Drawing a line between the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and the PKK remains one of the most difficult tasks in Turkish politics today.
Here is a quick refresher:
The PKK is a terrorist organization under Turkish law and according to the international community. Although it primarily relies on violence, the group doubles as a political movement with a distinct ideology and goals.
The HDP, in turn, is a legitimate political party that functions according to the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey. HDP politicians continue to represent their supporters in Parliament where they took an oath to defend the Constitution.
Although the distinction between the HDP and the PKK should be perfectly clear, many people find their relationship confusing. In the wake of the PKK's return to violence, HDP representatives have repeatedly voiced support for violent attacks as municipalities run by the HDP's local affiliate Democratic Regions Party (DBP) have been actively collaborating with terrorists instead of serving the public, which leads many observers to ask whether the HDP is the political wing of PKK. Inevitably, widespread doubt paved the way to a proposal to lift the parliamentary immunity of certain HDP politicians.
Any legitimate political party, by virtue of relying on the electorate for continued support, would be bothered by being associated with a terrorist organization. The HDP leadership, however, has been largely uninterested in addressing the claims.
The times are changing though. HDP Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş's repeated calls for rallies and street protests are no longer met with enthusiasm. Terrorist attacks on civilians, in particular, turned the masses against the HDP. In southeastern Turkey, where the PKK's return to violence put people out of jobs and disrupted everyday life, people have come to depend on the authorities for safety. The HDP's unwillingness to distance itself from the PKK consequently led to a notable decline in its popular support in the November 2015 parliamentary elections.
How much longer can a political party that derives its legitimacy and power from the people maintain a close relationship with a globally recognized terrorist organization? The HDP plays an important role in Parliament, but its leaders need to face the music and make the case that their party is not the political wing of the PKK without further delay.