Roundtable – Turkey after the Referendum: An Opposition Perspective

On 4 May 2017, DPI welcomed Gulseren Onanç to speak at a small Roundtable in London. Ms Onanç is an Assembly Member of CHP (Republican People’s Party), the main party of opposition in Turkey’s parliament. She has previously served as a Member of the Party’s Central Executive Committee, as Deputy Chairperson, as well as managing CHP’s public relations. Previous to politics, Ms Onanç was a prominent businesswoman working internationally from Turkey. In 2003, she founded Ticketturk, a major online ticketing company. Her life in business included activism for women’s causes: she was a co-founder of KADIGER (Entrepreneur Women Association of Turkey) and active in the establishment of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s Commission of Equal Opportunities for Women and men. In 2009, she was honoured by the International Alliance of Women (TIAW) with the World of Difference Award.

Ms Onanç, along with a colleague, presented her view of Turkey during and in the aftermath of the referendum with cautious optimism. She described the political alliances and left-leaning coalitions that were formed during the referendum campaign and the implications of these collaborations looking forward to Turkey’s next round of Presidential elections. Her talk balanced current barriers to the peace process with indications of opportunities for peacebuilding to resume. Ms Onanç did not shy from the polarisation which divides Turkey’s society, highlighting different axes of contention, but was keen to emphasise that change was a real possibility in the near future. She was particularly interested in how young people could be included in political conversations about the country’s future. Following Ms Onanç’s presentation, a question and answer session allowed key components of her presentation to be unpacked further.

Feedback from the event indicated its high usefulness in understanding the situation in Turkey first-hand, and comments particularly noted Ms Onanç’s resistance to cynicism and commitment to progress.