With the presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey scheduled for June next year approaching, the political atmosphere in the country is getting hotter, and Syrian residents are at the top of the list of files that will focus on electoral campaigns and competition between the government and the opposition.
The opposition and refugees
It is clear from the political and media discussions taking place in the country that there are two main files that will form the main material for electoral campaigns in Turkey with the approach of the presidential and parliamentary elections, namely the economy and the Syrian refugees or residents.
While the economy has been a subject for daily debate between the government and the opposition due to the decline in many economic indicators in the country in the recent period for many reasons, including the Corona pandemic and the Russian war on Ukraine, the Syrians’ file has become a priority in the discourse of the opposition and the government alike in an unprecedented manner.
The opposition’s narrative centers on the fact that the Syrians should return to their country after all these years of living in Turkey because they pose a threat to it or an additional challenge at the very least from the angles of the economy and security as well as the demographic map, especially with the naturalization of nearly 200,000 of them in The last few years, in addition to the opposition’s claim that this is intended to increase the number of supporters of the president and his party (Justice and Development) in the elections.
This is because the Turkish opposition in general has adopted the idea of rejecting the presence of millions of Syrians on Turkish soil since 2011, calling for the need to return them to their country. The mouthpiece of most of the well-known opposition parties, and the adoption of hatred and racism towards the Syrians, and it is the mouthpiece of a few of the opposition.
Perhaps, in the second segment, it is possible to identify some leaders of the (national) Good Party, in particular the former leader in it Umit Ozdag, who defected, founding the “Al-Zafar” party, in which Syrians are a first priority in his speech and political programmes, while the head of the Progress and Democracy Party stands out in the first segment. – The former leader in the Justice and Development – Ali Babacan, who said that forcing the Syrians to return is illegal and immoral, although he does not hide his criticism of the government regarding the way it manages the file.
With this political agenda and the approaching election date, and with some individual events here and there, the Syrians have taken the lead in the recent period in the media, and to this were added some systematic and intentional campaigns, according to the Turkish Ministry of Interior, to incite them, in a way that sometimes caused friction in the street.
The opposition’s narrative is that the Syrians should return to their country after all these years of living in Turkey because they pose a threat to it or an additional challenge at the very least from the angles of the economy and security as well as the demographic map, especially with the naturalization of nearly 200,000 of them in The last few years, as well as the opposition’s claim that this is intended to increase the number of supporters of the president and his AKP party in the elections.
Therefore, the opposition in general, the “People” coalition more accurately, and the Republican People’s Party in particular, installed a slogan that turned into an electoral promise to “return the Syrians to Syria in just two years” if it wins the next elections and the matter will come to it.
With the well-known economic conditions in the country and the intensification of polarization between the ruling and opposition alliances, the opposition focused on the Syrians’ file and put it in the foreground, to the extent that the largest opposition party hung a large banner on its headquarters building, a series of questions – directed to the government – regarding the Syrians; From their entry to Turkey until they obtain citizenship.
On the other hand, the Justice and Development and the ruling coalition have become more alert to the importance of this file, especially since it was previously considered one of the reasons for losing the symbolic Istanbul Great Municipality in the 2019 municipal elections.
With the increasing focus of the opposition on the file on the one hand and the social media campaigns on the other hand, the Syrians were placed in the framework of “danger” according to the logic of “securitization”, and there was an impression (real or fake) that there was a popular demand in this direction.
Therefore, the Turkish government has worked in recent days on a set of policies and decisions that aim to reduce the negative friction between the Syrians and the Turks on the one hand and to give the impression to the voters – especially the hard-liners on this issue among them – that the government does not tolerate or favor the Syrians, but rather strikes with an iron hand when required.
In the first place, the government seeks to limit the number of foreigners in general in Turkey, as it has been relatively difficult compared to the past to obtain citizenship based on the purchase of real estate and tourist residences, as well as the refusal to register foreigners in some neighborhoods of major cities that contain a high percentage of foreigners.
With regard to the Syrians, it can be said that Turkey has frozen the “open door” policy for Syrian refugees for some time and is working to help them inside Syrian territory, in addition to controlling their presence in Turkey and preventing them from unreasonable movement between different governorates.
However, the most attention-grabbing policy and media attention is being tough on any security or societal problems for Syrians, so that deportation is the most likely decision regarding any problem of this kind involving the Syrians, in a clear message to the inside. The “banana” incident was an important indicator of this policy months ago, and human rights figures and institutions objected to the decision to deport a Syrian young man a few days ago despite the court’s acquittal and despite the videos showing that he was an assailant and not an aggressor.
With the continued pressure of the opposition, the political positions of the ruling coalition began to recede relatively. After defying the opposition not to deport Syrians and leave them to die because of the war they fled from or the regime that persecutes them, the Turkish president returned to saying that his government “will do everything in its power for the voluntary and dignified return” of Syrians to their country.
This statement from Erdogan was understood as a close turn with the government regarding the file of Syrians residing on Turkish soil, and that it was motivated by the position of his coalition partner, the head of the National Movement, Devlet Bahçeli, who said that “hosting time is limited” and that irregular migration is a kind of “invasion” calling for preventing Departures of Turkey in the feast towards the Syrian north of the return.
The issue of the visit of some Syrians to the areas of northern Syria on Eid and their return after it had previously sparked political and popular protests, and it seems that the government is in the process of avoiding the matter this year, as the Minister of Interior – who is close to the nationalists – stated that his country will “put restrictions” on these visits this year and in The two holidays.
Finally, regarding the outcome of this debate on the sidelines of the upcoming fateful elections, it seems that it will lead to more restrictions on the Syrians, and without guarantees that this will benefit the ruling party and the government in front of the opposition in the elections.
This is because previous experiences in more than one country say that trying to please the owners of hate speech and racism is a dangerous slip that leads to loss, not profit, because this group does not accept or remain silent if it gets what it calls for, but rather raises the ceiling of its demands even more, as it is considered an acknowledgment The correctness of her speech and her claims.
Similarly, on the political level, the government’s tendency towards strict measures against the Syrians – although most of them are a right for it as a government and a state – is to “play according to the rules of the opposition” and on its ground. Hence, the chances of the opposition’s gains are theoretically better than the chances of the government, which will remain within the framework of defending itself and trying to refute and abandon itself and its policies as much as possible, while it may be politically better for it to adopt a clearly defined policy, explain it and defend it in discourse and practice before the people and the opposition alike. whether.
In conclusion, regardless of whether the presidential and parliamentary elections are kept on schedule in the summer of next year or a little early, the Syrians’ file is likely to be with the economy, the two hottest topics in electoral campaigns, which means that it may be open to changes and shocks in the near future.