According to new leaked minutes of a meeting of Justice and Development Party (AK Party) officials, the AK Party has created polarization in society for years in order to gain more votes and a new type of polarization must be created on the eve of the general election on Nov. 1.
In a continuation of leaked AK Party meeting minutes published earlier, the Nokta weekly on Monday published new details from an AK Party meeting held on Aug. 31 that was attended by senior party figures, including Ömer Çelik, Numan Kurtulmuş, Taha Özhan, Erol Olçak, Lütfü Elvan, Taner Yıldız, Ali Sarıkaya, Hatem Ete, Efkan Ala, Ertan Aydın, Mücahit Arslan and Mahir Ünal.
According to Nokta's report, AK Party spokesperson Çelik was chairing the sessions on the first day of AK Party meetings that were held on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
In the Aug. 31 meeting, Çelik reportedly provided details of the AK Party's strategy toward Kurdish voters and indicated that the party had formed a committee to decide on the rhetoric to be used in the mainly Kurdish-populated southeastern provinces.
There are other groups within the party that think that new divisions must be created, as the AK Party's electoral campaign cannot be coordinated through civil society and think tanks, Çelik says in the meeting, according to the report. “Shall we prioritize reconciliation or polarization? If it is polarization, then we need to specify in which part of society we will we create that polarization,” he said.
After Nokta's first publication on Oct. 12 of minutes of the AK Party meeting held on Sept.1 which focused on their evaluations of the reasons for the AK Party's failure in the June 7 general election, access to the web link of the Nokta report was blocked upon an order from the government on Oct. 14. According to the Taraf daily, the AK Party has also launched an internal investigation to find out who disclosed the information to Nokta.
AK Party spokesperson Çelik argued on Oct. 12 that Nokta's report was ‘imaginary and fictional'.
According to the minutes, Çelik said that the AK Party's stance on Kobani and a Kurdish translation of the Quran led to the transfer of Kurdish votes from the AK Party to the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) than President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's denial of the Kurdish problem in Turkey.
In October of last year, demonstrations in protest of the Turkish government's failure to help prevent the town of Kobani in northern Syria from falling to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) turned violent. More than 50 people died during protests held across Turkey.
One of Erdoğan's remarks during the October 2014 protests drew strong criticism from Kurdish society: “Kobani is about to fall,” he said. However, Kobani was saved from ISIL after the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), an affiliate of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that is based in Syria, took control of the city.
In a sharp deviation from his earlier stance in 2005 acknowledging the existence of a Kurdish problem in Turkey, President Erdoğan said in March that Turkey never had a Kurdish problem, adding that Kurds enjoy all the rights and everything else enjoyed by Turks.
During a rally in the southeastern province of Siirt in May, Erdoğan prompted criticism of abusing religious symbols in the name of politics by waving a copy of the Quran while addressing the crowd.
According to the records of the AK Party leadership meeting held on Aug. 31, the right-wing and nationalist approach of the AK Party toward the HDP and its co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş led to Demirtaş being seen as a victim and being popularized in the media.
Deputy Prime Minister and AK Party deputy chairman Numan Kurtulmuş noted that the HDP and Demirtaş received more support despite the AK Party leadership strongly criticizing both him and the HDP during the June 7 general election campaign.
AK Party parliamentary group deputy chairman Mahir Ünal also reportedly said during the meeting that the AK Party does not understand the situation and that party members are not able to successfully explain it to supporters. “When Demirtaş says the AK Party must distance itself from terrorism it was sold in the media; however, we were unable to even explain that this is an interim government not an AK Party government to our supporters,” he said.
According to the minutes in the Nokta story, Ünal also believes that the AK Party exploited sensitive issues in Turkish society, which he said “is called ‘emotional vampirism' in psychology.”
Underlining that the AK Party is unable to read society correctly, Ünal also noted that they should start finding an answer to the question “Who are we?”
Kurtulmuş also noted during the meeting that they don't know who they are fighting and that they should not polarize society without determining their allies and an enemy.
“Therefore, we should prepare professionally, similarly to forming a war strategy, that will be used at the congress [meeting of the AK Party] and for the upcoming election,” Kurtulmuş said, according to the minutes.
The minutes also indicate that President Erdoğan's former top advisor and AK Party deputy Mücahit Arslan underlined that the AK Party may go below 35 percent after losing another 3-4 percent of the vote if there is a power struggle between Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu.
Arslan believes that the AK Party could easily win the election with enough of a majority in Parliament to form a single-party government if Davutoğlu acts as a self-effacing leader of the party. “If Davutoğlu stands out, Erdoğan will also then want to go to the front, which will create tension within the party,” Arslan said.
Erdoğan's propaganda expert, Erol Olçak reportedly added that people were disturbed to hear “strong prime minister” or “strong president” during the election campaign. “People associate the word ‘strong' with authoritarianism,” he said.
Olçak also underlined that supporters of Erdoğan and those of Davutoğlu blame the other for the AK Party's failure in the June election. “For the prime minister and his friends, it is the president who took the party down to 41 percent when it was about to reach 45-50 percent. For the president and his friends, they see it as they handed over a party with a 52 percent vote share but Davutoğlu and his team took it down to 41 percent,” he said.
Davutoğlu's chief advisor Hatem Ete complained about deadlock in the AK Party because of personal politics. According to Ete, AK Party officials cannot take any action without having an answer to “What does Erdoğan want?”
According to Ertan Aydın, a former senior adviser to Erdoğan, the AK Party has become similar to the Ihvan (Muslim Brotherhood) instead of liberalizing world Islamic movements as it did in 2002 when the AK Party's stance was appreciated in the Islamic and Western world.
According to the report, Aydın also said that the AK Party must reform itself and acknowledge the rights of minorities in Turkey, including Alevis and even other gender identities.
Former Interior Minister Efkan Ala reportedly then said at the meeting that reforms such as acknowledging the rights of Alevis are not creating excitement in society any more. Therefore, they must create a special unit in the party to conduct media management and control the issues discussed in the media. “It costs a lot when we leave the media alone. When it is out of our control, we slide to different topics,” he said.
The Nokta weekly also published notes from a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) meeting which is thought to have been held after Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) attacks in the Dağlıca area of Hakkari province on Sept. 6 and in Iğdır on Sept. 8 in which 29 police and gendarmerie officers were killed, and during which AK Party officials admit the government's failure to successfully fight terrorism.
According to the notes, AK Party officials who attended the meeting spoke about developments in the southeastern provinces following attacks on 11 Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) offices across Turkey in the wake of the Dağlıca and Iğdır attacks.
AK Party officials reportedly said during the meeting that the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), an umbrella organization that includes the terrorist PKK, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian Kurdish militia group the People's Protection Units (YPG), and other armed forces are getting legitimization from Western powers in their fight against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria and Iraq.
They also indicated that they believe that it would be difficult to return to 2012 conditions and sit around a table with PKK or KCK leaders for a settlement process in order to resolve the problems of the Kurds. A settlement process was launched by then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan in 2012; however, the process was frozen by the AK Party government in April 2015 prior to the June general election.
Complaining about being unable to control the psychological war against the PKK, AK Party leaders also admitted the government's inability to take it own soldiers' bodies from Dağlıca 24 hours after the incident. “It is a shame. There are only four PKK camps in the Kandil Mountains and we have destroyed them more than 100 in the last month. There are curfews in many cities. Yet, what is the result?” one said.
Nokta's leaked notes also reveal that the AK Party government didn't seek to completely finish off the PKK through operations in the Southeast and party officials suggested using psychological warfare tactics in order to influence and control society's attitude.