Turkey's opposition parties see the replacement of three elected mayors with independent trustees as "part of the government's political game." They claim that this measure was intended to "drive a wedge between the Nation Alliance's components." In other words, the opposition says that the Turkish government sought to plant seeds of discord between the Republican People's Party (CHP), the Good Party (İP), and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, they argue, wants to undermine the alliance that "defeated him in the March 31 and June 23 elections." That allegation is light on informed analysis and heavy on political propaganda; it might make good headlines, but it doesn't match with the facts. Short of a dramatic change in Turkey's political scenery, there will be no elections until 2023. By extension, we can rule out the claim that independent trustees were appointed as an act of electioneering.
That step was indeed part of the country's campaign against ethno-terrorism. At the same time, the decision was a preventive measure to stop the treatment of the HDP, which cannot distance itself from the PKK terrorist organization, as a normal political entity and the hefty price tag it entailed. The HDP's response – that "Turkey, like the Ottoman Empire, could disintegrate" – demonstrated how radical and audacious it really is.
The HDP's position, however, is incompatible with the nationalist sentiment among CHP and İP supporters. One could argue that the CHP found it difficult to respond to the appointment of independent trustees, but that the decision made the CHP leadership's life easier.
Here's why: The need for political alliances ahead of the March and June elections strengthened the HDP's hand at the negotiating table. It was no secret that the HDP, which moves closer to the mainstream around election cycles, was going to make more serious demands in the election-free years ahead. The memory of HDP politicians telling off İP parliamentarians – "you won thanks to our help!" – is still fresh.
The appointment of independent trustees came just as the HDP was about to cash in on its support for CHP mayors in Istanbul, Ankara, Mersin, Adana and Antalya. Although the CHP can, and already does, offer some rhetorical support to the HDP in the name of "democracy," the CHP leadership is clearly not prepared to give the HDP what it wants.
HDP supporters were unhappy with CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for saying that he "did not approve of staging protests on the streets when such developments take place." Expecting CHP officials to join them on the streets, the HDP recalled its support for Kılıçdaroğlu's "Justice March" when a CHP parliamentarian ended up behind bars for disclosing classified information.
HDP officials accused Kılıçdaroğlu of being "too scared to walk on the street." Diyarbakır's ousted mayor, Adnan Selçuk Mızraklı, recalled the CHP's support for a bill that stripped HDP parliamentarians of their immunity and urged the CHP not to repeat the same "mistake."
"Neither history nor the people will forgive you!" At the same time, some columnists asked Kılıçdaroğlu why he could not show solidarity with his political allies over at the HDP.
To expect the CHP to join the HDP on the streets is indeed misplaced. Kılıçdaroğlu has been around long enough to know that staging protests together with the HDP could trigger a "wave of activism with no clear end" and ultimately undermine his own party.
It is one thing to form unofficial alliances with the HDP to win elections or offer partial support to the HDP on some issues. Staging street protests to endorse HDP mayors, who stand accused of terror links, is another matter entirely. The HDP will never get from its electoral alliance with the CHP what it really wants. One way or another, it will have to settle for much less.
Political movements, which are glued together by anti-Erdoğan sentiment on the campaign trail, will witness their deep ideological differences much more frequently in the election-free years ahead.
Unwilling to distance itself from PKK terrorists genuinely and effectively, the HDP is effectively dead weight that the CHP and the İP find themselves compelled to carry. In the upcoming election-free period, that burden will feel even heavier.