It is somewhat difficult to analyze the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) as a proper political party. Rather, it appears to be composed of interwoven organizational structures. Therefore, in order to analyze the HDP, it is imperative to examine Turkey’s internal politics, the Kurdish issue, the current state of affairs within the PKK, the ever-changing regional dynamics and even the interests of global powers in the Middle East. In this respect, we also need to investigate the political alliances of the HDP in electoral politics along with their consequences for its grassroots campaigns.
Until the military intervention of 1980, leftist organizational structures had not been divided into Turkish and Kurdish branches. Turks and Kurds had been represented together in the innumerous factions of Turkey’s left. In electoral politics, they were clustered around the Republican People’s Party (CHP). In this sense, the HDP came into existence from the CHP, as many of the leading figures of the HDP, such as Sezgin Tanrıkulu, were the CHP’s former members. While the PKK came into play in the 1980s, the Kurdish left split from the Turkish left and adopted the political stance of Kurdish nationalism.
In this respect, the HDP’s political alliances with marginal leftist groups are derived from this historical foundation. Clustered around Istanbul, these marginal groups have gained considerable status in the HDP. Despite their weak electoral influence, these groups secured deputyships in the HDP in exchange for accepting its domination. Although their reliance on the political support of Europe includes alienation from their own country, these groups have been the secret players, the "power brokers" behind the political alliance between the HDP and the CHP. It is ironic that it was the former political regime of the CHP that oppressed the Kurdish people for decades and that the Kurdish people themselves cannot forget the social trauma of those long years of denial and repression.
The following ruptures of the last few years have given rise to our present state affairs.
The Resolution Process: Despite its flaws and consequences, the Resolution Process was the greatest step taken by the state toward a resolution for the Kurdish dispute. During this brief period, the people of the region lived a life without terror and witnessed how the PKK and the HDP undermined and paralyzed the process in their pursuit of regional aspirations. Despite the failure of the Resolution Process, the separatist political movement in the region has been marginalized among the people of the region.
The Syrian civil war: The Syrian civil war sabotaged Turkey’s Resolution Process. Due to the political gap that emerged in northern Syria, both Iran and the United States presented these lands to the PKK, which in turn abandoned the Resolution Process in pursuit of becoming a regional power.
Trench events: During the so-called "trench events," the PKK changed its method of terror by shifting to urban warfare. By condemning civilians to death and transgressing their private houses and lives, the PKK and HDP did not hesitate to sacrifice the impoverished people of the region for their political aspirations. After the end of these trench events with a certain defeat for the PKK, the Kurdish people did not support any political calls coming from the HDP.
War on terror: By the end of the Resolution Process, Turkey realized comprehensive military operations in Syria, Iraq and Turkey, while refraining from harming the Kurdish people.
Unfortunately, we cannot analyze the HDP as a political party independent of the PKK’s regional aspirations. Despite its significant share of seats in Parliament, the HDP provides no serious vision on national issues other than acting as the political shadow of the PKK. Our research at the GENAR demonstrate that the HDP’s support base has been shrinking in Turkey’s southeastern provinces while strengthening in the western metropoles. During the last local elections, the HDP lost one-third of its municipalities in the southeastern region.
Today, when the PKK has been totally defeated in Turkey and abandoned by its "big brother" in Syria and Iraq, it is imperative for the HDP to transform itself into a political party of Turkey. Rather than supporting the weakening regional aspirations of the PKK, the HDP must turn its face toward Turkey. Rather than condemning the Kurdish youth to death, they must hear the cry of the Kurdish mothers and fathers who relentlessly wait in Diyarbakır for their children to be returned.
The HDP’s alliance with the CHP is a bitter irony of fate. The HDP maintains a political alliance with the CHP, which was responsible for decades of repression and opposition of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government; while the AK Party has made numerous improvements for the Kurdish people. We will soon understand whether the HDP will become a proper political party in Turkey or continue to pursue the interests of global powers by sacrificing the lives of Kurdish youth.