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Implications of the slogan “local and national”: Is Turkey experiencing a new form of nationalism?

Written by: Rozalin Eraslan

As significant in nationalism-centric identification efforts especially during the early 20th century, concepts of “local” and “national” can be deemed as having a strict relationship since the establishment of modern Turkey during these periods. Whilst these terms were frequently used to emphasize the ‘development’ for the purpose of narrowing the gap between modern Turkey and Western economies, that also provided an implicit motivation basis for citizens who suffered long-lasting exhaustive times during WWI, Turkish War of Independence as well as the unfortunate legacy of substantial foreign debt burden of the Ottoman Empire. Indeed, the manufacturing and economic independence development progress in those periods indicate a meaningful and correct usage of these terms in tandem with the objectives.

Indeed, political objectives can easily vary, of which the divergence between the objectives and the context might lead to clearing out the meanings and its potential contribution to the public. Herein, Turkey has been experiencing a new form of nationalism emphasis especially since the last 5 years in line with the rising new right populism across the world. However, this time, objectives in citing “local and national” emphasis is likely to be different in Turkey’s political landscape that is mostly driven by the ruling party’s – Justice and Development Party – efforts to exploit it as a supplementary tool in addressing collecting subconscious and conditioning the reflexes of conservative voters.

“LOCAL AND NATIONAL”: A MAGIC WAND TO PAPER OVER THE CRACKS?

Amidst increased financial instability across Turkey, the ruling party’s increased stress over local and national manufacturing can be deemed reasonable. Whilst these terms are practically supported with certain government initiations – e.g., the unmanned combat aerial vehicles, national car brand Togg under the consortium of Turkey-originated holdings coordinated by the government – such policy shift should be subject to a late history-centric retrospective analysis.

With the beginning of the last decade, the after effects of the tight monetary policies adopted by major central banks started to become visible. In return, as a net importer country, Turkey started to suffer from local currency depreciation issues severely, hence brought budget deficit threat. Such a country fraught with such substantial macroeconomic threats, was treated with successive privatization and asset sale initiatives to foreign investors – to exploit the attractiveness of foreign-currency valuation given substantial depreciation of TRY – instead of macroprudential policy sets. Indeed, the emphasis on local and national manufacturing today connotates these questionable policy sets in the sense that why these terms were not embedded into the policy sets before it was too late and ‘costly’. As a matter of fact, the political discourse transition can be discussed under a populist context driven by voter-centric calculations rather than a long-lasting development-centric policy roadmap.

GENUINENESS OF LOCAL AND NATIONAL AMIDST FOREIGN POWERS THREAT DISCOURSE

In line with the communication strategies and the initiatives, the “local and national” strategy is also driven by the label that is used to encourage consumers to make selective decisions especially with products subject to habitual buying behavior (i.e., low involvement in purchasing decision combined with few differences across brands) and to provide a potential differential advantage for sellers through matching with prospect buyers having such politically driven sensitivities and are intensively targeted through conditioned their ‘nationalistic’ reflexes during these communication strategies.

Likewise, the government-led national car brand Togg is also subject to similar criticism as the arguments cluster around the questionable genuineness of the national car manufacturing process. Journalist Hikmet Cicek asserts that the government pursues the Togg brand to exploit its populist contribution under a short-term horizon, that is validated through unrealistic serial manufacturing projections. Indeed, Togg brings important historical connotations in the mindset of Turkish people as the country experienced a failure in its first national car brand “Devrim”, which was designed, engineered and manufactured within 129 days but could not be manufactured under a serial process. Coupled with this public subconscious in relation to failure in serial national car manufacturing in the past, the government’s agenda is likely to mostly cluster around populism-centric motivations – through extremely emphasizing the prototype – rather than a development-based initiatives given the lack of a robust serial manufacturing projections and its questionable value-added contribution to the macroeconomic conditions of Turkey.

Not to mention the fact that these communication strategies have been coupled with President Erdogan’s statements blaming politicians and policymakers abroad, which have been argued to have a substantial negative intention towards Turkey and are motivated to use all potential military and economic tools to triumph over Turkey. Herein, as these argumentations, as well as the communication strategies, are identified with ‘local and national’ policy set construction, the short-run motivations under populism-centric action plans become an important candidate to explain the policy shift of Turkey’s ruling party.

All in all, the motivations of local and national between two periods in modern Turkish history substantially differs in certain contexts as the latest is likely to be designed with rigorous political, agenda-based, and voter-centric calculations. Knowing that the survival and the likelihood of the ruling party’s victory is much more dependent on its minor political ally, ‘Nationalist Movement Party’, as these two go to the polls together under the “public alliance” – against the “nation alliance”, they will pass the 50% threshold for presidency. Thus, as the covariance and co-movement of voter behavioral patterns of these two parties become significantly converged, it necessitates Erdogan to consolidate the alliance’s voters under a common political ground, that is likely to bring ‘local and national’ politics discourse as the optimum solution set against all internal and external threats against the ruling party’s political future and prosperity.

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