad mobilisation of people against communalism. The happy compromise allowed Mr. Yechury a second term, leaving the question of whether the unity on theory will hold in practice to be answered at the time of a general election in West Bengal. True, the current political line does not prohibit the CPI(M) from having seat adjustments or a post-poll understanding with the Congress. But not even an imaginative reading of the resolution can allow for the type of alliance the two parties had in West Bengal in 2016.


1) Lurch

Meaning: Leave an associate or friend abruptly and without assistance or support when they are in a difficult situation.

Example: “He left you in the lurch when you needed him most”

Synonyms: Abandon, Desert

Antonyms: Help, Support

2) Authoritarianism

Meaning: The enforcement or advocacy of strict obedience to authority at the expense of personal freedom.

3) Snap

Meaning: Done or taken on the spur of the moment, unexpectedly, or without notice.

Example: “A snap decision”

4) Referendum

Meaning: A general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision.

Example: “He called for a referendum on the death penalty”  

Synonyms: Vote, Ballot

5) Anxious

Meaning: Very eager or concerned to do something or for something to happen.

Example: “The company was anxious to avoid any trouble”  

Synonyms: Eager, Keen

6) Slender

Meaning: (Of something abstract) barely sufficient in amount or basis.

Example: “People of slender means”

Synonyms: Meagre, Limited

Antonyms: Considerable, Abundant

7) Plebiscite

Meaning: The direct vote of all the members of an electorate on an important public question such as a change in the constitution.

Example: “The administration will hold a plebiscite for the approval of constitutional reforms”  

Synonyms: Vote, Poll

8) Detention

Meaning: The action of detaining someone or the state of being detained in official custody.

Example: “The fifteen people arrested were still in police detention”

Synonyms: Custody, Confinement

9) Sagging

Meaning: Decline to a lower level, usually temporarily.

Example: “Exports are forging ahead while home sales sag”

Synonyms: Falter, Weaken

10) Soaring

Meaning: Increase rapidly above the usual level.

Example: “The cost of living continued to soar”  

Synonyms: Escalate, Skyrocket

11) Consolidate

Meaning: Combine (a number of things) into a single more effective or coherent whole.

Example: “All manufacturing activities have been consolidated in new premises”

Synonyms: Combine, Unite

12) Averting

Meaning: Turn away (one’s eyes or thoughts).

Example: “She averted her eyes while we made stilted conversation”  

Synonyms: Turn aside, Turn away

13) Prelude

Meaning: An action or event serving as an introduction to something more important.

Example: “A ceasefire had been agreed as a prelude to full peace negotiations”

Synonyms: Preliminary, Overture

14) Rival

Meaning: A person or thing competing with another for the same objective or for superiority in the same field of activity.

Example: “He has no serious rival for the job”  

Synonyms: Competitor, Opponent

Antonyms: Partner, Ally

15) Emblematic

Meaning: Serving as a symbol of a particular quality or concept; symbolic.

Example: “This case is emblematic of a larger problem”

Synonyms: Symbolic, Representative

Antonyms: Representational, Realistic

16) Enclave

Meaning: A place or group that is different in character from those surrounding it.

Example: “The engineering department is traditionally a male enclave”

17) Hostility

Meaning: Hostile behaviour; unfriendliness or opposition.

Example: “Their hostility to all outsiders”

Synonyms: Antagonism, Bitterness

Antonyms: Friendliness, Approval

18) Insurgency

Meaning: An active revolt or uprising.

Example: “Rebels are waging an armed insurgency to topple the monarchy”  

19) Conversely

Meaning: Introducing a statement or idea which reverses one that has just been made or referred to.

Example: “He would have preferred his wife not to work, although conversely he was also proud of what she did”  

20) Condemnation

Meaning: The expression of very strong disapproval; censure.

Example: “There was strong international condemnation of the attack”  

Synonyms: Censure, Criticism

Antonyms: Praise, Plaudits

21) Militias

Meaning: A military force that is raised from the civil population to supplement a regular army in an emergency.

Example: “Creating a militia was no answer to the army’s manpower problem”  

22) Crackdown

Meaning: A series of severe measures to restrict undesirable or illegal people or behaviour.

Example: “A crackdown on car crime”  

Synonyms: Clampdown, Elimination

23) Coup

Meaning: A sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.

Example: “He was overthrown in an army coup”  

Synonyms: Overthrow, Takeover

Antonyms: Election

24) Detained

Meaning: Keep (someone) in official custody, typically for questioning about a crime or in a politically sensitive situation.

Example: “She was detained without trial for two years”  

25) Clampdown

Meaning: A concerted or harsh attempt to suppress something.

Example: “A clampdown on crime”  

Synonyms: Suppression, Prevention

26) Creeping

Meaning: Move slowly and carefully in order to avoid being heard or noticed.

Example: “He crept downstairs, hardly making any noise”

Synonyms: Crawl, Edge

27) Dissent

Meaning: The holding or expression of opinions at variance with those commonly or officially held.

Example: “There was no dissent from this view”  

Synonyms: Disagreement, Argument

Antonyms: Agreement, Acceptance

28) Salvage

Meaning: Retrieve or preserve (something) from potential loss or adverse circumstances.

Example: “It was the only crumb of comfort he could salvage from the ordeal”  

Synonyms: Rescue, Save

Antonyms: Retain, Conserve

29) Reputation

Meaning: A widespread belief that someone or something has a particular characteristic.

Example: “His knowledge of his subject earned him a reputation as an expert”

Synonyms: Name, Repute

30) Divisive

Meaning: Tending to cause disagreement or hostility between people.

Example: “The highly divisive issue of abortion”

Synonyms: Isolating, Schismatic

Antonyms: Unifying

31) Incumbent

Meaning: The holder of an office or post.

Example: “The present incumbent will soon be retiring”  

Synonyms: Holder, Bearer

32) Manoeuvring

Meaning: Move skilfully or carefully.

Example: “The lorry was unable to manoeuvre comfortably in the narrow street”  

Synonyms: Steer, Guide

33) Beleaguered

Meaning: Put in a very difficult situation.

Example: “The board is supporting the beleaguered director”  

Synonyms: Hard-pressed, Troubled

34) Allying

Meaning: Combine or unite a resource or commodity with (another) for mutual benefit.

Example: “He allied his racing experience with his father’s business acumen”  

Synonyms: Combine, Marry

Antonyms: Split

35) Claim

Meaning: State or assert that something is the case, typically without providing evidence or proof.

Example: “The Prime Minister claimed that he was concerned about Third World debt”   

Synonyms: Assert, Declare

36) Fascism

Meaning: A political system based on a very powerful leader, state control, and being extremely proud of country race, and in which political opposition is not allowed.

Example: This year’s history syllabus covers the rise of Fascism in Europe.  

37) Concern

Meaning: Have a specific connection with or responsibility for.

Example: “Those concerned in industry, academia, and government”

38) Viable

Meaning: Capable of working successfully; feasible.

Example: “The proposed investment was economically viable”

Synonyms: Workable, Feasible

Antonyms: Impracticable

39) Secular

Meaning: Not connected with religious or spiritual matters.

Example: “Secular buildings”  

Synonyms: Lay, Profane

Antonyms: Holy, Sacred

40) Mobilisation

Meaning: The action of a country or its government preparing and organizing troops for active service.

Example: “Mobilization of the army in 1941 brought 2,500,000 men under arms”