Kurdish voters call for democracy

Published 12.04.2019 22:29
Updated 13.04.2019 00:09

After an election is completed in Turkey, one of the most heated topics of discussion among political scientists, sociologists and electoral researchers has always concerned the political messages that the voters convey. In fact, voters in Turkey have always managed to convey sophisticated political messages through their voting behavior. During periods of military interventions and coup d'états, they supported liberal and democratic political parties. Against the rise of military tutelage, for instance, they vehemently supported the Justice and Development Party (AK Party). During the calamitous periods of terrorist attacks, they adopted a pro-state electoral attitude, while they supported liberal political parties in times of economic crises. Whenever inequality of income came to the forefront in political debates, they opted for social democratic parties. Indeed, Turkey's electorate constitutes an electoral profile that has always conveyed sophisticated political messages.

Holding on to a 200-year-old tradition of democratization, electoral politics matter more in Turkey than in Europe. In contrast to Europe's consolidated democracies, a change of government has always concluded with substantial and sometimes revolutionary changes in Turkey's social life.

Regarding the recently held local elections, electors supported the ruling AK Party and the People's Alliance for the continuation of their political power, and thus re-ratified the presidential system. On the other hand, electors preferred to encourage the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) by entrusting it to govern the principal cities. The opposition Good Party (İyi Party) faced a total downfall. Yet, political messages that Kurdish electors conveyed for the consideration of the AK Party and the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) are all the more sophisticated and profound.

As is well known, Kurdish voters constitute 18% of Turkey's constituency. For many years, they voted for two political parties. They first prioritized the AK Party in the 2000s and then the HDP in the following decade. While the latter obtained 50% of Kurdish votes, the AK Party received 40%. Today, this electoral balance tends to lean toward the AK Party. Although the history of Turkey's Kurdish question goes back to the final periods of the Ottoman Empire, it has mainly emerged as a reaction against the formation of a nation-state that put into practice radical nationalists and Western-leaning policies. Founded 40 years ago, the PKK had strengthened itself by realizing a variety of violent practices in the region due to its Stalinist political program that propagates the power of force. This radical separatist political organization managed to continue its growth by abusing the weaknesses of the state administration. Before the AK Party came to power, Turkey's Kurdish question had been stuck in a vicious circle of violence and counter-violence. During the AK Party's political power, Turkey's Kurdish question turned into a process of recognition of Kurdish identity. The Resolution Process was strongly supported by a majority of Turkish and Kurdish electors. Yet, the ongoing process was sabotaged by certain global powers and the PKK, which sacrificed peace for their interests in Syria.

After the end of the Resolution Process, the PKK occupied various city centers by adopting the notorious strategy of digging trenches. Formed from orphan children, the PKK's city gangs during this period trespassed into houses and condemned destitute youth to death. After the failure of "trench politics," people in the region did not respond to any of the PKK's calls for rebellion. They did not participate in any of the HDP's demonstrations. Nonetheless, the HDP still received the support of around 10% of the voters.

Such an electoral attitude tried to convey a strong political message to the HDP. Instead of supporting the interests of the United States and the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, the Kurdish voters announced that the HDP must wrestle with the problems of the region itself. Therefore, the HDP must turn its face towards Turkey. As it has not changed its main policies since then, Kurdish voters in the region showed the proverbial "yellow card" to the HDP. For the last three elections, the AK Party succeeded in taking votes from former voters of the HDP.

Voting for the AK Party, the Kurdish electorate in the region demonstrated their support for the unity of the country, and their encouragement of the ruling political party to continue the process of democratization and to adopt a comprehensive political vision that would put their identity issues in the forefront.

We shall continue to read the political messages that the Kurdish voters conveyed in the recently held local elections.

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