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Political Repercussions Grow Over Turkey Bombing

A tram rides past the spot of Sunday's explosion on Istanbul's popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 14, 2022.
A tram rides past the spot of Sunday's explosion on Istanbul's popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, Turkey, Nov. 14, 2022.

The political and diplomatic fallout is growing after Sunday's bombing in Istanbul. Turkey blames Kurdish militants backed by the United States for the attack, which comes months before elections.

Mourners have not stopped laying flowers at the scene of Sunday’s fatal bomb attack on Istanbul's most famous shopping street.

While the country comes to terms with the bombing, the political repercussions are growing.

After detaining the alleged bomber, Turkish security forces claim the attack was carried out by the Kurdish militant group the PKK, a charge the group denies.

Devlet Bahceli, leader of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's parliamentary coalition partner, the MHP, called Tuesday for the closure of Turkey's legal Kurdish party, the HDP.

Bahceli said the coalition does not want to see separatists in the parliament. He said its members cannot stand seeing terrorists and cannot tolerate “for even a second” the HDP.

The HDP is already facing closure with many of its parliamentary deputies already in jail over links to the PKK, convictions the European Court of Human rights has condemned as politically motivated.

In a statement, the jailed former HDP leader, Selahattin Demirtas, warned the government could use Sunday’s bombing as a pretext to launch a new offensive into Syria against Kurdish forces of the YPG.

Turkey's Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu has claimed the alleged Sunday bomber confessed to being trained by the YPG, a group Ankara claims is affiliated with Kurdish militants of the PKK.

Washington backs the YPG in its war against the Islamic State terrorist group. Soylu dismissed condolences by the American ambassador, likening them to a murderer returning to the crime scene. Professor of International relations Senem Aydin Duzgit of Istanbul's Sabanci University says there is a large audience in Turkey for anti-American rhetoric.

“Well, there is a lot of anti-Americanism in Turkey and anti-Westernism. I mean, some of it historical, ideological, you know, because you have anti-Americanism both on the right and also on the left of the political spectrum," said Duzgit. "This is not just something that's sort of unique to the right wing of the political spectrum, but the left suffers from it as well.”

But any diplomatic discord between Ankara and Washington appears for now to be contained, with Erdogan meeting U.S. President Joe Biden Tuesday on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia. But analysts suggest the real fallout could be next year's presidential elections. With Erdogan and his AKP party languishing in the polls, Soli Ozel, who teaches international relations at Istanbul's Kadir Has University says Sunday's bombing stokes fears that history could be repeating itself.

“It rekindles the fears that we might find ourselves in a situation in the period between June 7, 2015, and November 1, 2015, when we had repeat elections," said Ozel. "The AKP lost it absolute majorly in parliament, and an alternate government couldn't be formed, so we went to repeat election, and in between that period of time, violence escalated; there were terrorist incidents before the repeat election took place.”

Erdogan won the November 2015 election with a large majority.

Opposition parties are already raising questions over the speed and swift conclusions of the investigation into the Sunday bombing.

Observers say the opposition’s scrutiny of the government’s handling of the investigation is likely to grow as elections draw closer.