In Turkey, there are two political parties that strive to transform the old Kemalist regime's hard-line perspective to homogenize different social segments - the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Even though the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) endeavors to restructure itself as the "new CHP," it continues to espouse the codes of the old regime that it founded. As a result, the CHP lags far behind these two parties on a number of topics such as the rights of the Kurdish people and condolences that were offered to the Armenians for the 1915 incidents last year by then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Since the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) maintains its Turkish nationalist nature, it continues to embrace the status quo. The new draft constitutions which were offered by these two opposition parties during constitutional studies between 2012 and 2013 failed to differ essentially from the post-coup Constitution of 1982, proving this locus of opposition.
I concluded my previous column on the future of the AK Party as follows: "Now we have the general elections ahead, which will determine who will rule Turkey until June 2019. The AK Party will join this election with another chairman for the first time, Ahmet Davutoğlu. But seemingly this will not influence the results since Davutoğlu is already the second name favored by AK Party proponents. Also, since Erdoğan does not feel compelled to prove that his ties with his party are cut like other presidents in the past, he still maintains his abilities to mobilize AK Party supporters.
After gaining victory again in the 2015 elections, challenging tasks await the AK Party, such as the formation of a new constitution, finalization of the reconciliation process and managing the Syrian crisis with minimum damage. If a critical problem does not arise in economic management, the future of the AK Party will seemingly continue to be synonymous with the future of Turkey." The new Parliament that will be formed after the 2015 general elections will be the constituent element of the constitution-making process, and of the reconciliation process which is being conducted together with the PKK and its jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan. Therefore, the HDP taking part in Parliament as the sole anti-status-quo opposition party is crucial. However, ongoing debates over the election threshold in HDP circles might prevent this.
The election threshold of 10 percent, which was set in the 1982 Constitution, is still in force in Turkey. Even though the AK Party proposed to drop this threshold to 7 percent in 2012, this step failed to gain approval as the opposition remained unresponsive to it. As the PKK-driven Kurdish political movement could always receive votes that varied between 4 and 9 percent, it always stayed out of Parliament when it participated in elections with its own candidates. However, the HDP, which took part in the 2007 and 2011 elections with independent candidates, managed to place more than 30 deputies in Parliament in these years. Thus, it gradually grew into an influential political actor. For about two months however, HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, partly because he banks on 9 percent of the vote he received in the presidential election, has been talking about the necessity of participating in the election with the party's own candidates regardless of the election threshold.
If the HDP participates in the election as a party and passes the election threshold, it might enter Parliament with more than 40 deputies. This might reduce the number of AK Party deputies to be elected from the southeastern constituencies. However, if the HDP fails to pass the election threshold and to enter Parliament, the AK Party would make the new constitution on its own and take it to a referendum on its own, as it would have over 330 deputies in Parliament. This could reinforce the perception that the new constitution is the product of the AK Party alone, harming the reconciliation process.
More importantly, the presence of the HDP in Parliament and the HDP delegation that pays regular visits to İmralı Island, is the greatest symbol of the legitimacy of the reconciliation process in the civil political sphere. HDP's exclusion from the Parliament, will lead to a great deficit in interlocutors involved in the process. The HDP should overcome the threshold barrier by entering elections with independent candidates this time as well, and contribute to the amendment of all anti-democratic laws, including the election threshold, during the constitution-making process.
About the author
Hilal Kaplan is a journalist and columnist. Kaplan is also board member of TRT, the national public broadcaster of Turkey.