A fateful election

Published 02.06.2015 22:31
Updated 02.06.2015 23:56

So far, the HDP has carried out an interesting election strategy. The party leadership conveyed liberal messages in the west whereas in the east, it played the Kurdish nationalism card and made radical remarks

There is less than one week left to go until the June 7 general elections, which are critical in that the Peoples' Democratic Party's (HDP) success or failure to pass the 10 percent election threshold and the Justice and Development Party's (AK Party) voting rate will have a great impact on many things. The latest opinion polls reveal that the vote for the HDP could be slightly below or above the election threshold, making it difficult to make educated guesses as to whether it will pass the threshold or not. The HDP, which is affiliated with the PKK's jailed leader, Abdullah Öcalan, has run an interesting election campaign under the leadership of the party's Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtaş, who has pursued different strategies in the east and west of the country. He gave extremely tolerant and peaceful messages in a liberal manner like a Western politician during his rallies in western cities. He talked about LGBT rights, requesting his followers ask for votes from everyone, including their ex-boyfriends and ex-girlfriends. He appeared on television programs playing the bağlama and singing songs. As Demirtaş put it plainly, this strategy was aimed at Republican People's Party (CHP) voters who are not pleased with the party's policies or at leftist and Alevi swing voters.

Meanwhile, a completely different atmosphere prevailed in the regions that are mainly populated by Kurds. Last weekend I traveled to Şırnak and Siirt, two critical provinces in the region where the HDP, naturally, conducted its election campaign as the PKK's party. There are giant posters of Öcalan in all the HDP's election offices. The number of people who go to the mountains to join the PKK has increased and the HDP supports this. The PKK built a large martyrs' cemetery in Şırnak and the party collects students from schools on national days and takes them there. The HDP's election campaign in the region is dominated by arms, violence and the PKK. Unfortunately, the HDP pursues a schizophrenic and hypocritical attitude and wants to make people who live in western cities and who will vote for the HDP forget this reality. Thus, it also deceives the Kurdish electorate that has always voted for the HDP, promising fierce hatred against the Justice and Development (AK Party) to other voters with the aim of garnering more votes. If there emerges the possibility of a coalition government, it does not mean a coalition with the AK Party, but with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which is an ethnic Turkish nationalist party that refuses to acknowledge the existence of Kurds. In other words, for the sake of garnering more votes, the HDP prefers to form a government with those who do not recognize its existence rather than forming a coalition with the AK Party, which is the architect of the reconciliation process - a situation revealing that Turkey is a very strange country.

While interviewing the HDP's top parliamentary candidate from Siirt, Kadri Yıldırım, I asked him what will happen if the HDP cannot pass the threshold. He said that it is not possible, adding that all opinion polls that they trust suggest they will pass it. "If we cannot pass it, then there is a conspiracy," he said. Will the HDP not accept the results if they are not in favor of the party? Can one object to the result, if they start the game knowing its rules? "Well, what will happen then?" I asked. He said the party will convene to make a decision, adding: "Certainly, it will not be something good - violence might break out. Can we control everyone?" Now that the HDP asserts that the AK Party will interfere with the election results and the AK Party says the PKK oppresses the electorate, I recommend 66 foreign supervisors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) be deployed around ballot boxes in the region. Opposition parties have put forward some claims with the intention of confusing people about elections that have been held on fair, transparent and democratic ground for many years, tarnishing Turkey's successful performance in elections. One can criticize a number of things in Turkish democracy, but elections in Turkey have been held very successfully since 1950. Now if they are creating hesitation, then an international watchdog should be deployed to carry out on-site supervision.

In short, the results of Sunday's election will give an answer to the question of whether Turkey will proceed on its way with the AK Party or go back to the drawing board. One would wish that the HDP passes the election threshold and it resumes the reconciliation process with the AK Party with a good dialogue. However, this possibility is a longshot after such a destructive election campaign that has ignored the reconciliation process. I think the AK Party will come to power alone, receiving some 43 percent to44 percent of the vote. I call the HDP to welcome it in a positive way no matter what the results are and return to work in a way that leads toward peace in Turkey.

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