Not a day goes by without the Turkish media reporting about the seemingly unstoppable rise of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and what the Kurdish political movement's growing popularity could mean for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which remains the most popular party among the nation's Kurdish voters. An oft-neglected aspect of the same story, however, is that the HDP campaign's advances have caused serious concern among the main opposition ranks. After all, something much bigger than the upcoming parliamentary elections is at stake: the future of Turkey's left politics.
Ahead of the June 7 parliamentary elections, the HDP leadership admittedly played their cards and went all-in by announcing that they would participate in the race as a political party, which subjects them to the 10 percent national threshold, instead of endorsing independent candidates who, once elected, would join the party. Considering that the Kurdish political movement received approximately 7 percent of the vote in previous elections, many observers warned that the decision could prove extremely costly. Others, however, pointed out that HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş had received over 9 percent of the vote in the 2015 presidential elections to suggest that an unprecedented success was within the movement's reach. At this point, the party's fate remains within the margin of error.
Another interesting aspect of the 2015 parliamentary elections is that the mainstream media had never shown so much interest in the Kurdish political movement. Arguably, the main reason behind the HDP's newfound popularity relates to the supposed tendency of some voters to throw their weight behind the underdogs. If the HDP breaks the 10 percent mark, some commentators reason, the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) will lose several dozen seats and perhaps even fail to form a single-party government. Depending on where you get your news, of course.
While public debate has thus far concentrated on the HDP campaign's potential influence on the AK Party majority, the Republican People's Party (CHP) leadership remains concerned about losing life-long Republicans to a fringe party due to the perceived ineffectiveness of its leadership. Two main CHP constituencies seem particularly prone to the HDP's advances: (1) the party's liberal wing, which mostly consists of privileged millennials in urban areas and (2) the Alevi community, which account for nearly one-third of all CHP voters.
The signs are already there: Last week, former CHP Chairman Deniz Baykal, who is currently seeking his ninth term in the Parliament, warned his party's supporters that they could not afford to turn their back on the main opposition to support the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in the June 7 elections. "We are not a charity," Mr. Baykal reportedly told local party officials. "We cannot afford to think about helping the HDP pass the threshold." The CHP heavyweight's comments did not go unnoticed: Hours later, HDP Deputy Chairperson Meral Danış Beştaş boldly stated that "citizens who voted for the CHP regret their decision. We do not beg anyone for help. The CHP is clearly not a charity but the people have been charitable toward them by voting."
Once the leaders hit the campaign trail, one would assume, the battle over the future of Turkey's left politics will become more obvious to the common observer. Whether or not the HDP will be able to lure away CHP loyalists will not only determine the outcome of the upcoming elections but also have a major influence on the new language of Turkey's leftists.
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