What does the banned Green Party say and do?

Green Party Co-Spokesperson Koray Doğan Urbarlı spoke to Spektrum.
What does the banned Green Party say and do?

Bartu Özden

The Greens are a political movement which argues that politics should prioritize tackling the climate crisis in a period when the planet is heading towards extinction. Koray Doğan Urbarlı, Co-Spokesperson of the Green Party, one of the people trying to revitalize the movement in Turkey, which has received enough votes to become a government partner in some countries, visited our office and answered my questions sincerely.

The Ministry of Interior's "highly exceptional" obstacle

Urbarlı said that founding a political party in Turkey is even easier than founding an association and described the Ministry of Interior's blocking of the official establishment of the party by not providing the relevant documents as a "political comedy" despite fulfilling all legal procedures. He explained that they sought their rights through the judiciary, that the Ministry of Interior could not explain to the court the reason for this blockage, and that the court continuously gave the ministry additional time.

Noting that "they are not out of touch with reality," Urbarlı said that they knew that the Green Party would not be the first party on the day it has officially founded and that the political blockage they faced was "irrational." "It would be ridiculous to say that they are blocking us," he said, "but in an alliance system, the Greens would make the alliance more attractive, and their presence would have a multiplier effect considering the Greens have gained international momentum.

I also asked Urbarlı about their separation from the Greens and Left Future, which has been conducting politics under the HDP. Urbarlı stated that he left that party in 2016 and said that "there is no clear separation on paper, but they want to conduct politics in a more independent line instead of being under the HDP, and that there may be cooperation with the HDP."

"Triple crisis: Economic, ecological, social"

He said that the party is considered a "thematic" party because of its name, but that they do not only work on ecology, and that "if one day they come to power on their own, they will not be able to appoint 25 Ministers of Environment."

For example, he said, they discussed how they could raise a voice against Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and how they could influence like-minded people. And they differentiated themselves from other parties with a campaign to "expel Russia from Akkuyu, where it is building a nuclear power plant."

Urbarlı argued that there is a social, economic, and ecological "triple crisis" in the world and said that these crises trigger each other. He said that the economic and ecological crises hit us in the face every day, while the issue of migration and the rise of the far right that incites hatred are social crises. He stated that they are "aware that they can make a difference where they exist" with the responses to these three crises.

"Fair transformation"

I asked him whether he agreed with my opinion that in countries like Turkey, where the problems are relatively more burning, the Greens do not come to the forefront, whereas in countries with a higher level of prosperity, the Greens become a significant political actor. He replied that "green politics may be a luxury in countries that have not completed their economic development." He stated that it is a sociological fact that people who should be close to the left in Turkey are voters of right-wing parties, while people who should be close to the center-right vote for the left or center.

He noted that some of the comments they received on social media used the expressions "If you came to power, you wouldn't let us drive a car, you wouldn't let us eat meat, and now we can neither buy meat nor a car, what difference do you have from the AKP?". He said that he found this criticism subtle but that the importance of the recent vision of "fair transformation" emerged here. He said that not everyone and not every country has an equal share in making the world what it has become, so it would not be fair to expect the same amount of responsibility from everyone and people would move away from this movement. He said that simply saying "we need to save the world" to people whose happiness and living standards have been declining for twenty years and who think that they have lost their youth will not have any repercussions.

I asked Urbarlı how effective measures such as sorting our garbage regularly or reducing our energy consumption are in our individual lives. He said that it is very understandable that witnessing imported trash while trying to sort trash or seeing empty planes taking off and landing on the way to work by public transportation can be demotivating. And he adds that while we continue our efforts, large companies that create the real damage should be regulated. He underlined that they know it is technically possible to make Turkey carbon neutral.

Green New Order

The co-spokesperson of the Greens talked about the concept of a "green new order" or "green consensus," which aims to save the world, create new economic opportunities, and solve social problems by creating changes in various business sectors, namely a common way out of the triple crisis.

According to a report by the International Labor Organization, Turkey's energy transition to reduce carbon emissions would contribute $8 billion to the budget and create 300,000 jobs.

In a world where the war in Ukraine has brought the issue of energy security to the forefront and buying natural gas from Russia is seen as "financing the war," I asked him what he thought about European states' return to coal and nuclear energy. And he said that the image of nuclear as "cheap and green" was wrong, that the proposed solutions to the current energy crisis were not realistic, but that he thought that the current crisis could be an opportunity to transition to green energy in the long term.

Greens in the World

He argued that the Greens were seen as a "bourgeois bohemian" ideology in the world, but today this perception has been broken, otherwise, it would not have been possible to become a ruling partner in Germany or a President in Austria.

I have observed that the Green Party in Ireland is very popular among young people, and even though it does not have high voting rates, the party's discourse influences other parties' programs. Urbarlı also stated that the Greens and their ideas have become mainstream "as climate change turns into a climate crisis," and that what the Green Party said in Germany in 2001 has become the discourse of the Christian Democrats today.

When I asked Urbarlı what kind of relations they have with Greens in other countries, he replied that they have no organic ties with any party, but that they take part in international discussion platforms and "want to establish a relationship between equals." He said that a person looking from afar might think that all Greens around the world are parties that think the same on all issues, but that there are discrepancies, and that there are Greens in different countries who are closer to the left of liberalism.

Will they compromise for gains?

I shared my observation that some Greens are willing to make concessions for gains and become government partners, while some Greens prefer to say what needs to be done and bring them to the opposition and asked them which stance they are close to on principle. Urbarlı talked about the "realist-fundamentalist" division in the Greens in Germany. He explained that the backlash against the party for supporting NATO's bombing of Serbia when they came to power is not the same today, even though the Greens, who are also in power today, wear camouflage against the Russian aggression and support Ukraine.

Urbarlı attributed the distinction between "a narrow, iron-clad party pursuing ideals or a broader, negotiating party" to "power" and said they would defend their ideals well. But if they did not update these ideals by analyzing them according to the time's necessities, they would fall behind the history, and they had to get stronger to negotiate. For example, he said that if all coal power plants were to be shut down, they could accept a transition period with natural gas. He said he did not want the Green Party to remain just a little group rallying around its ideals.

I asked him whether they would give unconditional support to the opposition's joint presidential candidate in the second round of the elections, or whether they would do so in exchange for some achievement, such as the inclusion of Turkey's coal phase-out in the program. He said that in his personal opinion, unconditional support for the opposition is necessary for the AKP-MHP regime to end as soon as possible, but that it would not be true for him to speak on behalf of the party at the moment. He added that he thought it would be better to negotiate while the candidates were still in the candidate selection phase, not in the second round. And he said that "they are a party with open cards, they will never support the People's Alliance, and they see the talks with the opposition not as negotiations but as a contribution."

Building grassroots and centralizing local ecological struggles

Ironically, he said that the problem of the Greens' "inability to go to the countryside" continues in the world and that the support in urban centers is gradually eroding towards the countryside.

Considering the course of history, he pointed out that the Greens will grow in cities and universities unless a big mistake is made, but he drew attention to the importance of commonizing, uniting, and centralizing local struggles.

Otherwise, he said, it is not possible to ensure the continuity of struggles that succeed locally. For example, a thermal power plant that is prevented as a result of a struggle may be built a few kilometers away a few years later.

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Weekly insights: Political sections from Turkey

Weekly insights: Political sections from Turkey

15 Tem 2022



Weekly politics publication focusing on Turkey, city agendas, and international policy.