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Moderate defeats nationalists by being super nice

The key lesson for centrists from Ankara's mayoral election last week is surprising. It appears that you can defeat populist nationalists by being nice.

Even after it was forced to fight a re-run election, the moderate CHP party won again, this time with a bigger majority. Despite bitter attacks on him, Ankara's new CHP mayor, Ekrem İmamoğlu, is determined to be totally inclusive, pledging to provide his services first to districts that didn’t vote for him.

İmamoğlu refused to talk the "language of rage" and instead always spoke politely and courteously. In response to this niceness, President Erdogan's ruling AKP party "doesn't know what to do," said CHP strategist Ates Ilyas Bassoy.

Bassoy has advised CHP candidates across Turkey, and he gives them all the same message: Don't rise to the nationalists' bait - be nice. This advice is fleshed out in the book Bassoy wrote, called "Radical Love" which he distributed throughout the CHP party shortly before the elections in April.

The book urges moderate politicians to spend more time listening than speaking, especially when engaging directly with voters. It suggests that when they do speak, politicians should use language that's specific, inclusive, down-to-earth and calm, and that they should often use humour.

Bassoy said: "Turkey has been making the same mistake for years, belittling and swearing at Erdogan, telling him how ignorant he is, but this only bolsters his support, much like Donald Trump in the United States."

Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies and former CHP parliamentarian, says the philosophy of Bassoy's book is aimed to counter "kibir" which is a Turkish word meaning arrogance, vanity and hubris. Specifically he says: "I would argue that this is a perfect antidote to a regime that is built on hate and scapegoating."

Centrists, liberals and moderates everywhere, who want to defeat the forces of extremism and nationalism, might do well to take note of Bassoy's calming methods.

You can read more about this in English here: www.middleeasteye.net/news/radical-love-book-hailed-key-turkish-opposition-election-success

or in French here: www.middleeasteye.net/fr/reportages/le-radical-love-book-salue-comme-la-cle-du-succes-de-lopposition-turque-aux-elections

Ates Ilyas Bassoy's book on being nice to defeat the nasty nationalists.

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